Ways to Improve Your Writing without Actually Writing

August 24, 2017

Someone once said that writers are observers of life. If you’re stuck in your writing, perhaps you’ve forgotten to take the time to do just that–observe life. Here are some tips to help you improve your writing without actually writing.

  • Become well-read. By that I mean read more than just your favorite genre or nonfiction subject. For example, I keep a small notebook handy when I read and jot down a new word or phrase or description that catches my eye so I can refer to it later.
  • Expand your social life. When you talk with people, you can learn things you hadn’t considered before. Of course that means you not only talk, but you also listen. You need people in your writing, whether as experts to help you or characters to help your story, so why not include socializing as part of your writing research?
  • Get physical. You’ve heard about the physical benefits of 30 minutes of exercise a day, but what do you do when you don’t like to exercise (like me)? My doctor told me to find my guilty pleasure and incorporate it into an exercise. I’m old enough to remember Elvis, Fabian, Annette, and Jerry Lee Lewis, and I like to turn on “Malt Shop” music on my satellite t.v., so I turn on the music and dance around the house. Thirty minutes is not enough time! The positive feelings abound, and I’m ready to write again when I’m done.
  • Look at the world around you. I opened this post with the notion of writers being observers of life. Now I challenge you to do just that–observe life. What color is house next door to you? How many windows are covered with curtains or shades? Why is that, do you think? How many cars in the parking lot at the neighborhood church and how long after service do they stay? Does that mean the congregation socializes or the service runs long? What are the early morning sounds around you? Traffic or nature or pets or some combination? Well, you get the idea. Observing the world can help you write setting, time, decorations (inside and outside), etc.
  • Sit back and do nothing but let your mind wander. If you’re like me, there are times you need to give yourself permission to sit back and just do nothing for a few minutes (not hours, mind you). Let your imagination run from thought to thought, from image to image, from feeling to feeling. As you do, you’ll reconnect with ideas and emotions you can incorporate into your writing.

I used to teach a class at the local college called “Become a Writer in 30 Minutes a Day” and challenge my students to find 30 minutes each day in their busy schedules for writing. We’d brainstorm ways to find time such as get up one-half hour earlier or go to bed one-half hour later or turn off television for a half-hour, etc.¬† Then I’d ask them what they could do in the 30 minutes besides write that would count as writing. I’ve given you a good start in the bullets above. See what you can add to the list (then do at least one thing on your list every day). Happy writing!

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Tips on When to Use Real Places in Your Fiction

August 17, 2017

Fiction writers (and readers) know fiction takes place in a made-up world and that world may or may not reflect the real one. Add that some fiction takes place in standalone work and some becomes part of a series. This makes the decision on whether to use real places or not even more complicated.

Here are some tips to help you decide when to use real places in your fiction.

  • Consider legal implications. I am not a lawyer, so am not offering any legal advice or insights–only common sense. You wouldn’t want anyone saying something negative or libelous about your establishment or business, so don’t do that to anyone else.
  • Think about how involved your character is with the establishment. If the character owns it, you might want to avoid using a real-life business since the character is so connected to it.
  • Decide how important it is that your reader connect with the establishment. Readers recognize real-life business names and connect with them, but does the world in your fiction have to mirror the reader’s or simply be one he or she can envision?
  • Determine location consistency. If you’re writing a series, this becomes very important. No one would appreciate Sherlock Holmes’ address changing from 221B Baker Street. Neither will your series reader appreciate your establishment moving from location to location between books.
  • Be aware real establishments move or go out of business. Establishments can move or go out of business over time and books are in print a long time. Creating a fictional establishment keeps you in control of where things happen in your book or story.

Since you’re creating the world around your fiction story, you get to decide when to use real places and names. I hope these tips help you. Happy writing!


Tips on Writing Adventure Novels

August 2, 2017

Adventure novel readers expect your protagonist is involved in action that’s risky with unseen danger or unexpected excitement. This action is connected to the antagonist, which may be human or not. As long as the antagonist is an adversary that provides conflict or puts your protagonist in such jeopardy that he/she has to take action, you’re headed the right way in your adventure novel.

Here are some tips to help you.

  • Hold your reader’s interest by keeping things moving. Allow your reader to take a breath once in awhile, but stay mindful of the pace your novel keeps. You can’t have a fight or confrontation on every page, so consider changing the scene or having your character ponder a memory as tools to help slow things down when you need to.
  • Create tension either between characters or within your main character. Think about why the protagonist and antagonist are on opposite sides or why the protagonist is fighting with his/her internal demons/doubts/issues, including ways the protagonist is like the antagonist and wants to change.
  • Offer your reader some suspense. At some point your protagonist will face a threat or some type of jeopardy. If you’re writing a series, your reader fully expects your protagonist to survive, but doesn’t know how it will happen. You need to create¬† suspense as you answer that survival question.

Keep these three ideas in mind as you write your adventure novel and you’ll have a good foundation for your book. There’s much more to it such as the scenes your action takes place in, the timeline of your story (hours versus weeks versus months versus years), and characters you develop, etc. Readers root for the protagonist, so plan your final scene carefully. Sometimes bad guys get away, sometimes they don’t. It’s up to you as author. Happy writing!