Today I want to share with you four things I’ve learned about writing.
Now, generally I don’t feel very comfortable sharing writing tips with anybody. I feel like I’m the one that should be getting the tips, not the one proposing to give them out! As I struggle through muddy plot holes and try to herd my rambunctious crowd of characters into something resembling a coherent story, I often think that whatever I do, I should never ever try to tell other people how to write.
Yet, here I am. Giving you, dear reader, some tips on writing. Because through my struggles I have learned some things that have been valuable to me. I sincerely hope that they can help you as well, even just a tiny bit.
WORDS ARE POWERFUL TOOLS
(and wicked masters)
Without words, we would have no way to transfer the bright thoughts in our minds into the minds of others. We would have no opportunity to create worlds and weave stories. Using words, we can create emotions and stimulate thought in our readers. We can write paragraphs that are worth a thousand pictures.
It stands to reason, then, that words are a writer’s most important tool. Unfortunately, it is a tool that needs a lot of practice to be mastered. You will need many hours of quiet persistence.
If you don’t actively work to become a master of words, you might find yourself in an awkward position. You see, if you don’t master words, they will soon try to master you. I know, from experience, how easy it is to fall into the trap of using too many adverbs. Or trying to sound too smart while I write. That usually ends up destroying the meaning I was trying to convey.
This is because mastering words doesn’t just mean that you have an impressive vocabulary. It doesn’t just mean that you know 200 different ways to say ‘said’, or what the definition of a past participle and an adverb is.
Mastering words means knowing what words to use, and when to use them, in order to create the clearest possible image in your reader’s mind.
OBSERVATION IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
Readers like books that they can connect with. The way I understand it, it means that they want to read about things that they can recognize from their own lives. Be it everyday things, or not-so-everyday things.
This means, of course, that we writers need to keep a weather eye on the outside world. We have to notice everything, because there are stories in everything. In the pools of light on summer-scorching tar, in the smiles of two friends on a subway station. We need to notice things and store them in our minds and try to describe them in our own words, in order to make our books authentic. Look for patterns, for significance, for symbolism. If you can find and describe these things in the real world around you, it will be much easier to incorporate them into your imaginary surroundings.
Observation means finding and describing that one thing that just makes the scene unfold like a painted canvas.
WRITE LIKE THE WORLD IS ON FIRE
What I mean by that, is that you literally have to start writing fast. No lollygagging, no hanging around second-guessing yourself. Just write.
The way to accomplish this is simple, but also very difficult. At least for me. You see, in order to write fast, you need to stop editing while you write.
I know it’s hard, because I struggle with this myself. If the paragraph I just wrote isn’t as good as the one from the book I just read, I am tempted to delete it, shut down my computer and never write again.
That used to be my plight, until I realised something. That paragraph from that book I just read? Somebody, somewhere, edited that paragraph until they were blue in the face. It didn’t pop out of the author’s head like that. It required work and more work and then even more work. (And then, y’know, they had to sit down and edit it once more.)
This realization gave me freedom to write my first drafts while the flame of inspiration is still burning bright. Then, much later, I can give my inner critic free rein to help my turn my work into something amazing.
Writing fast means that for that blessed moments that you are creating, you need to stop being a perfectionist.
HAVE A LITTLE PRIDE
(or actually, a lot of pride)
Whut? You need to be prideful to be a writer?
In short, yes.
Just not prideful of yourself.
You need to be proud of the work that God has done through you.
Everything you write is a result of the talents that God has given you. It is, in effect, God’s work. If your writing is in line with Scripture and in line with God, you can be proud as heck of it. Not because you did it, but because God did it. You can keep your own sinful pride at bay, if people praise your writing, because you know that it’s all God’s doing. If somebody asks you about your writing, you can share it with them without boasting, because you are sharing something that God has powerfully done in your life.
Being a proud writer means that you give all the glory to God
These are the things I’ve learned about writing. I’m sure there are lots more, but these are the few that I’ve been able to articulate into conscious thought.
Now, I’m curious about the things you’ve learned about writing. Please share them with me in the comments!