Posted in better writing, finding the right words, good writing, how to write, learning about writing, learning your writing style, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing process, thinking on writing, writing, writing advice, writing better

Common Phrases Used by Authors

commo phrasesNow this is an interesting little chart I stumbled upon as I browsed Facebook. This post from the Writer’s Circle. I often enjoy the posts this page puts up, but this one made me stop and think. And the question that popped in my brain was… What would be the most common phrases in my writing?

An argument could be made for the listed words and phrases as being too simplistic and possibly boring. But considering the intended audience (young adult), is that really a bad thing? And it opens the question… is simplistic writing possibly a better way to go? After all, these series are best sellers.

Continue reading “Common Phrases Used by Authors”

Posted in Boosting Creativity, build confidence as a writer, creative writing, free writing, freewriting, how to write, learning to write, learning your writing style, learning your writing voice, The Writer's Toolbox, writing, writing advice, writing practice

The Amazing Benefits of Free Writing

There are many tools in a writer’s toolbox, but none is as helpful as the simple practice of free writing. It’s something that I picked up in my writing journey, which I used––but never fully appreciated––until I learned how powerful it could really be. This happened after reading the book How to Be a Writer by Barbara Baig.

Nearly all her exercises, in the 265 page book, uses different variations of simple free write and focused freewriting. After doing several of the exercises, I found that all the free writing I’d done up to that point was really just a warm-up. I never took it to the next level, because I hadn’t realized I wasn’t doing free writing nearly enough (it should be done everyday), or even asking the right questions to do focused free writing.

Free writing is a remarkable tool that has, in a short period of time, led me to amazing discoveries about myself and my writing. The act of writing my thoughts directly onto the page, without any censorship, has given me the ability to articulate things that I wanted to say, but never knew how to say. It even unearthed things I never expected, and has led me down an entirely new path of writing, which I never would have seen without the process of free writing.

What is free writing and how does it work? It is actually a very simple process of writing either with pen and paper, or computer––whichever you feel more comfortable––for at least ten minutes without stopping (I use pen and paper because I find it’s easier to let go of the editor and just write). Turn that inner editor off! Don’t erase or correct mistakes! Keep writing no matter what! Set a timer, or an alarm if you want to keep the free writing limited in time (at the very least do ten minutes, if not more).

If you run out of ideas to write about, then just keep writing, “I don’t know what to write now,” until something pops up. Believe me, once you let the gate open, a flood of ideas will hit and you might even find it difficult to stop. I usually want to keep going, but have to move on to something else (but will come back later to explore more). Other times, I find that I’ve exhausted my ideas, and move then on to another subject to free write on, or another writing project all together.

The beauty of free writing is that you can free write on anything you chose. It can be a journal; a way to help get rid of the random thoughts, or the list of things you need to get done that day, or an argument you just had with the next door neighbor––or what I like to call “junk”––filling your head any given day. Once that junk has been expelled, other ideas are free to float to the surface.

The free writing can be on a specific subject or topic you want to write about. It can be on a new character that’s been haunting you. It can be, “I don’t want to do this” over and over. It doesn’t matter. Keep the pen moving! The point is to let yourself go and see where it takes you.

In doing this, you may wander into territory you don’t want to touch on, so change the direction. You may even find something new to explore that you never considered before. It’s up to you where you go and how long you want to go there. Just don’t have any expectations for your writing and allow yourself to enjoy the journey. You are in control!

The most important is to keep any free writing you do private. This gives you the freedom and you need to explore without judgment from others. The pressure is off and you no longer feel like you have someone looking over your shoulder. It is just you and your thoughts. Doing this will eventually boost your confidence as a writer, and will also let you just practice being a writer.

As important as it is for others not to judge your work in this practice stage, that goes double for yourself. If you find what you are writing “terrible” or “wonderful”, just ignore it, and move on. There will be plenty of time later to decide to polish up an idea, or just dump it all together. Right now, all that matters are the words being poured onto the page. Those elusive words and ideas are no longer hiding inside your crowded mind, but in solid form ready for you to use in any matter you chose. So keep that pen moving, and let the ideas flow!

Check out More on Focused Freewriting to know more about the free writing process.

Posted in A Writer's Life, beginning writer, better writing, good writing, great writing, how to write, learning about writing, learning to write, learning your writing style, learning your writing voice, lots of writing, read, rewrite, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing journey, the writing process, writing, writing advice, writing better

Beginning Writers: What You Should Know

You’ve decided that you have a love of writing and would like to pursue it further whether as a hobby or a career, but you just don’t know where to start. As someone who has “been there and done that”, I can sympathize with your predicament, so decided to compile some basic information that will help on your journey to discovering the imagination inside, and then putting it down in story form.

Take it slow
The very first thing you need to remember is to take it slow. Don’t become too overwhelmed by all the possibilities, story ideas, or writing information. I know it’s easier said than done, but the last thing you want to do is to become so bogged down that you just don’t write at all. Also, a lot of pressure can have a negative effect to your creativity, so try to keep it positive and fun!

Get the story out of your head
If you have a great story idea then don’t let it disappear in the chaos of your head, get it down on paper! Even just a few short sentences to get the gist of what you want is fine. You can always go back and write it out later.

Keep a journal or notebook
Where do you put all those story ideas? If you haven’t already, then you need to keep a journal or notebook. It can be a paper notebook or files on a computer. Whatever works for you. Just make sure you put it somewhere you remember, so it won’t get lost, and it’s easily accessible.

Just write
If you feel the urge to write then do it, even if it’s for a few minutes. In fact, writing EVERYDAY is the best way to go. It keeps you in the habit of writing and the more you write the better you will get at it. So just let your thoughts pour onto the page (even if it doesn’t make sense). You have to get the junk out of your head before the real gold nuggets can be found.

Read
Reading is very important. It can inspire new ideas for stories, but it can also teach you how to write. The best way to learn the craft is to study what other writers have done. So read and read often. Read about how to be a better writer, read the area you want to write in, read areas that interest you, read things that don’t interest you (even areas that may not interest you still have great writing, the point is to be open to new ideas no matter where they might come from).

Reading a variety of books, magazines, blogs, and more will give you a bigger toolbox to pull from and will widen your reading experience. That being said, keep in mind if you read bad writing then you may produce bad writing. Reading a badly formed novel or story every once in a while isn’t going to kill your writing abilities, in fact, it will show you what NOT to do. Just don’t steep yourself in it.

Rewrite
Another way to be a good writer is to practice, but more important that that is to rewrite pieces you’ve worked on. Don’t just write it and put it away. Keep writing and rewriting until you find something you like, then put it away and come back to it a few weeks later. This will allow you to learn to rework a piece until it becomes better and also it will eventually help you find your voice.

Voice is the unique tone in a story that makes it special and to stand out. This only comes with lots and lots and lots of practice. It also usually comes when you least expect it. Read my blog on Finding Your Writing Style and Voice for more information on Voice.

Get Feedback
Getting feedback on writing is essential to any writer, but most especially in the beginning. It is how you will find out what areas of your writing need work and what areas you excel at. It is important though that you don’t rely on just anyone to give you that feedback. The best kind usually comes from fellow writers, but not always. I have read critiques from writers that were not very helpful at all.

They key is to look for someone who can give you constructive criticism that helps and doesn’t tear you down. If you find a person who gives you constructive criticism that resonates with you (and a part of you already knew that to be true), then that person is giving you the real help you need as a writer.

Join a Writing Group
This is the best way to find fellow writers whether you join a local writing group or find one online. It is important to be surrounded by people who think the same way you do. They will be instrumental in providing the support you need and will also be there to give you the feedback to make your work better. I found my writing group through www.meetup.com. Check them out and see if there is a writer’s group near you!

Discover Your Weakness and Strengths
When you first start out writing, you might feel like you have no strengths and all weaknesses. Believe it or not, this isn’t true. We all have areas that we are better at than others, even in the beginning. Yes, all of your writing will probably need help at some point in time, but there will be some things that you are naturally better at, and some you will need lots and lots of help to get right.

What I do, even now, is to I pick an area I feel I need the most help with and focus on that area only. Once I feel like my skills have improved enough, I go to the next area I want to work on, and so on. This keeps me from being too overwhelmed with what I don’t know and helps give me goals to shoot for. It’s also a lot easier to see progress if you focus on one area instead of jumping all over the place.

Have Goals
If you want to be a good writer than you need to set goals for yourself. This will keep you motivated to write and will keep it interesting. Set some short term and long term goals of what you want to accomplish in your writing and it will keep you moving forward. Also realize that life happens and that sometimes you’ll have to adjust those goals every once in a while.

Good luck with your writing experience and feel free to post comments with any questions you might have!

Posted in A Writer's Life, better writing, good writing, great writing, how to write, learning your writing style, learning your writing voice, style, the art of writing, The Writer's Toolbox, writing, writing advice, writing style, writing voice

Finding Your Writing Style and Voice

Style and voice, as a writer you hear about these two things all the time, usually within the same breath. Some wonder if they are in fact the same thing, but they aren’t. Each is separate from the other, but both rely on each other to make a story great. It’s a marriage of two separate elements that when brought together make your writing sparkle.

So what is style and voice exactly?

Style, in short refers to the shaping of sentences and structure that makes your story a work of art. This is where reading writing books come in handy. The more you know about how words, sentences, paragraphs, grammar, and punctuation work, the better you can find a style that works for you. Style even encompasses the ordering of ideas and flow of words, which crosses over into the domain of voice and it’s why voice can be confused as style.

Voice, refers to the emotional context and perspective that is unique to you. It is how the words are painted on the page as they express the inner artist inside. Voice is not something that can be taught or learned from a book. It is something that must be discovered by each writer. It doesn’t come easy and it happens when you least expect it. Each writer has his own distinct style and voice. You see it when you read and you marvel at its beauty and wonder how you can achieve the same thing for yourself.  I recently discovered my voice and am working on crafting my style. How did I do it?

I started with a short story I had written on throughout the year. I would write on it, set it aside and write on it again. In the process, I found that my writing became clearer and more distinct. I focused on showing the reader my story instead of telling. I made the words come alive for myself, and in doing so, transformed them into something I could channel as my own. The key is to keep writing a piece over and over again until the words begin to speak the way you want them to, hence why it is called voice.

Why are style and voice so important? It makes the story interesting and breaths originality into a story. Without it you would have a story that reads… See Dick run. See Jane jump… Some writing might require that sort of simple quality, but for the most part, people fall in love with stories, not because of the stories themselves, but because of the way the author makes them feel and experience the story.

Want to learn more about writing style? Check out The Elements of Style by William Struk Jr. It’s a great book to keep on hand and goes over proper presentation and styles of writing.