Last updated on December 28th, 2022
As an aspiring author, navigating the writing world and finding your voice as a writer can be overwhelming. But fear not — with a little bit of guidance and a lot of practice, you can improve your writing skills and turn your passion for storytelling into a successful career.
Here are ten tips for your writing process, including advice on developing compelling characters, using vivid descriptive language, and avoiding common pitfalls in your writing. So grab your notebook, and let’s get started!
- Tip #1: Start with a clear idea
- Tip #2: Create well-developed, multi-dimensional characters
- Tip #3: Use vivid, descriptive language
- Tip #4: Show, don’t tell
- Tip #5: Avoid cliches and overused phrases
- Tip #6: Use dialogue to advance the plot
- Tip #7: Don’t be afraid to experiment and take risks
- Tip #8: Read, read, read
- Tip #9: Get feedback from others
- Tip #10: Keep writing, even when it’s hard
- Bonus Tip: Be patient and persistent
- Next Steps for Aspiring Authors
Tip #1: Start with a clear idea
Before you begin writing, take some time to plan out the main idea or theme of your story. This will help you stay focused and keep your writing on track.
Start by clearly and concisely stating the subject or purpose of your story. This could be a one-sentence summary of the main plot or a simple statement of your story’s central theme or message. As you write, having this statement in mind will help you stay focused and avoid getting sidetracked by tangential ideas or subplots.
You can also create an outline or summary of the main plot points. This can be as detailed or as brief as you like, but the important thing is that it helps you see the overall structure of your story and identify any gaps or inconsistencies in the plot.
It can be helpful to ask yourself some questions as you plan your story. What is the central conflict or problem that your characters will face? What is the climax or resolution of the story? What main message or lesson do you want to convey through your story? Answering these questions can help refine your idea and create a strong and cohesive story.
Tip #2: Create well-developed, multi-dimensional characters
Your characters are the heart and soul of your story, so it’s essential to take the time to develop them fully. Give your characters distinct personalities, backgrounds, and motivations to make them feel like real people.
A straightforward way to start creating well-developed, multi-dimensional characters is by asking yourself questions about each character. What is their name, age, and physical appearance? What are their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears? What are their background and history, and how does it affect their actions and decisions in the story? Answering these questions can help you get to know your characters better and give them depth and complexity.
Next, you can consider their relationships with other characters in the story. How do your characters interact and influence each other? How do their personalities and motivations clash or complement each other? By exploring these relationships, you can create a rich and dynamic cast of characters who feel like real people with their own unique personalities and quirks.
Also, give your characters goals and motivations that drive the plot forward. What do your characters want, and why do they want it? What are they willing to do to achieve their goals, and what obstacles or challenges will they face along the way? By giving your characters solid and relatable goals and motivations, you can create a compelling and engaging story that keeps the reader invested in the characters and their journeys.
Get to know your characters and give them depth and complexity, so you create a rich and dynamic cast of characters who feel like real people and drive the plot forward in exciting and engaging ways.
You can also look at our 50 Character Development Writing Prompts for more ideas to get to know your characters!
Tip #3: Use vivid, descriptive language
Good writing is about using language to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Use specific sensory details to help the reader see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the world of your story. Create a sensory experience for the reader and make your writing more engaging and memorable.
Use specific and concrete words rather than vague or abstract ones. Instead of saying that a character is “angry,” describe their facial expression, body language, and tone of voice to show their anger. Instead of saying that a place is “beautiful,” describe the colors, textures, and sounds that make it beautiful. Using specific and concrete details, you can create a sensory experience for the reader that brings your story to life.
Additionally, you can incorporate figurative language, such as similes and metaphors, to compare one thing to another and create vivid and imaginative imagery. For example, you could say that a character’s eyes are “like pools of molten gold” or that a landscape is “a canvas of vibrant colors.” Using figurative language can add depth and richness to your descriptions and make your writing more engaging and memorable.
Vary your sentence structure and use a mix of long and short sentences to create rhythm and flow in your writing. Avoid using too many short, choppy sentences, as this can make your writing feel repetitive and dull. Instead, try to mix things up by using longer, more complex sentences and short, simple sentences to create a rhythm and flow that keeps the reader engaged.
Tip #4: Show, don’t tell
Instead of simply summarizing or telling the reader what’s happening, try to create scenes that the reader can experience. This will help bring your story to life and make it more dynamic and immersive.
By showing the character’s actions, expressions and behavior, you can create a more vivid and dynamic experience for the reader. For example, instead of saying that a character is angry, you could describe the character’s facial expression, body language, and tone of voice or show the character yelling, slamming a door, or throwing things to illustrate their anger. Instead of telling the reader that a character is shy, show the character stuttering, avoiding eye contact, or blushing when speaking to others.
Tip #5: Avoid cliches and overused phrases
Cliches have been used so often that they have lost their original meaning and impact. Using them is a sign of lazy writing, so try to avoid them as much as possible. Instead, strive for originality and freshness in your writing.
Examples of cliches and overused phrases include “once in a blue moon,” “the pot calling the kettle black,” and “easy as pie.” Using these phrases can make your writing feel unoriginal and dull.
To find genuinely original and unique ways to convey the idea of something, try using metaphors or similes that are specific to your story context or setting. For example, if your story is set in a medieval fantasy world, instead of “easy as pie,” you could use “as easy as wielding a sword” or “as effortless as casting a spell.”
Also, be aware of your writing habits and watch out for phrases you use frequently. Keep a list of common cliches and overused phrases that you tend to use, and try to find new and interesting ways to say the same thing. This will help you break the habit and practice making your writing more unique and engaging.
Tip #6: Use dialogue to advance the plot
Dialogue is a powerful tool used to reveal information about your characters, create conflict and tension, and advance the plot of your story. Use it wisely to keep your story moving and avoid long, tedious blocks of exposition.
By having your characters speak and interact with each other, you can reveal their personalities, motivations, desires, and relationships with each other. This will help the reader understand your characters and become more invested in their story.
You can use dialog to create conflict and tension through the interactions between your characters. Having your characters disagree, argue, or confront each other can create tension and suspense that keeps the reader engaged in the story and hanging on every page.
It can also move the story forward and reveal the next steps in the plot. Having your characters discuss their plans, make decisions, or take action can create momentum and progress in the story and keep the reader along for the ride.
Tip #7: Don’t be afraid to experiment and take risks
Writing can be a scary process, especially if you’re afraid of failure. But the best way to improve as a writer is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things. Writing is an art; like any art, it requires creativity, imagination, and a willingness to take risks and try new things. By experimenting with different styles, formats, and approaches, you can find your unique voice as a writer and create engaging and original stories.
One approach is to try writing in different styles and genres. For example, if you usually write romance novels or nonfiction, try writing a thriller or a science fiction story. Try using other formats and structures. For example, if you typically write linear narratives, try writing poems or a multi-perspective story.
By stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself, you can discover new passions and interests and develop new skills and techniques as a writer to help you find your unique voice.
Tip #8: Read, read, read
Reading as much as possible is the best way to improve your writing. By reading widely and extensively from all types of writers across different genres, styles, and techniques, you can learn from other writers, discover new ideas and perspectives, and develop your skills as a writer.
You should also, of course, read books in your genre or field of interest. By reading books similar to what you want to write, you can learn about the conventions and expectations of that genre and see how other writers approach similar themes and topics.
Don’t just read books — read everything. Read magazines, newspapers, blogs, and online articles. Read poetry, plays, and short stories. Read nonfiction and fiction, and read in different languages if you can (or learn to so you can read your favorite novel in its original language!) By reading widely and extensively, you can learn from other writers and gain a better understanding of the world and your place in it.
Tip #9: Get feedback from others
As a writer, it can be challenging to evaluate your own work objectively. That’s why it’s important to seek feedback from others, such as peers, friends, family, and professionals in the field. Their feedback can help you identify areas for improvement, see your writing from a fresh perspective, and give you a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.
One forum for seeking feedback from others is to join a writing group or workshop where you can share your work with others and receive constructive criticism. These groups can provide a supportive and encouraging environment where you can learn from others and improve your writing skills.
Ask friends or family members to read your work and provide feedback. Their feedback can help you identify areas for improvement and give you confidence in your writing from the reader’s perspective. Be sure to ask for specific feedback on elements like plot, characterization, dialogue, and pacing, as well as their overall impressions of your writing.
Hiring a professional editor to provide a detailed critique of your work can give in-depth feedback on your story’s structure, organization, and flow, as well as provide suggestions for improvement and audience fit. While this can come at a financial expense, it can be well worth it if you want to improve your writing and take it to the next level.
Tip #10: Keep writing, even when it’s hard
Writing can be a difficult and time-consuming process, and it’s natural to feel discouraged at times. There will be times when you face writer’s block, self-doubt, or other challenges that make it hard to continue. But the key to success in most things, including writing, is persistence. Continue writing, even when it’s hard, and eventually, you will see improvement and progress in your work.
It helps to set a regular writing schedule and stick to it. By setting aside specific times each day or week to write, you can create a habit and a routine that will make writing easier even when you don’t feel like it. This will help you develop your discipline and focus as a new writer, and it will enable you to make steady progress on your writing projects. Developing discipline is an essential tool for any writer. It helps keep you on track, even when the inspiration you need to move forward is nowhere to be found.
Keep to a schedule, but don’t be afraid to take breaks and recharge when needed. Writing can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, and taking care of yourself and your well-being is important. By taking breaks and doing things you enjoy, you can recharge your batteries and return to your writing with a fresh perspective and renewed energy. And depending on what you do during your break, they might even give you more experiences on which to draw!
If you need an extra push, seek support and encouragement from others. By joining a writing group or workshop, you can connect with others who understand your challenges and can provide feedback, advice, and support. This will help you feel less alone and give you the motivation you need to carry on, even when it’s hard.
Bonus Tip: Be patient and persistent
Writing is a long-term pursuit, and it takes time, effort, and dedication to find success; however you define it.
Set realistic and achievable goals for your writing. By setting small and incremental targets, you can track your progress and celebrate your successes and avoid becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. This will help you stay motivated and focused on your writing and enable you to make steady, visible progress over time.
By being open to feedback and constructive criticism, you can identify areas for improvement and growth and try again. Also, make sure to take the time to learn from (but not dwell on) your failures and mistakes. This will help you develop your skills and resilience as a new writer and shorten the time it takes to become the writer you want to be.
Don’t be discouraged by setbacks or rejections. Writing is a competitive and challenging field, and you will face rejection and disappointment along the way. Stay true to yourself and your vision. You can overcome these challenges and achieve your writing goals with patience and persistence.
Next Steps for Aspiring Authors
So, what’s the next step? Start by taking one of these tips and putting it into action today. Choose a tip that resonates with you, and implement it in your writing. For example, if you struggle with starting your stories, try using the tip about starting with a clear idea. Or, if you want to improve your dialogue, try using the tip about using dialogue to advance the plot.
I hope these tips and advice for aspiring writers have given you some ideas and insights to incorporate into your writing and process. Remember: writing is a journey, and it takes time, effort, and dedication.