So…right up front I will tell you I have not written a New York Times Best Selling Book….yet. I have however read MANY such books. One day I hope to join the ranks of the great story tellers. There are many friends on Facebook and in my day to day life that also share this passion for writing and have similar goals. The question that is most pressing is as follows: how to we become THAT good. How do we tell stories worth reading?
It is my strong opinion that one of the ways a writer can improve at the craft of writing is through a few simple steps…
1.) Read! Read!!! For heaven’s sake…READ!!!
When I say this I don’t just mean read the books you are passionate about. I also mean be very observant about what you are reading. Take a notebook, write words that stand out, or write your observations about what the author does and DOESN’T do.
For example, one of my favorite authors is Dean Koontz. In reading some of his books I have noticed something that was VERY explosive for me (might not be for you). He hardly EVER uses the word and. Me on the other hand….use it FAR TOO MUCH. Also he has very little dialogue, yet his stories are very interesting and captivating. In fact when there is dialogue I almost feel like saying to the characters: shut up, I want to see the rest of the story.
There are other observations that can only be found through reading stories and books by authors who have made it ‘big’, such as how they describe things without actually telling you what they are describing. How they paint pictures that are so vivid with words that are perfectly placed…like the stroke of just the right color with a brush.
2.) Write. Simply write.
Even if you have come to a stand still in your story…write SOMETHING. Write in a journal. Write a blog. Write a letter. In fact start a notebook designed just for descriptions. Pick an object (in nature, in your home, at your place of work) and describe it in detail without ever saying what it is. Describe it as you would to a blind person. Describe a sound, describe a smell, describe a sensation. Remember you don’t actually have to show it to anyone.
3.) Write reviews for the books you read.
A good way to develop your writing is to write reviews (on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your blogg, etc). Don’t just say the book was good, or it was bad. Go deep into the why’s. Use words that paint a picture. (I am working on getting better in my reviews and you wouldn’t believe how much this helps me when I finally sit down to write my own stories).
4.) Re-read your stories OUT LOUD.
Act it out. Have a pen or pencil handy. When you read your work out loud, your brain seems to catch what actually sounds right and what sounds horrible.
5.) Pay attention to your dreams.
Many of my stories have been born from dreams. I have a notebook by my bed for those moments when I wake up from a dream (or a nightmare) and I write them down. You wouldn’t believe how many times my stories have come to a halt and I’ve gone back to ‘the notebook’ and found inspiration again.
6.) For each story you are working on have a journal assigned just for that story.
In this journal, jot down ideas as they come. Write how you are feeling about your progress…or lack there of. Write anything that has to do with the story.
7.) Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t re-write too many times.
We all want the perfect story, but there comes a time when too much re-writing is just too much and it will make your story flat. You may even become depressed about it…even bored.