Madeleine McLaughlin – Ten Ways To Improve Your Writing

Posted on Friday, May 24, 2013

Ten Ways To Improve Your Writing

by Madeleine McLaughlin

1. READ – It’s the most important thing. You became a writer because you like to read. You spend your childhood reading, so you developed the instincts of what works for you in a vague way. Now that you’re writing seriously, you  need to read everything you can, to learn. How to build a character without telling. Or any other thing you’re interested in learning, like dialog or plot points. You can learn it all by reading others. Which brings me to the next tip.

2. ANALYSE – Everything you read now should be analyzed. What keeps you reading in the books you read, especially for books that break the mold. A lot of writers will tell you that good people make bad characters, I’ve said that, too. Yet, Fannie Flagg can write a book with nothing but good, middle-class people in it. So why does on keep turning the page when there’s no bad guy? Analyze. I can also say that Angela’s Ashes is an extraordinary book, while Frank McCourt’s follow-up, Tis, while it is a good book, does not have that special quality that Angela’s Ashes has. Why? Analyze. Now, these are just my opinions about these books, you’ll have your own but whatever you think about a book, you should analyze what has made you draw that conclusion.

3. LEARN NEW WORDS – Also known as building your vocabulary. This is important so that you know more words and how to use them, so that when you’re writing, you have more choices and can pick the right word. Unless you know a lot of words, your writing will be restricted, the more you know, the more you can experiment.

4. READ BLOGS – Now blogs are not edited but many writers have blogs and will share their secrets with you. How they plot, if plotting programs for the writer are of any use. They can put you onto other writers who write about style or characters, any number of these sites can help you learn.

5. KEEP AN OPEN MIND – Don’t ever shut yourself off to learning new things, thinking, which you, as a writer, can’t stop yourself from doing will help you apply new ways to write. For instance, hip-hop novels. You may not want to write them but if you read any, see what you can apply to your own writing.

6. PUNCTUATION – Don’t forget your basics. You have to, if you want to be published, impress an editor. If they see a manuscript where the author doesn’t know her stuff, they’ll just toss it, mostly because they won’t be able to read it. An exception may be if you’re a mega-talented, one-of-a-kind writer, but that’s not most of us. Learn your commas and semi-colons.

7. FORGET PASSIVE VOICE – Editors hate the passive voice, where the action is happening to something instead of something making the action.

8. PRACTICE – Write every day about something. You can get pretty good with effort at coming up with interesting things to say about your day. Once you get into how you felt about the repair man coming over, how you always worry about your place looking clean enough. A lot of women are like that and that particular subject could lead you into a psychological examination of why a person cares what a stranger thinks. And it could be a plot to a short story, too. Practice is your 90% way of improving your writing.

9. CARRY A NOTEBOOK – Your fleeting thoughts are much more important than you may think they are at first. Find a handy place to carry it when you go out. People sitting in a coffee shop can make good characters but first you have to sketch out a character outline. Notice the way they walk and talk and then write down what you think that person would be like. Whether they’re scary or afraid of everyone. Everyone has a story. You’re the lucky one. You get to make them up.

10. EAVESDROP – Listen to conversations around you. Notice what people talk about and how they talk. This will help you with your dialog. Try writing an entire fiction piece with nothing but dialog. You’ll start to see the use of good dialog and when it’s better to have description.

When Kevin learns of his mountain town’s evil past, he must struggle to understand his father’s part in it and how it affects himself.

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Genre – Horror

Rating – PG

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