5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Creative Writing
I am writing two novels alongside each other. Depending on my mood I can jump from a post apocalyptic world into one with a serial killer! I know, dark eh, I blame CSI and Terminator. I watched them way too much in my formative years.
In my first book, my plot is tight, my characters feel alive, to me at least. So now I’m knuckling down to the editing. I have recognised some silly mistakes I need to remove from my writing. They are easy mistakes anyone can make, so maybe you’ll need to think about them and do the same with your work. Start getting familiar with your delete key, your characters will thank you or at least your publisher will, here are my
5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Creative Writing…
1. Take out everything that is surplus, if it isn’t adding value or moving story forward cut it out
Yes, I know you’ve put hours in to those words, you love your characters and all they do. Now is the time to be honest. Do you really like them? Are all your characters adding value for your reader? If you have a couple you like however on reflection they probably are a little bit too much, how about merging them? Or you could just take them out altogether. Cut and paste them into a document and use them in another place, a short story maybe.
Tighten up your plot, I use Scrivener which is really helpful for this, I can move things around, look at who is dominating the story and if my scenes are evenly spread throughout.
2. Remove triviality, we know what people do in a bathroom
This is where you need to credit your reader with common sense. They know everyone goes to the loo. Everyone, well most people, clean their teeth. Unless they are shot whilst sat on the toilet or see something in the steamed up mirror whilst brushing their teeth, delete it, it’s not needed. This is why people on TV never say goodbye on the telephone, it goes without saying, literally, so don’t say it. Sorry I know you can see your word count withering away before your eyes, but trust me, you can do this!
3. Consider speech tags – he said, she said
This one is open to discussion. Some experts will tell you never use the word ‘said’ they’ll tell you to use other words like whispered, shouted, screamed etc. Well I disagree. We don’t all speak in exaggerated ways, some of us just talk. So I use ‘said’ however I don’t use it on every line, I realise it can become intrusive and distracting. If you build your characters effectively they will have individual traits and syntax that the reader can recognise.
If it’s a minor conversation, just put a reminder in at each 5 – 6 lines to make it easy for the reader to keep up. Go and pick up your favourite novel, glance across the dialogue. I’m fairly sure when you last read that book you didn’t even notice if the writer put said or not. That is because you are a reader and as such your brain concentrates on the conversation, your writer has got the balance right.
4. Repetition of facts isn’t necessary, it’s not, really it’s not
You need to pick out repetition of e.g. the characters hair colour, or eyes, the noise the doorbell makes, anything you have already told your reader. There are some things you need to remind them of, fair enough, but if so do it in a subtle way and not as a direct reference. Again this is just giving credit to your reader. They will build up a picture in their heads, they don’t need you to keep reminding them.
This is one you often can’t fix until you edit, as you may move scenes around as you write. Once you are happy the scenes sit in the right order you need to read it all, yes all of it. Get beta readers in, they are people you trust to read your work and give you honest feedback (scary huh!)
This edit is also a good time to ensure you tell them something early on, if it’s important. If it is vital to the plot that your protagonist lives on a riverboat, don’t drop this in half way through the book. If you have moved scenes around it is easy to forget this. You know your story so well, this can be where beta readers really add value as it’s all new to them.
5. Cliche and Melodrama, it’s been done before
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages” Mark Twain
Please do your ‘version of new’ well, don’t cheat, copy or revert back to cliche. Cliche is when something has basically been done to death, you know the type of thing, Once Upon a Time, dead as a doornail etc.
How often have you sat with someone in a coffee shop and heard a man in a suit say to a colleague they must ‘think outside the box’ ARGH!
Melodrama is something I associate with the silent movie, it worked well then because there were no words, you’re a wordsmith, use your words wisely. Don’t undervalue your skill, be imaginative. Unless you are using cliche to make your character appear predictable, within their conversation, avoid it.
Accept my advice in a caring sharing type way and feel free to pass them on to anyone who writes, or wishes to. If you wish to get my FREE Creative Writing Prompts please click here.
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