I know that you’re probably eager to just start writing already, but there are few things that need to be said and considered before you are set loose to create something wonderful. My advice is definitely not the be-all and end-all, and you certainly don’t have to listen it, but I have used it all in my time of writing and I feel as if it has been highly useful in my own literary adventures.
Read, Read, Read!
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King
Read widely – read anything and everything far and in-between. That rubbish article on TMZ about a celebrity’s navel? READ IT. Read it and tear it apart. Write down everything good about it. Write down everything bad about it. Read everything and create a list of all of the sentences, word choices, imagery, syntax that you liked. And write a list of everything that you hated about it, too. If you hate a piece of work entirely, rip it up and burn it out on your balcony, make a BBQ out of it, use it as an ash tray, let your cat use it as a scratching post – you may find yourself being immensely inspired by all of these actions. It is so important to have a library inside of your head before you can start creating a library of your own work upon paper. You have to know the ins and outs of writing before you, yourself, can begin to write.
Next time you snuggle up with a book (or you know, read the backs of shower gel bottles whilst on the loo), think about what was going on in the author’s head at the time of writing. How were they feeling? Why did they choose to word things in a certain way? Read between the lines, because this is where the truth of any story lies. And this is where you need to lie when you write – squished firmly, sometimes uncomfortably, between those lines of the sub-conscious.
Use a Thesaurus with Caution
A Thesaurus is a wonderful tool to help writer’s to eliminate the dreaded ‘overuse of a word’ monster. It is there to offer up alternatives to the usual mundane words that we see so much in our everyday lives. But it isn’t always the wisest choice to rely solely on a Thesaurus to make your work sound more profound or intelligent. Here are some interesting, entertaining articles as to why not: When Should You Use a Thesaurus?, Use the Thesaurus with Caution
By all means, use your Thesaurus, but watch out for contextual problems and make sure to research any words that you’re not entirely sure of before just dumping them into your work. Pretentious work that even yourself cannot really understand isn’t the way to make it big in the creative writing world!
Avoid the Cliche
In a world where pretty much everything you look at and read is the epitome of Cliche, it’s definitely a hard one to avoid – but, much like everything, it can be done! Here’s a painful lesson for you: Nothing you ever think of or write will be original – it will always have been thought up by somebody else first. This wave of sharks hit me in my first Literature lecture at University and since then I have been trying my best to come up with something beautifully original, and likely failed every time. Although you may never be original in reality, you may be able to create the illusion of it, and here’s how to do it:
Tell a story that only you can tell – loosely base your story entirely on an event that only your life has experienced. Yeah, someone else probably broke their arm running backwards at school once too, but not every little detail was the same. Did you have a crazy, wild, immaculately odd dream last night? USE IT. Your imagination and how you see things is purely YOU, and no one else can steal this from you.
Avoid stereotypes – there is nothing more Cliche than stereotypes. No one cares about ‘Blonde Brittany No-Brains’ but equally, no one cares about ‘Pretty Polly Yes-Brains’. Taking an aesthetic image of a stereotypical character and giving them the complete opposite traits can be just as boring as the former. Mix it up completely, create a big huge amalgamation of every single cliche character you know and make them chaotic and surprising. Speak the truth of your imagination, and you will create true, relatable, lovable, hate-able characters in no time.
Avoid stolen or borrowed stories – This may seem fairly obvious, but it’s scary how often writer’s sub-consciously steal other people’s work. I understand that by reading many books, you instinctively gain a booklet full of tales written by other authors stored in your mind library, but that doesn’t mean that you have to copy them in your own work. Instead use them as inspiration and take what they’ve written as a learning opportunity, not a starting point for your writing.
And last but not least, I will leave you with this quote:
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
― Mark Twain
Some useful links
To see more of Seonaid’s work, and the original article, please visit her blog, Literary Adventures.
Seonaid Mckay ǀ @covwords
Seonaid was born and bred in South Africa with a wanderlust to match. She is an English and Creative Writing student in the United Kingdom with an affinity for short stories, article writing, and the dream of one day being a big time Editor. Currently the Social Media Manager for CovWords literary magazine.