A Compendium of Writing Tips and Tricks

Note_creative_author_260972_lAs I've announced at least fifty million times in every place I could possibly think of, I'm busy rewriting my novel for my new agent, Erin Niumata, which is why things have been quiet around here.

But as I've been concentrating fiercely on my rewrite the last couple of weeks, I've realized some things that are working well for me–and things that I'm learning.   I'm hopeful these miscellaneous tips will be of value to you, too, so here they are.

1.  Getting up every 30 minutes (or so) makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE.  I've been at my desk a lot lately, for longer stretches than usual, and I've been consciously getting up regularly and walking around and stretching.  One day last week I didn't do this–and I felt completely difference at the end of the day. The romantic image we have of writers requires us to be so wrapped up in our work that we sit for hours.  But actually you will feel better and do better work if you get your butt up off the chair.

2.  Your main character needs an origin story.  Just as superheroes have stories about how they got their superpowers, your protagonist (and probably others in the story, too) needs an origin story.  How did she get her obsession for fashion?  Why did he become a detective?  Did he watch his best friend get killed and vow to avenge him?  Figure this out and you've unlocked your character. This deserves a whole post and will get one when I'm done with my rewrite.

3.  Use more description than you think you need.  I mentioned about how I've been learning this as I rewrite to my agent's notes.  And I am finding that more description makes for a fuller, richer read. (Bear in mind that I'm writing women's fiction, and lush description is a huge part of it.  In another genre, this might not be so.)  Also, as my buddy J.D. Frost brilliantly pointed out to me in an email, you can use description to pace your plot.  A lot of it signals a restful spot.  A lack of it shows action.  

4.  Having long stretches of time to write is a wonderful thing.  I'm the original proponent of using little bits of time here and there to write when you can, but for this rewrite, I've gotten in the habit of clearing away whole days to work.  (See #5.)  Let me tell you, it is fantastic, especially when you are working on a rewrite and need to hold the whole book in your head.  Having more than one or two hours at a time to devote to the book gives me the mental space to dig deep into character arcs and figure out a more cohesive plot.

5.  You have more time to write than you think.  I have a lot of clients at the moment.  They are all wonderful and diligent and doing good work, and I adore every single one.  (I really, truly do–I am constantly amazed and honored to be chosen to shepherd a writer's creation.) And, they all need my care and tending: reading their work and then time on the phone to discuss.  I'm also planning three in-person workshops (France here, Nashville here, Portland is already full).  And I have a clamoring family that I love to let distract me.  Yet I've carved out four full days to devote to my rewrite in the last week.  I never would have thought I could do that I've you'd told me so in January.  But I did it, by working really, really hard on the other days and carefully managing appointments.  It is working so well, I'm going to continue to do this even after I'm done with this rewrite.

6.  Notes are your pals.  I had pretty much totally gone over to Evernote, which I do love, because I tend to accumulate scraps of paper with notes on them all over my desk.  But that's gone out the window with this rewrite and I've got lists and notebooks everywhere.  The thing is, this is working for me (it wasn't before, which is why I sought out a different system). When I'm working on chapter six, and I get an idea for chapter ten, it is easier to grab a piece of paper and scrawl my idea on it, then to open the Evernote app and create a new note.  The thing to remember is to go through your notes regularly!  And the point of it all is to do what works for you to get the writing done.

7.  Reading is your BFF now more than ever.  I'm reading a ton at the moment.  What am I reading? Women's fiction, exactly what I'm writing, with a stray girly mystery thrown in.  As I read, I learn.  In the novel I just finished, I noticed how the author handled description of characters and emulated it.  In another novel I just started, I liked how the author wrote about the setting.  All these ideas go directly into my work.  (And yes, I will write a post like this one about the books I'm reading soon.)

So that's what I've learned while writing lately.  How about you? What are you working on? How is it going?

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12 Comments on "A Compendium of Writing Tips and Tricks"

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J.D.
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J.D.

A lot of good advice in your post. #6 Yes I have screwed myself by not regularly reviewing my notes. I ended up with many that had lost their sizzle and a few I didn’t know the meaning of. Keep at that rewrite. I’m predicting a glowing seal of approval from your agent.

Charlotte Dixon
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I have the same problem–I sometimes can't decipher my notes or figure out what they mean. But most of the time they work well for me.  Thanks for the vote of confidence!

Zan Marie
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I’ll take all of these! Love the list, Charlotte. I think the placement of description is key to Women’s Fiction. I’m still working on it. 😉

Charlotte Dixon
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Zan Marie, I feel like I'm learning so much about how to use description I may have to do a one-off class on it!  I love the genre you and I write in!

Don Williams
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Don Williams

As usual you give a lot of excellent advice. These are great tips and the one about getting up every now and then is just super. Thanks Charlotte.

Charlotte Dixon
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Thanks, Don. And I can really tell a difference in how I feel, getting up more often.  It helps way more than you would think for something so simple.  

Kayla Dawn Thomas
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I’m working to finish the first draft of the novel I’ll be releasing in late June. My April 3 deadline is fast approaching, so this post is really inspiring. I feel like this book is really hitting its stride, the characters are coming alive. When this happens I don’t want to stop working!

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

I love when that happens, too.  And I'm excited to read your next book!

Kayla Dawn Thomas
Guest

I bet if you ask really nicely, an EARC could find its way to you…

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Choose me!  Please?  Choose me!  I would love an EARC…and then we could do something fun on the blog, too!

Kayla Dawn Thomas
Guest

You’re on! I’ll be in touch!

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Yay! Thank you.

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