Writing From Blah to Wow: Kicking Your Writing Up a Notch

Writing is no easy task. Whether it’s poetry, short stories, or novels, writing takes time and dedication. As Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Sometimes nothing comes to you. Sometimes what you write is just awful. But the point is to write. If you keep writing, the muse will come.

Here are some tips from famous authors:

Jump right in. “A short story must have a single mood, and every sentence must build towards it.” – Edgar Allen Poe

Now, while this quote has to do with short stories, it can also apply to novels. You want to begin your writing with a sentence, a paragraph, a scene that grabs readers’ attention. In school, you learn how introductions are paramount for essays and papers. This isn’t school. This is creative writing. Skip the introduction and go straight for the meat.

Keep the action going. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” – Elmore Leonard

Don’t lump all the action in one place. Spread it out. This is fiction, not real life. In novels not everything can be happening at once. Layering all the action right on top of each other jumbles things, makes things frantic. Extend the excitement.

Say it out loud. “If you are using dialogue – say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.” – John Steinbeck

Write your conversations the way you’d speak. People tend to talk in shorter sentences. We don’t describe every little detail and we don’t always use proper English. If you’re alone, searching for your car in a multi-story parking lot and say, “I cannot find my car. I remember parking in lot 2B, but now I’m not so sure,” that doesn’t sound legit. Maybe if you were talking to another person, but to yourself? No. Saying, “Where the hell is my car?” Does, especially if you’ve been looking for you car for twenty minutes.

Even with the best advice, you still need to find what works for you. It’s good to know what successful authors advise. And it’s important to read. A ton. Reading novels, both in your genre and outside of it, will help you figure out what works in a novel and what doesn’t work.

But, sometimes, advice and successful novels can lead you astray. We all have those few novels we’ve read where we can’t understand how they got published, how they became so successful, or why people loved them so much. Try to figure out why, but in the end you need to write about the characters and plot you can’t stop thinking about.

What advice from famous authors do you follow?

1 thought on “Writing From Blah to Wow: Kicking Your Writing Up a Notch

  1. painterwrite

    I follow King’s advice – plenty of reading and plenty of writing. I find listening to audiobooks helps with the “reading” part because I get a better sense of the pace and flow of the story (plus, I can do chores while reading!).


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