Today, I am very lucky that I get to host a brilliant author and she is going to share some creative writing tips with us! Thank you so much to Claire McFall and Kelpies Edge for inviting me on this blog tour! I can’t wait to see the rest of the posts… some of them sound incredible! Check out the banner below to see who else is involved!
Top tips for Creative Writing
I’m a teacher. Actually, I’m an English teacher, so you’d think this would be easy. Wrong! You see, as far as I’m concerned there’s no right way to go about writing – so what works for me might not work for you and vice versa. Caveat firmly in place, these are my tips for creative writing. Feel free to take them with a pinch of salt and do your own thing.
That way, masterpieces are made.
The dreaded blank page
This is your worst enemy. You can sit and stare at it for hours. It’s intimidating – how I imagine an artist might feel beginning a new canvas. What if the first brush stroke is all wrong? You’ve ruined it!
Well, no. 99.9% of you will be typing, and there’s this awesome button called backspace. If you don’t like it, delete it! But I wouldn’t. Write the first sentence, then the second and the third and the fourth, until you’re no longer dragging them out, but they’re coming more freely. Flowing. When you’ve finished – the paragraph, the page, the chapter, the story – go back and read over your opening lines. Firstly, I bet they won’t be as bad as you thought, but also, if you really do hate it, it’ll be so much easier to tweak.
A story is not just a story
Novels vary in length, but Ferryman and Trespassers are both about 75,000 words. If you broke both novels down, I’d be willing to bet that telling the actual story only takes up about 30% of that. The rest? World building and people building.
It’s not enough to have a great storyline and tell the reader what happens. You need to show them by creating a world they can step into. To do that, you’ve got to make sure you concentrate enough on describing settings. And when you do, make sure you’re not just thinking about what places look like! Sight is just one of our five senses. If you simply describe what I’d see, I’ll feel like I’m looking at a picture. I want to be in the picture. What will I hear? Smell? What will things feel like if I could reach out and touch them?
If you want to hook the reader in, you also need to spend time giving depth to characters – and not just your main character either! The best stories are where you can make the reader hold their breath and wonder what’s going to happen next – and they do that because they care about the person that it’s happening to!
Every good writer is also a reader. Reading develops your vocabulary, shows you different ways to play with language and gives you ideas about how a narrative can be organised.
What’s important, though, is that you try to read a wide range of things. Don’t decide I want to write Science Fiction so I’m only going to read Science Fiction novels. Do that, and you’ll end up writing the same thing as everybody else! If you want your writing to be new and different and fresh – the thing that everybody wants to read! – you need to expand your horizons. Try a Western. Or a historical novel. Read some non-fiction! At worst, you’ll learn something. And the best? You’ll discover a whole new world of awesome stories to devour!
Dust off your thick skin
Reading books will help you get better. It will. But it’s not as helpful as getting feedback from readers about your own writing. Warning: this is scary! What if they don’t like it? What if they laugh? What if they say it’s rubbish?
Well, they might. I’ve had reviewers online saying they hated my stories. Not many, thankfully… When it happens, oh it stings. I can eat a whole chocolate cake before I feel better sometimes (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it). But if no one tells you what’s wrong with your writing, how can you get better? As writers, we often can’t see the wood for the trees – we wrote it. To us, it’s perfect! We need outside perspectives to help us mould first drafts into finished stories.
Find someone you trust. Someone who will be honest. Someone who’ll be nice – but who won’t just tell you they love it because they’re your friend or your mum. My mum, unfortunately, is brutally upfront about what she thinks…
And get a slice of cake in, just in case. If they love it – well, it can be a victory slice.
Thank you so much to Claire for giving us some brilliant tips!
Claire McFall is a writer and a teacher who lives and works in the Scottish Borders. She is the author of paranormal thriller Black Cairn Point, winner of the inaugural Scottish Teenage Book Prize 2017. Her debut novel Ferryman won a Scottish Children’s Book Award, and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Branford Boase award. Her other books include dystopian thriller Bombmaker. Trespassers, the much-anticipated sequel to Ferryman, will be published on 14th September 2017.