MJ’s Writing Tips
Hey hey, it’s MJ,
So I like writing that’s not a secret to the people who know me in real life. I have completed 12 novels on my own, none of them are published which is fine but that’s a goal though. I enjoy creating worlds and characters out of thin air; it’s a lot of fun for me but I have learned a lot in the seven or eight years that I have been writing long form fiction and I have gotten plenty of advice from authors who write a lot better than I do. My tips aren’t new and ground breaking but they don’t have to be, they are just things I have learned on the way after amassing a shelf full of binders that currently house my completed books which is crazy to think because a lot of work goes into a book. I revise on a cycle so I will usually revisit most books once a year and I can tell how much my writing has changed and evolved since my first publishable (in my opinion) novel was finished in 2014.
I have been wrestling with even posting this because that’s just who I am as a person, I don’t like to make myself vulnerable and that’s what happens with writing but I promised myself that I needed to be okay with being myself on the internet, full transparency and all that. I am just a person on the other side of a computer, like the reader. I am just a person who has a hobby and enjoys that hobby because writing allows me to be whoever I want to be in whatever world I want to be in so here I am with some of my personal writing tips.
These are all just opinions they are not statements of fact or personal attacks on anyone because everyone has a different writing style but these are things that have helped me over time become a better writer in my own mind.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Your first draft can be absolute garbage as long as it exists, it is like a super power to be able to put thousands and thousands of words down on paper and have it become something, so not everything has to be perfect in that first draft. That is what revisions are for!
2. Take breaks
I used to want to write straight through a novel, not take breaks, not focus on any other writing project but I am going to be honest that worked when I was in college and writing was a break from my studies but as I started to write more I found myself getting ideas randomly in the middle of other projects and you have to get those ideas down so you don’t lose them. Sometimes working on another project gives you ideas for the project that you have put a pin in and so for me taking breaks is not always a bad thing.
3. Stay organized
I have a binder for each book or series I am working on at the moment. I have a binder with just outlines, major characters for each book or series, birthday’s in a calendar that I ignore the year on, and other visuals that I need for my general knowledge. The binder for each series contains the outline, characters, visuals, world building, and other important information that is just for that novel. I used to keep a more thorough outline/idea notebook but it doesn’t serve my purposes anymore because I am not writing those books at the moment so I outline on my computer and each novel or series has its own folder in my expansive folder system.
Also with this one, keep a notebook or something on you in case you get a flash of an idea or dialogue and you aren’t near your computer. I use the notes app on my phone and it has made sure that I don’t lose my little ideas or even big ideas when I am not near my laptop.
4. Do your research
I have spent forty five minutes researching information for one paragraph. My Google search history looks insane and I know it and I know that sometimes I don’t get all the information when I need it. I make notes as I go to look things up if I am on a roll and can’t stop writing because I will lose my train of thought and then I will just lose all motivation. It bothers me when things are overlooked or incorrect or it’s clear that the person writing just pulled it out and thought they knew something when they didn’t.
Google Search Terms when I was working on a novel last year:
- Shakespearean attire
- Average number of pages in a movie script
- Provinces of Canada
- Airports in England
- How long is Hamlet
- Does Toronto have a plastic bag tax
That was also all for about two scenes because they were things that I didn’t know and I wanted to make sure that I was getting things correct.
5. You don’t have to write every day
I wrote somewhere around 530,000 words last year between my own projects, projects with other, and blog posts. I have surpassed that this year just because I am working on projects with others. While I say that I will say there are some days where I write 6,000+ words and other days where I stare at my laptop and write the words “she walked” three times in one sentence because I can’t focus. It’s okay to take a day and not write, I have to teach myself that some days because I want to write at least 1,000 words a day. Some days that 1,000 comes through my fingers in like half an hour sometimes it takes all day and I still don’t hit it. It’s okay to let your creativity recharge.
I have not read enough books this year and I know that. I love reading and I always have reading as a kid inspired me to write little things, fan fictions and my first attempts at long form fiction as a teenager, and novels in college and beyond. Find a genre that you enjoy and run with it, I did this and read like 11 or 12 pre-World War I British period fictions and I have not read one since because I burned out on it even though I love that time period. I also have not written a period fiction and I don’t think I ever will. But read, it helps you as a writer.
7. Create characters you would want to know/ don’t make them perfect
What I mean when I say this is that if you are writing something and you wouldn’t want to at least sit down and chat with the character you might hate writing them. I am talking about antagonists too, my villains I would love to sit down and have a chat with because I think it would be fascinating. Give you’re characters flaws make them more human more relatable to your readers because if they are unbelievable or static people get bored with them. I know I have put books down and never picked them back up because the characters didn’t feel real to me.
8. Branch out
Whether that be creatively or with a community around you that supports your writing, can help you out with things you don’t know, or beta readers when you need someone to look at the word vomit you put out on a page. (I am still working on the community part.) When I say branch out creatively though what I mean is don’t just write one style, I have written books in first and third person, I want to write a choose your own adventure style in second person which is going to be complicated. Write in different genres, I have written general, fantasy, tested my hand at sci-fi, and tried out mystery because I read a lot of cozy mysteries. I have done stand alone and series, the series started out as a stand-alone series of three and now encompasses four different major groups and what will be probably seven novels when they are all completed.
9. No idea is stupid
Even if something never makes it to a book store or to the public if it’s just for you get that idea out of your head and down on paper. If it’s just for you it doesn’t have to be perfect and maybe that idea will spark another idea that is absolutely amazing. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?
10. Have fun with it (this one is related to no. 1)
Creative endeavors are supposed to be fun so don’t stress yourself out if something isn’t perfect, because let’s be honest perfect is impossible, messy characters can be fun as long as they are consistent. It’s okay to have stupid/ funny lines and be unapologetic about them because sometimes those are the ones that people quote for years after reading a book.
11. Don’t create statue characters (this one is related to no. 7)
Statue characters are characters to me who have almost no purpose, do not put in a character to say one line and never been seen or heard from again. Do not make your major characters static, they also qualify as statue characters, they have to grow and evolve as time goes on, you can have characters who never learn from their mistakes but do not have too many. If you are writing a character say at the beginning of college by the end they will be a different person because that’s usually how it works in real life. Don’t root them in one spot and expect everyone else in the story to support them, people get annoyed with others who learn nothing and don’t change.
12. Don’t assume your reader knows everything/ can read minds
Sometimes explanations are necessary to get a point across or to allow someone to understand your character’s motivation. I have read books in the past where I felt like I was missing a bunch of things because things weren’t explained or they were something that I didn’t personally understand and you lose people that way. If you sit around and assume that the person reading your book knows everything that you do you might miss something and lose someone half way through, you Google so they don’t have to.
I think that a dozen is just about enough because it was just me rambling for almost 1500 words and that’s a lot. My tips might not work for you and they might rehash those tips of famous authors but maybe that just means a lot of authors suffer with the same issues, who knows? I am not a professional author, though I aspire to be one day, I have a goal of having a book shelf full of my work instead of just other people’s work. I might have more tips down the road because this is a post that I have been considering since last year at some point and it’s just one of those posts that I was scared to post because this is a “lifestyle” blog then I realized it’s my blog and I can put whatever I want on here because it’s what I want to put on here.
If you have any tips for me I am all ears!
Hope everyone has a great start to the week and I will see y’all on Wednesday with another post.