To celebrate National Writing Day, we’ve compiled a handy list of #WriTips to help you improve your writing. Keep reading if you want some writing advice to get you started!
Find a routine that works for you
When do you focus best? Early morning, late evening, in short bursts throughout the day? Try setting aside an uninterrupted hour with no phone to sit down and write. Test out different times before deciding on when is a convenient and productive time for you to integrate into your routine. Guard your time carefully, this is a commitment to yourself and you shouldn’t get into the habit of breaking it, or you might not get the results out of your routine that you’d like. Whether it’s an hour once a day or once a week, carve out the time from your schedule and make sure you commit! Even if you spend the time making a list of words you’d like to use in the future, or writing down ideas, making sure you spend some time writing each week ensures you’ll contribute to your goal. In her #PoeTips, Helen Mort said on routines:
"When other writers talk about their 'routine', don't let it make you anxious: everyone likes to work differently and what suits one person might not suit another. Some poets thrive on making themselves write every day, others like to wait for ideas and images to arrive. Only you can find the 'right' approach for you."
If you don’t think a structured time would work for you, try using a smaller routine to get you into the mindset of writing. Whether it’s a particular space you like to work in, a hot drink to get you relaxed, using a nice high-quality notebook, organising snacks, find something which gets you relaxed and prepared to write.
Read critical analysis of writing you like
Read reviews and critical essays on your favourite writers, and make note of their criticism. Chances are, that you’d like to write like your favourite writer, so their criticism could also be helpful for your writing. This is a healthy exercise to remind you that no writing is perfect, but it is also a great way to introduce you to new techniques.
This advice has been repeated so many times for good reason: clichés are boring to read. The last thing you want when someone is reading your work is for them to crack a yawn halfway through a sentence, because they know exactly how it’s going to end. Unless you are reworking clichés or purposefully using them to make a point, no matter how easy it is to say things like ‘worked my fingers to the bone’, there’s always something more creative you could say.
Take a notepad everywhere
Have somewhere to put your ideas, notes, and observations throughout the day. Whether it’s a notebook or a notes app, make sure you keep track of your sparks of inspiration. Inspiration can be hard to come by, and interesting adjectives, rhymes, or character names could be useful in the future.
Find the balance between concealing and revealing information
The balance of what information to ‘show’ and what to ‘tell’ is something each writer must figure out for themselves. Reveal too little, and the reader won’t understand what is happening, too much and it will become overplayed and obvious. Decide if there is a way to show the information with actions, speech, or thoughts, and if the information is important. Spending lines and lines describing yawns and eye-rubbing to show that a character is tired is usually unnecessary. However, showing emotions such as grief or anger will always have moreimpact than telling the reader ‘they were angry’.
Be generous with your editing
Try reading your sentences aloud, and if you are struggling to finish a sentence without stopping, it needs an edit. Never say something in ten words that you can say just as well in two. As Sinéad Morrissey said in her #PoeTips, 'Be your own most ruthless editor. Be honest with yourself in that process.'
Don’t write like this sentence:
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents - except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
This is Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s opening line to his 1830 novel, "Paul Clifford,". It’s been widely regarded as melodramatic and atrocious, and has led to the creation of a prize for the worst opening line. It is extremely long, has two unnecessary asides, and is very clichéd. Avoid all these things!
Get feedback from someone you trust
Show your writing to someone you trust to give fair criticism. This tip can require a thick skin, but critical feedback is crucial to improve your writing, and a second pair of eyes can sometimes spot things you have missed. You, the writer, know all the information already, which means that sometimes you don’t notice when something hasn’t been explained clearly enough. Discussing your aims and feedback with someone can also help you to find solutions to problems, or come up with new ideas.
We hope that these writing tips have been helpful for you, and that you apply some of this advice to your writing. Creativity is very subjective, and although these are some of our tips, you always have to find what works best for you. The most important things are: to read a lot, write a lot, and be open to feedback. If you want to learn more about poetry writing, check out How to Be a Poet by Jo Bell. Happy National Writing Day!