10 Tips to Improve Your Writing Method

10 Tips to Improve Your Writing Method

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I’ve proposed many different kinds of writing plans, and will propose many more. If you have no idea what you want to write, writing plans are a good lead. They give you something to work on for writing practice until you know what you want to do.

On the other hand, the writing plans that will work best for you are ones you create yourself. As you write, you will develop your own methods. Some will slow you down and others will speed you along. You need to use what gets the job done. Along the way, it doesn’t hurt to learn what else is available.

What writing plans have I proposed so far?

Eight Article Writing Methods gives a short overview of many methods of writing articles.

Fourteen Ways to Create Multiple Articles on a Topic is another plan for article writing.

Prolific Pulp Fiction the Ryoki Inoue Way is about using pulp fiction writing methods to write more. It’s great for first drafts. You can move from pulp to quality in the second draft.

Prolific Writing Using Caidin Methods makes a guess at the writing methods of another prolific writer.

Prolific Revision – An Alternate Caidin Method is another article about Caidin’s writing method and a new trick I started using.

Write Systematically and Become More Productive is about creating a system for your writing.

Cultivating the Writing Habit is about the importance of making writing a regular habit.

The Journey of 1000 Pages Starts with One Paragraph explains how to get a big writing job done by breaking it into small steps.

What Makes a Novel Into a Page-Turner? presents a collection of ideas to make your chapters zip along and keep the tension high as readers hurry from chapter to chapter.

Stages of the Writing Process is my most important article about manuscript writing. It details the writing plan used by writers for decades. Unless you’re a seat-of-your-pants writer, this gives an overview of what you should be doing for a book length manuscript.

I had ignored some of the steps in “Stages of the Writing Process” in the belief I would get my novels written faster. Practice proved me wrong. Without a synopsis, my first novel was too short. Without an outline, my second got lost along the way. It pays to follow every stage of the plan.

I know I’ve written more than these few articles with tips about writing methods, but those seem to be the most important ones. I’m sure I will be writing more of that kind as I continue writing novels. And I will be writing those novels using my preferred methods. Reading and writing about methods used by others influences how I write and how fast I write. I’m sure it’s the same for you.

Keep refining your own personal writing method and you can only get better and faster as you put it into practice.

Article by Ivan Izo.

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Short Stories Can Help Your Novel

 

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Short stories are not as great as novels. No question. Writers who produce great books rarely produce great short stories. The only exceptions to this rule I’ve found are Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, and H.P. Lovecraft. I’m sure there are a few others. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write short stories. Because it’s difficult to write a good one, writing short stories helps you grow as a writer. That’s not the only benefit.

There are many ways short stories can make your novel better. The short stories you write before attempting a novel make you better at writing beginnings and endings. The short stories you write while writing your novel can be used on a short story blog to show samples of your writing and promote your novel. Short stories that are related to your novel have several uses I’ll describe below.

Short Stories as Writing Practice

Read any book or article on how to become a novelist and you will be told to start by writing short stories. The first thing you will notice is that it takes a long time to write just a few thousand words. Writing short stories gives you some time to learn to write faster before attempting a 100,000 word book.

Another advantage of writing short stories is that you will get practice at writing beginnings and endings. A good opening will hook readers into reading more. A good ending will leave them wanting more. The best place to fail on each is in short stories. Master opening hooks and satisfying endings with short stories and you’ve done a lot for your future manuscript writing efforts.

There are other skills you could use practice with too. Writing dialog, description, and narrative are all different challenges. Find a reader who’s willing to review your writing and tell you what they did and didn’t like. You’ll also want to practice editing. After re-writes, the best way to improve your writing is editing. That means cutting what isn’t necessary. It can mean adding, re-writing, and re-arranging too, but cutting is what will give your stories the biggest boost. The rule is: Cut big, then small.

Short Stories as Fiction Samples

Share your short stories by selling them to magazines or post them on a blog. There are several sites that offer free blogs as long as you don’t advertise anything except your own books. I use wordpress.com. Blogger is also popular.

When you put your work out there where people can read it, some are going to be looking for your books.

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Nora Roberts’ Prolific Writing Method

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Nora Roberts has written over 200 romance novels, averaging over six books a year. Her novels have spent more than 800 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, including over 150 weeks at number one. She’s prolific and a hit.

Talent

We want to know how she got be prolific, but some insight into her talent would also be nice. Being a hit depends on what you write. A lot of that depends on reading lots of books to know what sells. Roberts has been a life-long reader and comes from a family of readers, so she knows what a good book looks like. But, she didn’t start in childhood like some of the other prolific writers I’ve profiled. (See Isaac Asimov’s Prolific Writing Method and John Creasey’s Prolific Writing Method.)

She didn’t start writing novels until a blizzard snowed her in with her two sons. There was nothing else to do, so she began working on the idea for a novel and found that she loved the writing process. She’d spent lots of time making up stories before, but this was the start of turning her stories into novels.

Productivity

Prolific and proficient writing seemed to come together for Roberts. The blizzard was in 1979 and she got her first novel acceptance in 1981. That’s a fast start. Her open secret is that she writes for eight hours a day, every day. One source claimed she wrote six manuscripts before getting her first acceptance. That would get her past the million word count that’s been estimated as the milestone for proficiency – if she uses multiple drafts. She does.

The usual multiple draft process is to write an outline, work it into a long enough story for a novel, and then write the novel in three drafts. Roberts skips the outline, writes a short first draft with everything she wants in the story, then adds details and characterization in the second draft to make it a full novel. She uses the final draft to polish.

Lessons Learned

What have we learned here? I think there are a few good pointers.

Read a lot to get good examples of how to write.

Write a lot so that you improve fast.

Put lots of time into your writing. Eight hours a day might not be possible if you have a full time job, but how about four hours a day? Keep it up long enough and you may not need the day job.

These seem to be recurring pointers in the “Prolific Writing Method” articles. The only one missing this time is starting to write when you’re young. Nora Roberts has shown that’s not necessary when you’re a reading addict. This is good news for most of us.

Article by Ivan Izo.

Write Faster by Telling Me a Story

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I once read a book that said we should write like we talk. It was such a quick easy read that I don’t remember much about it except the main idea and that it was a fast read. It’s point was the idea that you can write faster when you write like you talk.

Since writing like you talk produces a fast forgettable read, there are advantages and disadvantages.

Anything that can be read fast can be written fast. You will never write as fast as you read, but you can write pretty damn fast when you’re writing like you talk. You don’t need to make the conversion from speech to literature. And, yes, I’m including all genres as “literature” here, not just the literature genre. One of the advantages of this method is its use for things that you want to write fast and don’t care what anyone thinks. I mean more than just writing you get sucked into doing for someone else and want to get done fast, but it works for that too.

First Drafts

You don’t care what others think of your first drafts. They’ll never see them. One of the fastest ways to write first drafts is to intentionally make them terrible. Make them terrible by writing like you speak. As each idea comes up, write it like you were telling the idea to a friend. Your going to re-write everything anyway.

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Prolific Writing Starts with Prolific Idea Generation

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I’ve always assumed the only thing standing in the way of most writers becoming prolific was getting their butt into the chair and writing. I was wrong. Many writers have trouble generating ideas. I can think of only one reason not to have new ideas for articles; a belief that you must write about ideas that have never been written about before.

You can spend hours working through different ideas in your head until you find something you don’t believe you’ve seen before, write it up, and publish. This is the long way to write an article. Ideas that come as inspiration will go much faster. But, either method will have the same result. Now that you’ve written the idea, you’ll notice it appear in someone else’s writing. That’s why people sometimes think their idea was plagiarized, sue, and find out the defendant wrote their article, book, or story first. There is nothing new beyond scientific discovery.

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Speedy Writing Using Your Writing Amuse

Speedy Writing Using Your Writing Amuse

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If your muse is the spirit that gives you a perfect story to write, what is it that let’s you crank out a rough first draft quickly?

Is it a pulp fiction muse? No. Pulp fiction stops at the first draft. The rest of us turn our fast, unedited, mixed-quality first drafts into good material by revising.

Your amuse? Maybe.

Asocial is a lack of interest in being social.

Atheist is a lack of interest in theism. (Or at least it should be.)

Amuse is a lack of interest in your muse.

Are you trying to write and your muse isn’t helping? Better get help from your amuse. Your amuse doesn’t care about a perfect story. If it doesn’t know what happens next, it might write “something magical happens” and move on. When your amuse sees too many directions for the story, it may write a paragraph on several of those directions and then keep writing the story that follows. Your amuse doesn’t care how much mess is left behind for the second draft.

The amuse finds it funny to make a mess of things. It would rather make a mess than not move forward. The amuse is amusing.

Of course, the amuse is nothing new. I’m just putting a name on writing with your editor turned off. I once heard a story about a high school English teacher who rarely had a student that was able to finish writing a novel as their term paper. Forgive me if you’ve heard the original and I’ve changed it. It was a long time ago. What I remember well about the story was her experiment to get those term papers done. She changed the assignment. They no longer needed to write a novel. They needed to write a bad novel. The competition was to write the worst novel ever written.

Every student wrote a novel that year. They probably were some of the worst novels ever written, but they gotten written.
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Use Zen to Write More

Use Zen to Write More

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Zen Buddhist meditation teaches you to clear the clutter from your mind so that you can have focus and peace.

Zen practitioners will also clear the clutter from their home. I wouldn’t recommend that move for a writer. You need to have lots going on to be a good writer; lots of experience to draw from. A cluttered home isn’t a problem. Why?

Zen meditation teaches focus. It begins with ignoring all thoughts except a nonsense phrase or the viewing of a candle flame. When that succeeds, you forget the nonsense phrase or the flame as well. If you can ignore your thoughts, you can certainly ignore your environment. Physical clutter doesn’t matter.

There are books on how to meditate, but the steps are no longer than a blog article. Do an internet search for “how to meditate” and you will find many articles.

How will this help you write more? Drop the focus on nonsense phrases or flames and focus on what you are writing. Not everything you are writing, the one thing you are writing now.

Eckhard Tolle’s variation on meditation is to forget about both the past and future so you can enjoy the moment. You can’t change the past. The future may be different than you expect. By forgetting both, you remove most causes of anxiety and depression.

Another way to look at it is this. You can’t fix the past because it’s over and you can’t fix the future because the problems haven’t arrived yet. When you focus on only your most important problem in the present, you are free to give it your full attention.

Learn to use these methods to focus on what you are writing now and you will be free of most distractions. You will be using Zen to write more.


Article by Ivan Izo.

23 More Ways to Generate Article Ideas

23 More Ways to Generate Article Ideas

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I’ve previously written about Places to Get Article Ideas. The following list suggests more ways to dream up and research articles.

1. Write about something that pisses you off.

2. Write an anti-article. For example, six ways to gain weight fast. The idea is that readers will use the tips in reverse.

3. Review your article ideas list for ideas you keep passing up and consider the opposite bias. Can’t get going on an article about how to proofread? Write one on when you shouldn’t.

4. Look for ideas when you are nowhere near your keyboard. While driving, shopping, working, or out with friends.

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Kyokutei Bakin’s Prolific Writing Method

Kyokutei Bakin's Prolific Writing Method

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Kyokutei Bakin wrote over 470 books, including a 106 book novel. The 106 volume novel took 28 years to complete. That’s about 4 books per year. His other books included 30 long novels. Possibly there are a couple of hundred novellas in there as well. Even if it were only 470 novellas he wrote, we’d still like to know the secret to his writing output. What do we know about him?

Bakin was born in 1767 Japan, so the qualifications for publication were a little different than today. It’s seems like before 1900, if you could write a novel it would get published. That doesn’t change his accomplishment. 470 books is a lot of writing. If he wasn’t good at the start, he would have been eventually. And he was. His novel Nans? Satomi hakkenden (“Satomi and the Eight Dogs”) is considered a classic.

There’s not a lot of information about Bakin, but among the biographical information there is a clue as to how he was able to write so much.

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Kill Writer’s Block Today

Kill Writer's Block Today

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Belief in writer’s block is like belief in failure. If you believe you will fail, you will fail. If you believe in writer’s block, you will be blocked. There is never a good reason you can’t write. There may be a reason you can’t write well. The story isn’t coming alive for you or you don’t have a good explanation for the next section. Don’t let that stop you. You’ll catch it in the revision.

You Can Always Write Something

If you don’t know the material you’re writing about, you’re writing the wrong thing. If you are stuck on what to write next, don’t do something else. Stay right there until you find something to write. You never need to stop a valid writing project because of some imaginary block. Write about being stuck and then write the details of the problem. Propose theories, even impossible ones, and keep working over the problem. As long as you keep writing, you will get to the solution eventually.

I’ve written before about having more than one project as a way to beat writer’s block. If you really can’t move ahead on a project, switching to another project may be the solution.

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