Whenever I do an interview, I’m usually asked if I have any advice or tips for aspiring writers. Well, I sure do! Today, I decided to share five more writing tips. (In a blog earlier this summer I shared five other fun tips.)
Writers will (hopefully) find them helpful, and readers will get an inside look at some “secrets” that go in to making interesting and sexy stories. These writing tips are based on advice I received in my writing classes and discoveries I made as I wrote. I included brief examples from some of my Amber Quill Press romances to illustrate a few points.
Divide by Three: As a writer, you should be doing one of three things: writing new material, revising/editing what you’ve written, and submitting. Divide your writing time into thirds and get to work. Some days I’ll work on outlining a new story, then I’ll spend a day sending out submissions, and then go back to revising an existing story. Someone once said that you should never not be writing, so don’t wait around to hear about a story you’ve just finished before you start another project—especially if inspiration strikes.
For example, when I was halfway through editing my book Trust with Hearts, the entire plot for A Perfect Match popped into my head. Not wanting to lose a scrap of the story, I put Trust with Hearts aside for two or three days and wrote a very detailed outline for A Perfect Match. Juggling projects/stories/ideas may seem hard, but every so often it’s a good idea to switch up and do something different for a day or two.
If you’re already published, you’ll also have to make room for a fourth element: promotion. Getting your name out there on blogs and websites, participating on guest author days, doing interviews, and contacting review sites is like a job itself. So make time to promote all the great things you’ve written!
“Someday” I’ll Use That: Keep a folder for ‘someday’ story ideas, characters, settings, and anything else that sparks your attention. File all those notes, scraps of plots, bits of dialog, and photos of scenic views that you’ve accumulated in one place. If you’re ever stuck on your writing, open the folder and see what inspires you. Long before I wrote A Most Unusual Princess, I had scribbled down the name “Elara” to use as a character’s name, along with the description “unusual princess.” At the time, I had no idea where I would use it. The idea for the pleasure palace and nasty Emperor Salizar in Dalton’sTemptation came from a hastily scribbled idea I wrote down on a scrap of paper. If I come across a catalog with interesting clothing, jewelry, furniture, etc., I tear out the page and file it away in case I can use in a story. Periodically, it’s a good idea to go through the folder and review what you’ve saved. Often you’ll find yourself muttering, “What the heck did I save that for?” or you’ll uncover a gem of an idea just when you need it.
Keep a Writing Resume: This is an excellent bit of advice I received from my writing teacher. Note the date of publication, the title of the piece, where it appeared, and include a link to the publication or story (if it appeared online). If you want to set up a website, having this info readily available in one place will help you locate your writings (and links). I also note reviews and interviews on my resume (with links) to help me with my newsletter and website updates.
A writing resume is also a great motivational tool for when you’re not feeling 100% confident in your work. You can look back and see all that you’ve accomplished over time. (I like to revisit all the sci-fi and mini-romances I wrote for The Sun.) If you haven’t been published yet, start a resume anyway. List any degrees you have, writing classes or workshops you’ve taken, contests you might have placed in and writing organizations/groups you belong to.
Don’t Be Afraid to Cut: Suppose you have a great story that’s 2,500 words and you find a contest that has a 2,000 word limit – what do you do? Cut! Don’t be afraid to edit your story to fit a market or contest guideline. Yes, you may have to lose a bit of the back-story, details, dialog, or condense a scene, but it might just get you published. (Be sure to save the “long” version, too. If the shorter story is rejected, you’ll still have your original.)
I did this with my gothic historical, The Dark Lord. The Amber Heat contest limited stories to 15,000 words. My original version of The Dark Lord came in around 20,000 words or so and included a few extra scenes. To make it fit the rules of the contest I deleted and condensed a few scenes and the book worked just fine.
Sometimes you need to cut scenes to make the book “work”. Believe it or not, the original version of Trust with Hearts was an additional 20,000 words long. I had at least four more chapters and a completely different ending to the book. (It still had a HEA, but the characters got there via a different path.) Why did I cut it? Several readers didn’t like it and said that it felt too contrived. I figured that if more than three people thought the same thing, they might have a point, so I changed the ending before I submitted it to AQP.
Take Writing Classes: Whenever I’m asked if I have advice for writers, I always advocate taking writing classes. Writing classes (or workshops) are an excellent way to learn storytelling techniques, explore different genres, and understand the basic mechanics of writing. (I started out taking one little writing class for “something to do” and it blossomed into a writing career.)
In most cases, writing classes will require that you finish a piece and share it with the class. It’s a great way to overcome any fear or shyness about sharing your work with others, and it’s always helpful to have different readers give you feedback and critique what you’ve written. Making the commitment to sit in a class for a few hours a week and actually write and share a story will give you an idea of the work, challenges, demands, and rewards involved in being a writer. (Trust me, it’s not as easy as people think!) If there are no “live” writing classes available in your area, consider taking online classes or attending workshops at writing conferences.
I hope you enjoyed these writing tips and learned something about the process of being a writer. If you’d like to catch up on all of my writings, visit my website: www.KelliWilkins.com
I’ll be sharing another batch of tips in an upcoming blog, so stay tuned!
As a side note, this blog could use some more followers. I’ll be running a mini-contest in November, but feel free to tell your friends to sign up now and and follow along. I’ll be showcasing horror and paranormal writings all through October!
Kelli A. Wilkins