I am frequently asked by Wattpad users for advice about writing or how to go about certain things when creating a story. I’m not a published author nor do I see myself as a notable writer… yet. But I do think I’ve come a long way since I started writing and every time I read my old pieces I find myself recognizing mistakes and knowing how to dodge them. And some times when I read old (but more frequent) works of mine I nod and find myself impressed by what I’ve created.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m no Charles Dickens but I’m not brand new at this writing thing, either. So for my lovely readers who would like to take their work one step further, here are some tips and tricks of mine that may help you on your journey.
Like makeup, stories need moisturizer and primer before diving into the art and fun part.
A Spark Of Genius
You can’t create something without a brilliant idea. I get inspiration everywhere. I’m a commuter and when I forget my headphones or don’t have a book to read I’m left to sit alone with my thoughts. Those thoughts tend to turn into story ideas. I notice a cute boy on the train and use him as my main hottie. I overhear a conversation and think ‘I could write about that’.
If the idea sticks with me a day or two later I write it down and actually consider turning it into a project.
A Diary of Ideas
Every time I think of a story idea that I’d be interested in pursuing I add it to a document I have on my laptop with my other ideas. So when I have free time I read the document and choose one to work on. It’s a great way to remember your million dollar ideas.
Diagrams, Timelines, Brainstorming, Oh My!
Okay so you’ve got your brilliant story plot. But wait! Who are your characters? How are you going to fill the chapters without straying too far off track and keeping your perfect conclusion? Does the time make sense?
This is the part where you jot down where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Is it occurring over a long period of time? You don’t want to look like an idiot and have a huge plot hole. Plan it all out! Create a timeline for your story (e.g. starts May of 2012 and ends June 2012… so and so fall in love in the second week of May, etc.) Brainstorm title ideas. Make a diagram of pros and cons of your character’s personality (E.g. pro: she’s kind, con: she’s conceited). This way you’ll have sturdy, believable characters and a smooth plot.
Ready, Set, Write!
Time for the fun part. Foundation, liner, lipstick, let’s go!
Document Every Little Thing
Create a sort of police document for each of your characters (even the minor ones). What colour was her hair? You mentioned he had a nice smile. She’s studying psych at U of T. This way when you go back to that character you check out your document and keep all of his or her info consistent. The worst thing is reading a story where the main character had blue eyes but half way through they’ve magically turned brown.
Read, Re-read, Repeat
I’m not exaggerating. Read each chapter over again several times. You’ll find little mistakes you missed each time. But don’t do it all in one day. Wait a few hours, a day, a few days. When you look at something with a fresh mind you’ll be able to identify things you missed the first time.
Sometimes I read something and I make a face and know the whole sentence or even paragraph needs to be changed. Don’t be lazy. If you’re not happy with it change it. Trust me, if you put in the time it will pay off.
There’s This Thing Called ‘Google’ Use It!
Don’t know if that country in Europe calls it ‘subway’ or ‘metro’? Search it up! The worst thing is inaccuracies in your story. You live in the States and you’ve never been to London but you HAVE to have your character go there? Then research as much on London as you possibly can. How do they talk there? What’s popular? Which cars do they drive? Little things make your story authentic. Take the time to research them.
The Thesaurus Is Your Friend
Have you been using the word ‘beautiful’ over and over again? Don’t. It’s annoying. Right click on the word in Word (lol) and look up the synonym. Aren’t using Word? Go to thesaurus.com. Just find another way to say what you want to say.
Don’t Be Afraid of Slang
Do you want to make your dialogue believable? Make your characters talk the way they should. Would a sophomore football player say “that woman was so beautiful, the curves of her body made my heart palpate uncontrollably”. Possibly, if the football player happened to be a closet poet. But more likely he’d say “she was hot.” Yeah just say that. This doesn’t apply to dialogue alone. If your story is being told in 1st person perspective then think the way your 15-year-old character would. She wouldn’t use the word “melancholy” as much as she would “really freaking sad”. Just think and talk the way your characters would.
Hint, Don’t Reveal
You want to give him a taste not offer it to him on a silver platter. The same applies. “I was so dehydrated I passed out.” Boring! “I didn’t want to inhale in fear of turning my dry throat into sandpaper. My vision tunnelled before I fell into a black abyss.” Better. Don’t tell your reader, show them. It’s far more interesting.
Don’t Fall Into the Cliche Trap
One of my biggest pet peeves is when a teacher in a story addresses students by saying ‘class’. I’ve never, ever had a teacher that called us ‘class’. That’s just so stereotypically wrong. And since we’re on the topic, 99% of the time teachers don’t address you by Ms. Morgan, they call you by your first name. So why is your teacher in the story using such formal etiquette? We’ve all had teachers. Think of one of them and make your character talk the way your teacher did. It will be SO much more real, trust me.
Another cliche I hate is when every boy in your love story falls for your main girl. I know you want to spark some jealousy but seriously, not every waiter is going to flirt with your character. Guys with girlfriends don’t typically blatantly flirt with girls on dates. Girlfriends don’t usually act disgustingly jealous when another girl speaks to their man. So don’t make your characters so cringe-worthy. Please. Just think of your friend with a boyfriend and ask yourself ‘how would she act if I were talking to him?’ Is your character a bitch? I’m sure we’ve come across a few of those in our time. Hit that bitch where it hurts and model your antagonist after him or her. Don’t take a cliche bully from another story and turn him or her into yours.
Take It Or Leave It
This last section ^ actually ties into a post I’ve written but have not yet published about Wattpad Pet Peeves. I’ll probably post it soon, so stay tuned for that.
I hope these tips helped you. As I’ve said, I’m no Charles Dickens or Charlotte Bronte but I’ve been writing for well over ten years now and these are the things I personally do when I write my own stories. I hope they help you and I wish you the best of luck on your writing endeavours.