We could all do with a little help sometimes, and these tips from several top writers and creative writing teachers are just the thing to get you going if you’re struggling with procrastination. Be warned: they just might work! No excuses…
Hot Tips for Short Stories by Jessica Adams
• The first draft is The Swill Draft- it’s going to be pure pig swill so you might as well just get it all out!
• The writing is in the rewriting.
• How do you write a 5000 word short story in 10 days? Write 500 words a day. Break the 5000 words into five chunks. The set-up. The first turning-point. The second-turning point. The climax. The resolution. This is a tip adapted from a Hollywood script doctor.
• Write a back-cover blurb of 100 words to condense your book. It helps a lot.
• Remember the future is digital. How will your short story look on a smart phone screen? A Kindle? An iPad Mini? An iPad? Short story formats are changing to suit the size of the screens.
• Read the short story out loud. You’ll be amazed at how many continuity errors you spot, or how many false notes.
Jessica Adams is a team editor on the bestselling Girls’ Night In (Penguin) and Kids’ Night In (Puffin) series. In 2012 she joined Maggie Alderson, Imogen Edwards-Jones and Kathy Lette in editing the erotica short story anthology, In Bed With (Penguin).
Six Permission Slips for Short Story Writers by Jen Mills
1. You have permission to write. If you talk yourself out of the story or the time it takes you will never get it done. You’ll write better if you let yourself make it a priority.
2. More importantly, you have permission to write badly. Writing badly is the only way to get to writing well.
3. You’re allowed to take risks, even if they seem silly. Don’t worry too much about how you’re supposed to be writing and focus on the story you happen to be writing. Give yourself and your metaphors room to play. Idle in the margins. Let what comes of your head surprise you.
4. Go ahead and take your time thinking about the right word. You have permission to stop worrying about word counts. There are 500 word short stories that say and do more than a novel. Similarly, I’ve had terrible days where I wrote thousands of words I would later delete, and great days where I’ve written half a dozen that make perfect sense.
5. You have permission to love the sound of your own voice. I like to read my later drafts aloud, and often make final edits this way. (Reading to animals is also fine, so long as you give them permission to fall asleep).
6. You are allowed to stop writing. Often, putting a story to bed and ignoring it for a few weeks or months is the best thing you can do for it. Go for a walk. Look at people and things. Be lazy. Enjoy your life.
Jennifer Mills was named Best Young Australian Novelist 2012 by The Sydney Morning Herald.
Top Ten Tips for a Great Writing Process by Carol Lefevre
• Strive for clarity and precision, and style will follow.
• Write before dealing with email, housework, and shopping.
• The best fiction has truth at its heart. Write from what you know is true.
• Never use two or three words where one would do.
• Never underestimate punctuation.
• Read The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White at least twice a year.
• Read poetry and essays, one of each a day, for sustenance.
• Take gingko biloba daily to support your memory and improve circulation to the brain.
• At the end of a writing session, relax by finding and deleting adverbs.
And finally – write.
Carol Lefevre is a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide.
Top Five Tweeting Tips for Writers by Michelle Prak.
• Follow and interact with other writers. Twitter works best as a place to have real conversations and to build support networks.
• Use your Twitter bio wisely. Make sure to tell the world you’re a writer, mention titles of your work or where to access it, and include your website address if you have one.
• Find and participate in relevant hashtags such as #writers #writing #poetry – and look out for relevant conference or event hashtags that emerge occasionally.
• Follow other writers’ Twitter accounts for encouragement and insights. You may find yourself chatting with Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Amy Tan or Bret Easton Ellis…
• Consider Twitter as another space for story-sharing. While each tweet must be confined to 140 characters, don’t let this stop you from sharing multiple consecutive tweets to get your point across or to share a piece of work. You can include links to longer pieces of writing on your own website. Or you might enjoy the discipline of the character limit, finding it inspires creative approaches to communicating.
Michelle Prak is one of South Australia’s leading social media consultants and is a board member of the South Australian Writers’ Centre.
Top Tips for Successful Writing by Sue Fleming.
• Give yourself time in your life for your writing and do justice to your muse!
• Preserve the ideas as they come to you – scribble them down, cut them out or scratch them on the wall!
• Read, read and read.
• Always draft and re-draft your work until it shines like summer.
• Proof reading is vital!
• If you find yourself cleaning the bathroom instead of writing you know you’re in trouble!
• Talk to other writers and learn from them.
• Take a course- it may well include material you might have discovered on your own but you’ll discover it more quickly!
• Keep to deadlines.
10.If you feel out of your comfort zone when writing, be comforted that this is a good thing
Sue Fleming has coordinated the Professional writing program at the Adelaide College of the Arts (TafeSA) for more than four years and has taught more than 200 new writers the basics of creative writing.
Article contributed by and reprinted with permission of the South Australian Writers’ Centre.