Whether you’re just dipping your toe into the waters or you’re a full-blown author, these tips can help you. They’re some of the most universal, so you may have heard them before, but I think they’re the most important as well.
1. Write the story you want to read
This may go without saying, but the best story to write is one that you would also be interested in reading. Beyond that, though, you should write things that surprise you; don’t go with the obvious next thing.
2. Don’t make it perfect
This is a problem I still find myself falling prey to. The thing is, you can never make the first draft perfect because then it will never get done. There will always be something that you need to rewrite, or you can’t think of the perfect next step. Excuse after excuse, and then you’ll lose interest, which is never fun.
To counteract that, try to shake loose that expectation that it has to be perfect. Can’t think of what next to write? Put [this happens next] in your document and skip that part. Get to the next thing; ideas will come to you later.
3. Grow comfortable with sharing your work
Beta readers are immensely helpful when refining your work, and simply sharing your ideas with others can help you brainstorm. However, the problem may arise that you don’t want anyone to read your work, especially if you feel like it’s unfinished or “not good enough.”
It may be difficult, but you can always find someone who will be interested in your work and who will be supportive. Try to find those people. Share what you’re doing. Allow critique to help you grow, not make you retreat.
4. Join groups of people with shared writing-related interests
Along with the “sharing your work” tip, finding groups of people with the same interests as you can be the best thing you can do. In these groups, you can pose questions to other writers, help people with things they’re struggling with, and overall feel part of a group. Speaking to others can be a great motivator to keep working.
5. Look at your story critically if you can
This doesn’t mean finding things that make the story bad, but instead looking at the story and picking apart what’s working and what isn’t. This is a step that you would do after initially writing the story, or even in the very earliest planning stages. Look back at what you’ve written (maybe the story as a whole, or even just a chapter or a single scene). What is working for it? What isn’t? Can you cut anything out that’s unnecessary? Is there anything that you might need to add for context? Get used to asking yourself questions about your work. If you can answer it, make up a new question. You may find that you need to add in a couple scenes between two characters so that a scene at the end is more impactful. You may need to insert some exposition near the beginning so a piece of dialogue later in the book hits harder.
6. Be economic
Sometimes, you’ll want to give your world as much depth as possible and write about anything and everything that you’ve researched while building it – but don’t do it. Ideally, you’ll only put about 10% of the research you’ve done into the book itself, leaving all sorts of background information out of the story. Only include information that your reader will absolutely need to know in order to understand the story because bogging them down with excess worldbuilding almost always tends to be unappreciated. Your readers will lose interest.
Don’t lose heart, though! There is a reason that more widely renowned authors, like J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan, are able to put out “guidebooks” and additional information books. Hardcore fans tend to like those kinds of things. That they can dive deeper into your world outside of the story. But they tend to like it more if they’re searching it out for themselves. They’re reading your book for the plot; they can read the other books for worldbuilding.
7. Save everything
Keep everything that you’ve written, even when you cut it out of the story. You never know when you might want to put it somewhere else, or even use it to build something new. Ideally, you’ll write a draft, save a copy, then make edits to the new version. For additional information, like character biographies, research that you’ve done that no longer fits, or even a concept sketch for a location that no longer exists, keep it in a separate folder.
If you’re a writer, it can be said with almost complete certainty that you’re also a reader, and you’re probably already aware of the value of reading as you’re writing. Not only is it a wonderful break from coming up with ideas, but it also helps generate new ideas. Especially if you’re reading stories similar to what you’re working on.
9. Do a little bit every day
This may be another obvious one, but never underestimate the power of habit. If you push yourself to write even a few words every day, it will eventually get easier to put words on paper.
10. Be comfortable in your space
This last tip comes about fighting and preventing writer’s block and writer’s burnout, but having a comfortable desk area to work at is vital to being able to write. Whatever that looks like for you, you should be able to sit down and think. It shouldn’t be cluttered and there shouldn’t be anything that could distract you from working, but “comfy” looks different to everyone.
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