1) Start your story with action.
I never realized this until I got into college, but most writers begin their stories either too early or too late. Since we, writers, know everything that happens, sometimes we pick a spot that we believe is the beginning and go with it. Other times we may choose to start where we can sit down and explain the world to the reader, especially if it’s a fiction story. It’s okay to do this for the first draft or maybe even the first few drafts. At times, you just need to write everything out.
A great way to find out if your story starts in the wrong spot is having another person read your draft. Readers can realize if the story begins in the right spot fast, because the story will either catch their attention or not. Another way is to ask yourself, “Does the story begin where the action begins?” Because if the plot isn’t going anywhere, the reader will get bored – fast.
2) Write something personal to you.
I never faced this problem until I was a freshman in college. I sat there in my first creative writing class, scared. I didn’t know what was expected of me and neither did any other student there.
A few weeks before our first story was due, our professor had us do this exercise. For five minutes, we sat down and wrote what we were afraid to write about, what we were afraid of other people reading from us. We didn’t have to share what we wrote. When we were done, our professor looked at us straight in the eye, and said, “that’s what your story should be about.”
There’s a quote, I’m not sure from who, that said, “Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free”. It sounds crazy, but it works. Being able to write about what scares me leaves me no limits or boundaries to what I can write. Learning to write those vulnerable scenes in unique ways improved my writing skill.
3) Take characters out of the story if the story doesn’t change much without them.
No matter how silly it seems, this is one of the hardest things for me to accept as a writer. In my novel, I had a quirky character. This quirky character didn’t do much for the plot, but he had a place in my heart, so I kept the character around.
When my beta reader came across some of my characters, he complained about having too many characters to keep up with. The story got confusing. I sat down one day and went through every single character in my book. I found a few that were great and cool, but didn’t expand the story as much as the other characters. So, I erased them.
My beta reader said the story improved, but I was still on edge about it for a while. I still have old memos and facts in my journals about them. Those characters will still come back, maybe in short stories later.
4) Use simple language.
All writers want to impress their readers. At some point, writers do this by using huge imaginative metaphors or official words that people see just on SATs to appear intelligent. But that’s not the best way to go.
Readers are normal human beings who sometimes cannot understand complex metaphors or words. They don’t read with a dictionary beside them. Instead of impressing them, we end up confusing them. I’ve found that using simple language helps readers connect with the story the most.
Simple language, however, doesn’t mean use elementary verbs in every sentence. Some advanced verbs are beneficial when showing more emotion to what’s going on. But keep in mind: 7th or 8th grade is the average reading level in America.
5) Show don’t tell.
Since you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard this a bunch. Just in case you don’t know, showing the readers your story grabs their attention better than telling them the story like a newscaster.
But how do you know if you’re showing or telling your story? Here’s some helpful hints:
- Using “there was”, “there were”, “there is”, or “there are” is a serious red flag for telling. Change any sentence with those phrases in it. Usually, those phrases are not hard to change.
- There were dogs barking at the cats – > Dogs barked at the cats.
- Using words that end with –ly can sometimes point towards telling. Double check every word that ends with –ly to see if it’s a word that can be taken out of the story.
- Silently, Lotus walked to the kitchen. -> Lotus sneaked into the kitchen.
- Using words that make your story sound like backstage directions for a play is another red flag for telling. The reader doesn’t need every stage direction.
- He walked three steps to the room, pushed open the door, and walked to his chair before sitting on it to read the newspaper -> He entered his room and picked up the newspaper.
6) Make your villain have almost as much backstory as your hero.
Your villain should be the hero of their own story by explaining to the reader why the villain wants what he or she wants.
The hero must face something real for the whole story to feel as if it exists. There needs to be something more than: “Oh, that bad guy over there is evil and we need to stop him. Yeah.”
A great example of this is Harry Potter. Throughout the Harry Potter books, the reader learns more about Voldemort in every book. By the end of the series, we know Voldemort enough to predict his actions. We know how he feels and everything that matters to him. This allows the readers to connect to the story more and feel as if Harry Potter truly does have a deadly opponent.
7) Compare yourself to the writer you were yesterday.
As a new writer, comparing yourself to writers that have already published is worthless. Some writers waste their days, pretending to be something they’re not. They compare themselves to this vision of someone who’s already mastered the field, which can hurt their self-esteem and writing abilities. Though, in fact, writers need to be unique and creative to be heard.
There’s no other person in the world who can write your book better than yourself. No one writes the same story as another. If you’re better than the writer you were yesterday, you’re already on the path to success.
Do you like these tips? Are there any other tips you’d like other writers to know? Leave them in the comments below.
So, these are the words to a writing tips video I did on Double Decker Books‘ youtube channel. The channel consists of interviews from authors, writing tips, games, and more! It’s an amazing channel for both writers and readers. Go check it out! They also have a website , a Twitter page, and a Facebook page.
I also want to thank Double Decker Books for letting me have the amazing opportunity to work with them. I had a great experience.