Creating a story isn’t just about sitting down and pouring words onto the page. You need to fill your ‘toolbox’ with the right tools. There’s no need to start from scratch trying to figure out the techniques of those who’ve gone before you. Learn the skills other writers have figured out through the ages and build on them with your own discoveries about the craft.
But remember, “it’s not logical to think that all advice fits all writers and all writing projects at all times even through much advice fits many writers and many situations much of the time.” (Beth Hill, Editor.)
Grammar, Spelling And Word Choice
Grammar is the structural foundation that allows us to express ourselves in a way to allow others to understand what we’re trying to say. Spelling allows the reader to recognise and understand the words we’re trying to use and help make the meaning of the story clearer. Particularly when it comes to homophones. When choosing the right words for your story you don’t want to sound like you’ve used a thesaurus in every sentence. Nor do you want to use the same word repetitively so the reader becomes sick of seeing it. Finding the correct balance is extremely important.
Sentence structure isn’t just about the grammatical aspects of it such as whether it is a simple, compound, complex or compound-complex sentence. This is important to understand, but what is more important is to learn how the different structures make the reader feel. Short sentences can make a story race forward and create high tension moments. Longer sentences have a more relaxed feel to them. You do of course want to vary your sentence lengths. Learning how to use sentence structure to change pace, create emotion and draw readers into your story is important.
People form groups with other likeminded people. In business, sports and other social activities. Yet often they’re hesitant to do the same when it comes to their writing. Groups are great in that where one member may be lacking the skills in a particular area, another member might have those skill and be able to share some of their knowledge. There’s also nothing to say you can be a member of only one writing group. There are many groups all focusing on different aspects of writing. Both online and in person. Some groups focus on different genres, some on the techniques of writing, some on short stories. It can take time to find the right groups suited to your writing needs.
Reading the works of other writers can also help teach you the way books are created. And I’m not talking about how-to books. Studying other books in the genre/s you wish to write in can teach you a lot of techniques that can be used in your own writing. When it comes to learning from other writers using this method it’s important you only use the techniques you’ve learned from them and not plagiarise their work.
Even those who write fantasy need to learn how to research. If you’ve loosely based your world on a period in history you’ll want to learn the logistics of living in such a time period. If horses are your method of transport, or even a completely made up animal, you can research horses or something similar to give you an idea of the care and abilities of that animal. What ground can your transport cover in an hour? A day? Does it need rest, or if it’s mechanical, what sort of maintenance does it need? Researching actual objects similar to what your own fantastical object is like can help create a more realistic and probable object.
If you’re writing something set in the real world it’s even more important to get your facts right. Whether it’s location, a historical event or a job. There’s sure to be a reader out there somewhere who knows the subject you’re discussing and will point out the mistakes.
A writer’s voice is their own particular style that sets their work apart from other authors. It’s a mixture of everything that goes into their story including characterisation, sentence structure, grammar, topics, pace, word choices, POV choices and influences. It can take a lot of time, even years, to develop your own voice. Quite often it develops once you’ve learned many of the rules about writing and understand how they can be used as well as when they can be broken. Once you have all those basic tools, you can start to develop the more complex ones such as voice.
It’s important to learn how to write and understand how other great writers create their stories, but it’s also important to sometimes ignore the rules. Let yourself be creative. Let yourself explore different types of writing and unusual ideas. Not every piece of writing has to become a story. Practicing and exercising your craft is equally important. Make notes about your ideas so you don’t forget them and go over your notes sometimes and see if one of your old ideas is urging you to write about it. Give yourself permission to try something even if everyone tells you it won’t work. It might not work, but you might surprise yourself and learn a little bit more about your own methods of writing.
Never underestimate the experiences that have occurred in your life. Even if you think they’re ordinary. Those experiences are unique to you and even if someone else has also gone through the exact same event, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have experienced it exactly as you did. You can use those emotions, feelings and events to help understand other emotions, feelings and events. To draw conclusions about other occurrences or even use the event exactly as you experienced it. When writing different scenes in your story you can think back over past events and draw on them to add another layer of authenticity to your work. I’m sure most people have, at different times in their lives, experienced love, hate, frustration, satisfaction, failure, success, compassion and heartlessness. Relive those experiences. Understand them and allow your characters to feel them too. Taking into account their unique personalities, how would your different characters have reacted in those situations?