Read a lot and read widely. This way, you will have a better understanding of what you are interested in writing about and what things you really want to avoid. It will give you more ideas and more inspiration. A good start might be to read work from the writers you enjoy. Stephen King wrote ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.’ If you still don’t know what to write about, keep reading and keep writing.
Types of literature. In fiction: If you are writing about crime fiction for example, make sure you do some research about it. It has a certain structure, as any genre does. You don’t have to follow this exactly, but it may help you organise your story better.
As for poetry, decide what type of poetry you want to write about. Is it a sonnet, a lyric, haiku, blank verse? Is it conceptual poetry, eco poetry? All of these have certain characteristics. Look into them before you write your poem and read poems similar to what you want to write about. This will help the creation of your work. Also focus on literary devices such as rhyme and meter, metaphor and imagery. These will help you to portray the meaning of the poem.
Write wherever and whenever you can. It is well known that J K Rowling wrote her ideas for Harry Potter on pieces of napkin. When you have an idea, write it down (anywhere you can)! It might develop into something more. Some authors suggest its best to carry a notebook, so you can jot down your ideas. Ray Branbury wrote ‘quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.’ Keep the things you haven’t managed to use. You never know when it will come in handy!
Write about what you know. This is an important piece of advice from writers. Life is full of events, relationships and feelings. That is a lot of material to work with. Drawing from personal experiences, or from people’s will make a story seem more vivid to the reader. It’s OK to write about people you know, but make sure to change their names (unless it’s autobiographical). Mark Twain said “most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use”. It’s better to draw upon life events, rather than telling the reader your life story. Generally, life is not as adventurous as a book.
Write for you. Write about what you enjoy and what it is you want to write about, rather than trying to tailor it to what you think people will want to publish. This will only make a story weaker and may result in something you are not happy with.
Choose your words carefully. It’s been said that a novel is “words in the best order,” which means a poem is “the best words in the best order.” You want to make sure things are explained correctly. Stay clear of complicated words you and the reader will have a hard time understanding. George Orwell wrote ‘Never use a long word where a short one will do’. Short words can usually portray meaning in a much quicker, simpler manner. Also, make every word count!
Find out what’s right for you. Find out where you like to write, how you like to write. This will enable your creativity. Do you like writing at a desk, by a window, or changing between the two? Do you prefer typing to writing? Writing on a notepad or on large sheets of paper? Everyone works differently. That which might work for someone else might not necessary work for you.
Make a plan. Whether it is a few lines, paragraphs or a few pages, it’s always good to get something down before you start writing. You may find that once you have begun, your ideas change, that’s OK. You can add notes to your plan, or you may not even need a plan by then. E. L. Doctorow wrote ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ No one ever fully knows what they will write about until it’s written.
The opening. This is your chance to instantly hook reader. This may be the decider on if they will read your book or not. Make sure its engaging and interesting.
The ending. Make sure your story is not rushed to finish or left feeling unfinished.This may ruin everything you have been working towards.
Who is the narrator? And what role to they have in the story? This could change the motives of the book. You have to think about whether it will be written in first, second or third person and also focus on the tense. Do not alternate unless there is reason for this.
At some point, every writer goes through this, some more often than others. Keep trying, don’t lose hope. Try reading something different or write anyway as it may surprise you. Other times, it’s good to take a break from your writing, to revisit it with a clear mind, or go out somewhere. Something unexpected may happen or you may notice something that you want to write about.
Spend as little as 15 minutes every day writing about anything. Allow it to be totally random. You might change subjects many times. You might mix fiction with journaling or vent frustrations. The process trains your brain to tap into the words inside your head and gives them a place to live on your computer screen or journal.
Eliminate any distractions that may deter your concentration away from what you want to achieve, this could include turning off your phone, and avoiding the internet (especially Facebook!) keep your creative space tidy, as this will leave your mind feeling calmer and feeling less cluttered.
Take the time and space you need. Taking time away from friends and family can help if you feel you are struggling to stay in a productive mood.
Try not to overwhelm yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself as this can keep you stuck in the same old mind frame that you’re trying to get away from.
Tips after writing.
Proof read your work. This is essential for any writer. During the writing process, mistakes will be scattered everywhere in your work. Reading through your work will allow you to amend punctuation and spelling mistakes. You may also decide that you want to change things in your work, ideas, words or even characters. Every line should either build character or advance the action. If it doesn’t do one of these two things, it has to go. William Faulkner was right to advise writers to kill their darlings. This advice is especially important for short-story writers. Elmore Leonard writes ‘I try to leave out the parts that people skip.’
Take a break. After writing, it is always best to take a break before you proof read your work, otherwise you may find it difficult to concentrate and you will end up missing important errors.
Read aloud. This will help you notice any mistakes you have made. It is certainly advisable for writers of poetry to read aloud. This enables the poet to hear the rhythm and rhyme of the poem.
Get a second opinion. It’s always good to get other people to read through your work, even if it’s just a friend or family member. They might be able to pick up on mistakes you have missed. Neil Gaiman offers an interesting piece of advice: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong”. Also, be aware that editors will often ask you to change certain aspects of your work before they will publish it. It is up to you whether you want to do this or not. You might even end up agreeing with their suggestions.
Responses. The most important thing about writing is that you believe in what you have written. Some people may love it, some may hate it, and others may not even bother to read it. Getting other people’s opinions can work in your favour, it may help you improve and develop you work. Harper Lee says ‘I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.’
Re-drafting is important. It was Ernest Hemmingway who said ‘the first draft of everything is shit’. That doesn’t mean give up, but keep trying. You could develop into something great, maybe even unexpected.
Good luck! and remember RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN