1. Be open to inspiration everywhere
Writing every day and doing nothing else will quickly burn out your inspiration. Take time out to go for walks or to museums and galleries or to the cinema, theatre, etc. to places which inspire your creativity. Take note of where you are, what things look like, who else is around. You are a body and a consciousness in the world – use your senses and your intellect to explore it. Check out the blog of creativity guru Keri Smith http://www.kerismith.com/. Her books are great too as a way into this kind of creative exploration in practice.
2. Listen to your voice
Don’t TRY to write a story. Often, writers who are just starting out try to write what they think a piece of fiction should be, and end up shoehorning their ideas into a shape that doesn’t fit, failing to explore the parts of the idea that really do need exploration because they’re more worried about whether the idea sounds or looks ‘authentic’. Stop. Concern yourself with the shape of the idea first, let the rest come from there. Give yourself a license to speak in your own true voice, and listen to what you say.
3. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite
Where does the REAL heart of your story lie? The heart of the story – its reason for being – is something that may not reveal itself until the second, third or fifth draft, and perhaps even later still. You may think you know what the story was supposed to be, but really, you have to challenge yourself to be true to whatever it becomes as you help it into being. Your first draft is often like a first date. Love at first sight is possible, but you’ve still got to get to know a person. It may take a good few dates before you decide what this piece of writing you’ve been flirting with actually means to you.
4. Stick to the (fictional) truth
Facts aren’t worth as much as truth. If you’re writing about your personal experience or your perspective on the world as you know it, you don’t necessarily have to be factually correct, but there should be a bone of truth at the heart of whatever you’re saying… and all the better if it’s the kind of human truth that you have some proprietary ownership of, but that we can all recognise intuitively. As you redraft, imagine yourself writing both for no one but yourself and for everyone you know.
5. Be Laurence Olivier with an eraser
Read all your dialogue out loud. Yes, all of it. Out loud. To the mirror, if that helps. If it doesn’t sound like what you or your character would say, change it. Then read it out loud again. Chances are your first version is clogged with adjectives, over-long sentences and ‘written’ grammar. Forgive yourself with a nice glass of wine.
6. Arm yourself with the (w)rite resources
Own a good dictionary and thesaurus. Do not trust the one in your laptop. Also, enjoy searching out the precise meanings of words. Sometimes researching the history of a word’s meaning will help you uncover a hidden aspect to the word in question and allow you to bring something subtle or unexpected to the page.
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