No matter what stage you are at with your writing – whether you write for pleasure, or in the hope of achieving your publishing dream, or are busy writing your third bestseller – there’s always something new to learn. Here are my suggestions for making the most of your journey as a writer:
- Join a creative writing group.
Writing is a lonely exploit; sat in front of a keyboard bashing away at your manuscript with only the cat for company. There’s also the risk that when you do decide to escape into the real world, those friends who still recognise you glaze over when you start talking at length about your latest project. That’s where writing groups come into their own. They provide a ready pool of supportive friends who instinctively know how you feel and are happy to talk about books and writing until the tea and biscuits run dry. Just one word of advice though – choose your group wisely and don’t be afraid to move on if you feel uncomfortable.
- Enrol on a course.
Creative writing courses are available in most towns and cities, even in village halls, and are aimed at a variety of levels from beginners to advanced and all stages in between. Guided study can be of immense value when trying a new skill, such as poetry or travel writing, or simply to refresh your knowledge of grammar and increase the depth of your characterisation. A formal course can also offer the same social benefits as a writing group by enhancing your circle of like-minded, creative friends.
- Branch out
No matter what genre you write in, there can come a time when you crave something different. There’s no reason why you can’t spend a rainy afternoon ditching the hard-boiled detective story or the sweet romance saga to have a go at writing a short urban fantasy story or a non-fiction article about your favourite hobby or sport. It doesn’t have to be brilliant, it’s just for fun after all, and it could spark an idea that can be used when you sit down to write the next chapter of your work-in-progress.
- Try writing in a different place.
We all have a favourite place to write, whether it’s the local coffee shop, the library, our home office or the kitchen table. Why not shake it up a bit and write at the local museum or art gallery, or better still, wrap up warm and sit in the woods or at the seafront or a bench in the park. Perhaps a garden centre will get the creatives juices flowing.
5.Try using a different medium.
If you usually type your stories straight onto a word processor, why not grab that gorgeous stationery your friend bought you for your birthday and sit down with a gel pen or coloured pencil and scribble something by hand? Or vice versa, if you prefer to write in longhand, have a go at bashing out a few pages of prose directly onto the screen. Which did you find easier? Which produced the more creative piece?
- Try a different time of the day.
Some of us feel more creative in the mornings, whilst others tend to work into the early hours. Try switching your writing timetable by waking an hour earlier and writing until your usual wake-up time, or scribbling long past your bedtime. What changed?
- Take some exercise.
Not only is sitting at the computer for any length of time bad for us, it also risks saddling us with writer’s bottom. Standing desks are now available to combat this, but taking a walk or a cycle ride or a swim in the local pool will not only enhance our health but could help with the dreaded procrastination monster. Better to be outside in the fresh air doing something positive than staring at a blank screen, praying for inspiration.
Love it or loathe it, social media is here to stay. There’s no getting away from the fact that writers who want their work to have the widest of audiences need to embrace the opportunities it offers. But don’t forget there are other ways of drawing attention to our work. Why not try contacting your local radio station, or writing a press release, or holding a coffee morning for friends and their friends. If you write for children, presentations at schools and libraries can be a rewarding experience. Have a purse full off business cards and leaflets to hand out to anyone who shows an interest in your writing. And a tip? Smile when talking about your writing!
- Stand up and be heard.
One of the hardest things for many writers is to stand in front of an audience and regale them with a sparklingly witty speech about their life as an author followed by a reading from their latest work. Audiences vary, from receptive and interested to fidgety and confrontational. Like everything that’s unfamiliar, the first time is the worst, but once your debut is over, the next presentation will be easier and maybe even enjoyable. In my experience, the three most important tips for such engagements are preparation, preparation, preparation; if there’s an awkward pause in the proceedings, you only have to glance at the crib cards in your hands to resume your inspired address.
- Read, read and read some more.
Whenever I ask other, more experienced authors than myself for their top tips, more often than not it’s this one. How can we grow as writers if we don’t read? And anyway, what better way is there to fill the hours we’re not submerged in worlds of our own creation?
So, next time you feel in a writing rut, take heart. Try something different and you could stumble across that flash of genius that will solve your awkward plot hole problem.
What are your top tips for improving your writing skills?
Daisy James is the author of four romantic comedies – The Runaway Bridesmaid, If The Dress Fits, When Only Cupcakes Will Do and brand new release, There’s Something About Cornwall. She was born in Yorkshire and loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines set in fabulous locations. When not scribbling away in her peppermint-and-green summerhouse (garden shed), she spends her time sifting flour, sprinkling sugar and edible glitter, as well as improving her archery skills. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.
Also on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/booksdaisyjames/
Category: How To and Tips