Lois Elsden ponders on the advice you can find for improving your writing:
Like most people who do something – in my case writing, I try and do all I can to do it better… mostly it is just practice, practice, practice (Gary Player said ‘Yes, I’m a lucky golfer, but do you know, the more I practice, the luckier I get!‘) I also read a lot about other writers, especially those I admire and those who are considered masters – what they write, and what they write about writing. There are many helpful hints, but a lot of the hints are things I do already. There are also suggestions (and sometimes more forcefully, instructions, or even commands) which just do not work for me – and I am sure this is true for most people. My way of writing isn’t the same as anybody else’s… I mentioned several things recently which some writers dictate others should do:
- always carry a note-book… no, it just doesn’t work for me; I forget to use it, or I can’t read what I have written, or having deciphered it can’t imagine why I wrote it, or the brilliant idea, like the poem you think of in the night, is actually just rubbish
- plan your story from start to finish, rough out the chapters, do a timeline, do an autobiography for your characters… no this really does not work for me; my mind isn’t like that, I would find it boring, things change as I write – just as I change in life as I learn and experience different things – a person I meet for the first time might seem a completely different person when I get to know them better
- have a routine… stop right there! No! I hate routine!
In fact I think I will stop there…
You see what I have learned through working hard at my writing and writing every day and keeping going even through the boring bits and finding inspiration in all sorts of strange places and writing in my head when I can’t write because I’m doing something else… What I have learned is everyone writes in their own way. If I could ask ten of the writers I most admire how they write and how they write so well and what advice they would give, I bet every single one would be different.
Having said that… there are some interesting writing ‘tips’ here:
… and here are a few from the list I like:
- You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. – Jack London
- There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. – W. Somerset Maugham
- Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman
Another thing I really do find valuable, is criticism. If I agree with it I can change whatever it was. If I don’t agree with it I have to work out why I don’t agree with it, defend what I have done, then ponder on why the criticism was made. An example is, a friend criticised one of early stories saying there was too much dialogue; I disagreed but looked back at those passages in my book. What my characters said was the conversation I had overheard in my imagination, a very real and vivid conversation, and I had noted it all down. However – however ‘real’ that conversation was, do my readers actually have to ‘hear’ all of it? So although I disagreed with my friend, I took serious notice of her comments and have ‘adjusted’ my characters’ conversations ever since.
Here is a link to me e-books and my latest paperback, ‘Radwinter’: