35 Things to Do Besides Write (Which Will Improve Your Writing)

Writers write, sure, but you can’t be writing all the time.  Take a break once in a while!

Here are a bunch of things you can do instead that will have you coming back to your desk reinvigorated and full of ideas.

  1. Read a book you love.  Pay attention to what makes you love it. Is it the author’s word choice? The suspense?  The rhythm?
  2. Read something you’ve never read before: new author, new genre, whatever.
  3. Play with a child (or a bunch of children)yerin park sled Continue reading

What to Do When a Scene Isn’t Working

writing a sceneSo let’s imagine you’re writing a scene.  At least, you’re trying to write a scene.  But it’s not coming easily: your prose is flat, your descriptions are plain, and your characters bore even you.

Sometimes you feel this way when you’re getting back into writing after a break, or when you’ve just started writing for the day.  But if you’re all warmed up and everything still feels like a struggle, this may be an indication that something larger is amiss.

If you can, you should take a break from this scene and write a different one, or consider cutting it from your story altogether.  But what do you do if the scene is integral to your plot?

When writing a scene becomes difficult, I always end up asking myself, is this scene awful?  Or am I awful?

I usually blame myself for a while.  But in reality, it’s usually just that the scene is awful, or that your whole work-in-progress needs to be rethought. Continue reading

Belated Update

Things I have done in the last month:

  • Finished my marketing internship
  • Moved from New York, to home (for a few days), then to college (for the last time!)
  • Was in a friend’s wedding
  • Kicked ass at my long distance relationship (and it’s long distance no longer, thank god)
  • Started summer classes
  • Got to about the halfway point of my novel
  • Outlined the remaining chapters of my novel (woo big deal!)
  • Started working with my creative writing prof, so now I have concrete deadlines and a guaranteed reader to keep me going!

excited kid gif

Things I have not done in the last month:

  • Updated this blog

arrested development charlie brown walk

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When to Let Others Read Your Writing (and When Not to)

Writing is usually a solitary endeavor.

But if you hope to have readers one day, who will be the first? When is your work good enough to share?when to share your writing

I doubt that any piece is ever “good enough,” especially if you ask its writer.  You could revise forever–many do, since there’s no progress bar, no flashing neon sign that tells you “THIS IS AS GOOD AS THIS STORY IS GOING TO GET.”

That said, there are few things more nerve-wracking than sharing a draft with someone you admire and respect.  Share too soon and you risk a blow to your confidence, and you forfeit your chance to really get the story settled.  On the other hand, if you refuse to let others read your work, it will undoubtedly suffer.  There comes a point when you are way too close to your story to be able to consider it objectively.

Consult this little guide to make sure you’re good and ready to let others read your writing, and that you’re sharing it for the right reasons:

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The best ways to improve at writing:

1) Write more

2) Read more

I think that’s just about it.  You know, besides getting feedback and talking to other writers (and, ahem, reading this blog).

Reference for Writers just posted this extremely thorough guide to reading like a writer, i.e. finding out why the books you love are so effective, and using that knowledge to improve your own work.

Here’s the meat of the article, “a short and concise guide to how to study when you read:”

  1.  Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses. This is probably the most important part of any kind of studying, and it’s the part that so many people leave out or forget to consider. If you’re studying for a biology test, why would you waste time on the circulatory system when you already know everything there is to know about that and next to nothing about the nervous system? This can be especially difficult for writers because it requires reading our own work critically and defining exactly which areas we struggle in. The temptation to just say “Everything, it all sucks” is great for many, but it isn’t helpfulBe specific.
  2. Recognize Good Writing When You Read It. This is infinitely easier because in a lot of ways it’s basically instinctual. You know the feeling, when you’re reading and a particular passage or paragraph hits you so hard that you have to stop and go back and read it again and again. Maybe you get goosebumps and your heart beats a little faster. Good writing is relatively easy to recognize; it’s a lot harder to define what makes it good, but that is exactly what you must do. How has the author created this specific tone? What words have they used and why? You must to be something of a detective and something of an analyst.
  3. Seek Out Authors Who Excel Where You Struggle. Now that you know your weaknesses and are already on the lookout for good writing, you can start to pay special attention to good writing in areas where you need improvement. If you know you need to work on dialogue, read good dialogue. If you feel weak in pacing, find a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The point is to learn as much as you can from people who know more than you do.
  4. Emulate. Allow me to stress that this is only intended as an exercise for self-improvement in your writing. I am not encouraging you to try to copy another author’s work, voice, or style and attempt to pass it off as your own, I am merely sharing one study method. Use it the same way artists use sketching the Mona Lisa. That being said, try to write something with the same style or tone as another piece you admire. It will help you read like a writer and write like a reader. (more…)

Should I Outline My Novel?

First of all, yes. You probably should.

Second, YOU GUYS.  Chuck Wendig did an excellent and super-thorough post about outlining over at his blog.  Here’s a little preview–I can’t post the whole thing here because it’s so long and wonderful.

25 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT OUTLINING

1. PANTSER VERSUS PLOTTER: THE CAGE MATCH

The story goes that most writers are either pantsers (which regrettably has nothing to do with writing sans pants) or plotters (which has nothing to do with plotting the fictional in-narrative demises of those who have offended you). We either jump into the story by the so-called seat of our pants, or we rigorously plot and scheme every detail of the story before we ever pen the first sentence. It’s a bit of a false dichotomy, as many writers fall somewhere in the middle. Even a “pantser” can make use of an outline without still feeling pantsless and fancy-free. Continue reading