This is the year your writing gets better

Your writing will only ever be as good as you let it become. This year (2018) your writing gets better. Just follow our simple guide.

For as long as you continue to write in the same way and tell the same sorts of stories, you will get the same sort of writing. To grow as a writer, you need to try new things. Your writing will improve as you do.

You don’t even need to be any good at the new thing.

It’s true. When you first try something new with your writing, you may not be as good at that one thing as you are with other areas. That is normal. It is to be expected. What matter is that once you try that new thing, you keep trying it.

5 new things to try with your writing

1. Try a little tenderness

coupleThis year, why not sprinkle in a little romance? A longing look, a tender moment, maybe even a kiss.

I’m not suggesting that you convert your next high fantasy epic into a Mills and Boon title – although I am sure that’s a thing already. What I am suggesting is that you allow love and romance a little screen time in your next story.

I’ll admit, this is an area I find a little tricky to write myself. What I have found is that simply factoring in, from the start, that certain characters have feelings (often in secret) for other characters gives me a foundation to build from.

The first time I tried to use romance as part of a plot that part was limp and unimpressive. Over time, I’ve gotten better. Not a lot, but I have improved.

That improvement has widened my repertoire when it comes to talking about feelings in general. For me, that was a significant victory.

2. Explore the world around you

mountain bikingIf you are a person that focuses on action or dialogue, this might be the year to add descriptive prose to your skill set.

I’m not suggesting that you write pages of pure description. That would be boring, no matter how good you are. Instead, focus on the one or two features that differentiate one room from another. For example, my living room has a desk and a fireplace with an electric fire. Pretty much everything else you would expect to find – coffee table, sofa, and armchairs don’t need to be mentioned because they were to be expected.

One technique that can really help to bring to life your writing of description is to give a character an orange. It does not need to be an actual orange. It just has to be something they are holding.

You can then break up the “he said, she said” with a short sentence updating people what the character is doing with their orange. This gives you the chance to show all sorts of subtle evidence of the internal state of the character.

  • Are they peeling it nervously?
  • Could they be squeezing it angrily?
  • Perhaps they are tossing it in the air as though bored?

Just show us a little more of the world. If you are new to this, your first attempts may need a lot of work later. I can assure you though – it gets easier the more you practice.

3. Lighten up a little

Ball PitHave you ever tried your hand at crafting a genuinely funny moment? Humour is not as easy as some writers make it seem. However, that is no reason to not try it.

I’m not suggesting that you try to pack a story full of jokes but that does not mean you cannot have a humorous moment.

An ideal place to start is dramatic irony. Start by introducing something that the audience can know but the characters remain blissfully unaware of. Dramatic irony is easiest with third-person omniscient but can be done with all perspectives.

Now your audience will be able to see the coming collision between what the characters know and what reality.

Comedy writers use this dramatic irony technique all the time. That moment when a character goes blundering into a situation and makes a fool of themselves. Usually, it happens because they do not know something the viewer knows.

You can use dramatic irony for added tension in a story as well as for comedic moments. Dramatic irony is flexible like that.

4. Pants on your head

pantsGenerally, people describe themselves as a pantser (discovery writer) or a plotter (one that plans). Which ever one you are, try switching it up.

If you plan extensively, let yourself go and just discover a scene as it unfolds. You may find that granting yourself a degree of freedom helps you open up your own ideas and let inspiration in. At the very least, your experiment will show you why you plan.

If you pants – that is, discover as you write – try a bit of plotting. I’m not saying strangle the freedom you enjoy but perhaps give yourself a framework to write within. I started as a pure discovery writer and have, over time, added more and more planning. It was hard at first but now I can write more and faster too – with no loss of creativity.

In short, however you write – try a different approach.

5. Bring home the magic

fantasyHave you ever tried adding a world of magic to your story? I’m not talking elves and goblins but some form of the fantastical can give a story a whole new shape.

For those of you that write urban or high fantasy this will be second nature but for those who write romance, literary fiction, or something else devoid of spells and wizards, this could be the new territory you have been looking for.

For example, if you write stock romance, how about a woman that discovers a locket that will show her the location of her soul mate? The magic need not solve any problems – in fact, I can see it making all sorts of difficulties.

If you write literary fiction, how about a ring that lets you live another person’s life?

If your thing is science fiction, the magic might be sufficiently advanced aliens. Sci-fi buffs know what I mean.

Try a little magic.

What are you going to try this year?

There are so many new things to try in your writing and I have only suggested five. Use the comments to tell us about something you plan to try.

Can you suggest more things for writers to try? What have you tried in the past (and how did it go)?

If you find yourself getting stuck while trying something new, drop by the Author Buzz forums or our Facebook group.

Brandon Sanderson’s rules of magic

magic unicorn

Do magic systems in fiction need rules? I don’t know. But I do know that Brandon Sanderson, an author that has written a lot of books, has three (four) rules for how to write magic.

What is magic?

Magic is whatever awesome or unusual stuff you have invented for your story. By this definition, the made-up science in science fiction is magic. The powers of superheroes are magic too. Anything supernatural or strange – it is all magical from a storytelling perspective.

Writing about Jedi knights fighting a long time ago and far far away, or wizards and dragons, or the X-Men fighting bad guys is, from an author’s perspective, the same thing.

Sanderson’s rules, it turns out, are a really useful tool for writers to think about what they are writing and the emotion they will get from their readers. They are really just a way to think about good foreshadowing. They work for discovery writers (pantsers) as well as planners.

Brandon Sanderson explains these rules far better than I can so I am going to sketch them out very briefly but after that, there is a video of Brandon Sanderson giving a university lecture on these rules. Yeah, this guy knows his stuff and teaches it.

Sanderson’s first rule of magic

Your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

Where the magic is not well understood by the reader you can engender a sense of wonder but if you try to resolve plot like that the reader will feel betrayed

Sanderson’s second rule of magic

Flaws are more interesting than the powers themselves.

The things the characters cannot do (limits) or struggle to do with the magic (or super science) make for the best stories.

The same goes for the cost of the power. In Dune the space travel needs the spice (which is what makes the powers work).

Sanderson’s third rule of magic

Go deeper into a magic not wider

Exploring a smaller system in an interesting way will make the world feel more real.

Sanderson’s zeroth rule of magic

Always err on the side of what is awesome.

At the end of the day, tell amazing stories. That’s pretty much the best advice anyone can give you.