Friday, October 10, 2014

How To Improve One's Writing

Hello everyone.  To improve one's writing, one must learn new things.  It's as easy as joining a writing group to as time consuming as going back to school.

If your friends say you tell wonderful stories of your adventures or everyday life then you should write them down.  They may not be in perfect form, but you have started.  Maybe you have always told stories but only in your head, write them down.  It can be as detailed as you want.  Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night from either a wonderful dream or a nightmare.  Keep paper and pencil by your bed and write the dream down.  This is how you start to become a writer.

But, how do you improve your writing?  Maybe you were a natural in English class in high school and always did a great job.  But, if you are like most of us, you did okay, and could really use some improvement in the writing department.

The first thing you should do is join a writing league or writing group.  It all depends on the area you live in for what is available to you.  I am a member of the League of Utah Writers, the Oquirrh Chapter.  They have a meeting once a month.  Each meeting is different and provides valuable information.  Most meetings will have a speaker who will come in and talk about the craft of writing.  S/he will talk about grammar, syntax (the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language), character study and development and anything else related to writing.  Always take a note pad and something to write with.  Some people like pens other people prefer pencils.  Just don't forget to bring them with you.

The second thing you should do is to take a class.  Although the presenters at our league meetings are usually published authors, they are not teachers.  They are just passing along what they have learned.  Take a class.  Your local community college may offer a night class for several  weeks.  It could be specific or generic.  Specific it could be a class to learn how to write poetry, film/TV scripts or novels.  Generic, it could be just how to improve your writing.

Your other option for taking a class is to actually go back to school.  And that is my plan.  My plan is to return to school and earn a BA in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing and a Minor in Publishing Studies.  Now, going back to school may not be ideal for you.  But you can still take a class here and there to help improve your writing.

As your writing improves so will your chances of publication.  Always take the opportunity to learn something new.  If you're already a published author, take the opportunity to give some of your writing wisdom/knowledge to those who are wanting to learn the craft.  It will be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Write From Your Everyday Experiences and Knowledge

What makes the best writers?  Is it perfect grammar? Is it having a way with words? Is it being highly educated in the English language or whatever language you write in?  All of these things help, but the answer is NO.  What makes the best writers?  It is people who write what they know and experience.

A good example would be Clive Cussler who writes adventure stories surrounding History and water.  He is an underwater archaeologist.  Another example would be Jane Austen.  Some people believe she wrote romance stories.  She did not.  What she actually wrote was the shenanigans of what went on in her everyday life.  There just so happened to be some romance involved in the nonsense that went on in her circle of friends and family.   Hemingway wrote of his experiences around the world.  That’s what makes his stories so compelling.  Another example is Zane Gray who wrote about cowboys and the West.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule.  One would be the genre of science fiction.  This is stuff made up from someone’s imagination.  And boy, do some people have an imagination.  A good example would be Frank Herbert who wrote the Dune Trilogy.  The other genre would be fantasy.  Again, people writing in this genre write about things they have made up.  A good example for a fantasy writer would be Hans Christian Anderson.

So, what am I telling you?  It’s simple.  If you are writing a medical novel then you should know something about the medical field and then use your experiences while working in medicine.  You want to write novels set in the West and you’ve never been, then go visit.  Phyllis A. Whitney did just that.  She wanted to set a book in a certain city or country she would go and live there for six months.  She would get the feel of the place, get maps, and walk everywhere.  Her daughter would go with her and be her secretary.  She wrote at least one book a year from 1947 to 1994, totally more than 60 novels.  Her last novel was published when she was in her 90s.

But on the other hand, if you want to write a novel that involves murder, DO NOT become a murderer.  Read a lot on local murders in your area, talk with a detective and read books by others who write murder novels.  This is one area where I will tell you, you do not need experience in, in order to write about it.

The next thing you need to do is to buy a small notebook with lined paper and an elastic band that keeps it closed.  That way the pages don’t get mangled.  Keep it in your purse or your backpack or in your pocket.  When you see something or hear something or experience something, you can write it down.  You don’t have to write it down exactly how it happened, just the gist of it.  Sometimes when writing, you’re not sure of what your character is to do next.  That is when you can open your notebook and start reading about what you've seen, heard and done.  You may find exactly what you need.

Also, along with a journal in your purse or pocket, you should keep a notebook and pen/pencil next to your bed.  That way, when you wake from a dream, you can write it down before it disappears.  Keep that paper handy.

So, you now have experiences or you have done your research, what should you do?  You write your book of course.  I like to write down my character names and a bio on them.  Almost all of my characters will get both a first and last name.  Not all of the last names will appear in my story, but having a last name sort of completes my character.  Some people like to sit and just write whatever comes into their head.  Some people like to outline everything before they write.  That is completely up to you.  But write what you know or what you have done a good research job on and use your daily experiences in your writing.