By: Traci Kenworth
“I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part…” Anne Lamott
Sometimes we think too little of ourselves, that we couldn’t possibly walk that bridge or climb that mountain. Until we’re put to the test, and at that moment, we seem to find something in ourselves that will go the distance. Writing’s like that. You might feel inadequate, but there’s a heart inside you that can help you make an effort.
So, how do you find that heart, however small it seems at times?
1. Start with Practice
Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation—yet. Practice getting words down, forming sentences. What you’ve learned in English class will help you make a start. They’ll be time to focus more on grammar and punctuation after you’ve finished writing your draft. The important thing?
Don’t let your fears intimidate you.
Just sit there and make the best sentences you can. Don’t worry about style, either. Making killer sentences and finding your style take time and practice.
- Teach yourself one skill at a time.
- Intermingle your words.
- Do they flow from one word to the next?
- Are there literary devices you can use?
- Scramble the words and see if they flow better.
- Again, and again, and yet, again…
The key here is to teach you to look at words that create sentences in different combinations. Doing these things will teach you a bit about style.
Again, twist and turn the sentences until you can see them in a different light. Playing with words, changing passive to active voice, and learning new words make your sentences more exciting. No one is born knowing how to write. We have to practice, practice, practice.
2. Grammar & Punctuation
You didn’t think you’d get out of them that easy, did you? Now’s the time to refresh what you learned in classes. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I got straight As in English.”
Maybe so, but creative writing needs rules and the knowledge of how to break them.
Read other posts about grammar.
Uncertain about punctuation? Perdue Owl had helpful exercises.
Use a grammar checker, but don’t depend on them. Pay attention to why Grammarly corrects your choice of words, syntax, or engagement, and make an effort to learn and not make the same mistakes again.
I know. You think your work is polished, and so you hit the publish button. But the real test comes from feedback from your readers, and that’s not just your loved ones. They love you and don’t want to hurt you, so they usually give you a favorable thumbs up or like, but if you don’t get it out there for other writers or readers to critique, you’ll never grow as a writer.
If you don’t get it out to other writers or readers to evaluate, you’ll never grow. Yes, grow.
As I said in the beginning, it takes years to write well. Isn’t it better to get a reality check from other writers or readers than that agent or publisher you have in mind?
How do you know you have a good critique partner/s? They won’t tell you how great you are, and there are no corrections needed. They won’t try and rewrite your story for you. They’ll simply make suggestions. Tell you their thoughts.
4. Be authentic
There’s more to writing than stringing your reader along.
- Your story has to be believable.
- The characters have to ring true.
- Your plot can’t have holes in it.
- Is your genre clearly defined?
Design your plot, so it makes sense. A story should fit into a particular genre, and you should follow the “rules” of that genre. After all, how will your publisher know where to place your book in the store? Does your book use foreshadow? Did you spend time outlining the story to make sure it followed a seamless path? Or, if you didn’t outline, did you test the story’s shape to make sure that it functions as a book is supposed to?
- An inciting incident
- A middle
- A turning point
- The climax
There may even be mini-turning points within your story. You don’t have to follow guidelines rigidly, but rules are there for a reason. Learn them before you break them.
5. The Heart of the Story
That’s something you bring to the page. Will Cinderella and her prince live happily-ever-after? Only at Disneyland. What happens to them out of the park? Maybe Cinderella grows bored and grows pumpkins. Out of the pumpkins jumps a robot who claims only she can save the galaxy. Or to turn it around, maybe the prince realizes he’s married a woman he barely knew. And when her family moves in with them and starts causing trouble, he sails off to sea. You get the idea.
Delve into the character, the plot, the scenery, or your minor characters, and you’ll find more information that translates to making the story richer.
- What are your protagonist’s dreams?
- Are there lessons you can impart to that character that you learned in your life?
- How can you modify your character’s qualities to reflect the good, bad, and ugly aspects of the human makeup?
- What feelings can you explore that engage a reader?
- What will make your character come alive on the pages?
Asking yourself these questions will help you add to a story that others might not be able to put down. Think about what captures your attention when you watch TV or a movie. Are the characters, setting, the plight of people within the story, or a combination of those the elements that keep you watching?
All of these components matter.
David versus Goliath
Once upon a time, soldiers refused to face off against a legendary giant, but a small shepherd boy did.
David defeated Goliath.
Can you see such an individual in real life? Can’t you imagine creating one through your writing? Characters dream, fight, get knocked over, and, most importantly, get back up. They have stories worth telling.
And while we can’t all be as brave as David, or the superheroes of Marvel Lore, we can use our writing voice and be the giant slayer.
Bio: Traci Kenworth
Traci Kenworth writes all genres of YA as well as the occasional historical romance. She lives in Ohio with her son, daughter, and four cats, chasing snippets of whatever story she’s working on at the time.
She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Writing saved her during a dark period in her life.
She is forever grateful to God for this way out of the darkness and into the light. That’s the type of hero/heroine she writes about, survivors and those they love. Her writings show others a way back when they think everything is lost.
Her character’s stories give the reader that most welcome gift – hope. Some other things she enjoys: genealogy, riding horseback, and, of course, reading.
Follow Traci on her adventures of getting published.
Find out what Traci is up to on Where Genres Collide Traci Kenworth YA Author & Book Blogger
Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org