This weekend is my last one here in New York and I wish I could say I was spending it doing really cool things like chasing down every Mr. Softee truck and eating pretzels from street vendors till I puke. However, I’ve found myself inside doing homework and working on my final piece for the program. I’m pushing myself with both the content and quality of my writing, so today’s post will be short so I can save my energy for the piece. I’ve accumulated a list of writing tips from each day of class and decided to share a little bit of what I’ve learned for all my fellow writers out there.
1. Make a schedule. If you wait for inspiration to strike, you’ll be waiting forever. Pick a few hours a week that you can devote to writing. Even if you sit and stare at a blank page or screen, eventually something will start to flow and even if most of it isn’t very good, you may write one great sentence that you want to expand upon later.
2. For creative nonfiction writers, treat yourself as a character to be toyed with. Be honest about your thoughts and perceptions of other people and yourself. If you are honest, you’ll earn the readers’ trust.
3. Always remember to trust your readers’ as well. It’s not always about the words on the page, but rather, the words you’ve left out. Trust readers to fill in some of the facts for themselves. Not every moment must be captured explicitly. In other words, “pluck the strings for your reader, don’t give them the whole orchestra.”
4. Choose your endings wisely. Do not keep writing unnecessarily after your point has been made. This comes across as over-explaining and makes the reader feel as though you do not trust them to understand the message your story carries. Again, do not make your reader feel they haven’t been trusted.
5. Let different voices into the story. This is especially helpful for creative nonfiction writers, as it is easy to get caught up in our own internal monologue during a piece. By letting other characters speak, we can enrich our stories and create more enjoyment for our readers.
6. There is a difference between tension and surprise. Surprise is when both the reader and the characters’ do not know what is about to happen. Tension is when the reader knows what will happen but the characters’ do not. Creating tension is a good way to engage a reader.
7. Pace your story. Take the necessary time to develop your ideas. Do not rush to the punch line. Your audience will be disappointed from lack of build up (which can be accomplished by tension, as mentioned in #6).
8. When starting to submit pieces of writing to publications such as literary contests and magazines, don’t be alarmed by rejection. It happens. Just because you have been rejected, does not mean you are not a writer.
9. There will be plenty of people that find flaws with your writing and do not like it. On the flip side, there will always be someone out there who does enjoy your writing. Even if that person is just your mom.
10. Trust yourself. You will get criticism from editors, but for the most part, you have the last say in what is published. If there is something you feel cannot be changed, stick up for what you want. It is your art that you are putting into the world. Don’t put something out there that you are not proud of.
11. And lastly, the writer you are now may not be the writer you will become. Just as we change throughout our lives, so does our writing. There is not “one shot” when we have the chance to become writers. Unlike athletes, who have a prime age in their life when they can become professionals, as writers, we have many opportunities. Don’t give up.