Tricks I learned so you don’t have to.
Let your characters introduce themselves.
Your characters are the heart of your story, and it’s important to make them compelling, relatable, and believable. Spend time developing their personalities, motivations, and backstories. Some new writers like to make character profiles before they get started with their story. Writing down physical attributes and age, likes and dislikes, etc. I don’t disagree with that method, but it’s just not something I’ll ever do. I’ve found it better to just come up with a general character and throw them into the story and watch them develop in their environment.
Your story will tell itself.
The best stories are those in which the characters drive the plot, rather than the plot dictating the characters’ actions. By allowing the story to unfold organically, you can create a rich and engaging narrative that keeps readers invested and invested in the outcome.
If you don’t feel it, they won’t either.
When I first started writing, I was given the sage advice to immerse myself in the story and allow myself to be affected by it. After all, if the writer does not have an emotional response to the events taking place within the story, it is unlikely the reader will be moved either. When crafting the story, it is important to remember that you, as the writer, are a part of the audience just like any other reader.
Show; don’t tell.
Instead of simply telling your readers what’s happening, show them through action, dialogue, and sensory details. This will help bring your story to life and make it more engaging.
Taking a break from a project can be incredibly helpful. I learned this from renowned chef Gordon Ramsay and I can attest to its effectiveness. Just like a steak needs time to rest, so does a project. Put it aside for a day, a week; whatever works best for you and come back to it with fresh eyes. Through my experience, I’ve discovered that this step can often reveal plot holes or situations in which my characters have become unrealistic. If you’re feeling stuck, try taking a shower for a quick refresher. Doing so can help to activate your senses and give you a feeling of renewal. If you still can’t find the answer you’re looking for, taking a nap might do the trick. Sleep has a way of sorting through your conscious issues and providing you with a solution. More often than not, you’ll wake up with that ‘aha!’ moment.
I use Scrivener to write. It takes some time to figure out all the features and how to use them, but it’s worth it. I like it best because I can easily outline a project utilizing the binder panel. I can label the chapters with colors so I know what’s finished and what needs work.
When I’m satisfied with a chapter, I copy and paste it into Grammarly. But here is where you have to be careful. Grammarly was designed to edit emails and letters, not stories. It can get confused by your writing style and will flag sentences it thinks are not correctly formatted. I use it because it catches the stupid little errors like punctuation and misspellings. If Grammarly suggests I re-write a sentence or paragraph; I tend to ignore it. Once finished, Grammarly will download the chapter into .doc format, which I open in Microsoft Word. This is helpful for typesetting because Amazon offers templates for a book’s interior, and also, Word has its own spellchecking/grammar algorithm that can sometimes pick up mistakes Grammarly missed. When I save it there, I will copy a backup of the chapter to Google Drive. Not only as a backup, but Google will also find missed errors. Little is worse than handing your manuscript to an editor with errors a child could fix.
Reading is a great way to improve your writing. Read books in your genre, but also branch out and read other genres as well. Pay attention to what you like and don’t like about the writing, and see if you can incorporate those elements into your own work.
Revise, revise, revise.
Writing is re-writing. It’s a process, and the first draft is just the beginning. Don’t be afraid to revise and make changes to your work. Take the time to refine your writing and make it the best it can be.
Finally, seek feedback from others. Share your work with beta readers, writing groups, or a trusted friend. Listen to their feedback and use it to improve your writing.