The Secret to Good Writing

What is the secret to good writing?  Is that what you came here looking for?  Well, then I’m terribly sorry for the misunderstanding.  Because just like everyone else, I don’t have it.  Sorry again.  But don’t go just yet.  I’ve learned a few things along the way you just might find useful…

  1. Just write!

If you have an idea for a story, go ahead and write it.  It may never be published—or even turn out well—but you won’t know unless you at least try.  Keep planning and jotting down ideas until you have your first draft, then go back and edit.  I’ve found that doing any serious editing while writing only slows me down and kills my ambition.  So keep writing, and take full advantage of inspiration when it comes.

  1. Remember your English lessons

Do I mean your English teacher’s useless soliloquies about metaphors, foils, and symbols?  About the difference between connotation and denotation?  The ones we’ll never use in real life?  The very ones.  When you start writing, these “useless” lessons suddenly become vitally important.  If you’re able to think of a good plot line, that’s great.  It really is.  But if you want to give depth to your writing and meaning to your work, consider using the literary devices you learn about in English class.  There’s a reason all of the great works have them.

  1. No pet words

George walked outside, noticing the air smelled malodorous.  He looked at the grey sky, finding it very dowie.  When he began his jog, he hoped it wouldn’t make him smell too malodorous.  Other people found jogging dowie, but he thought it was fun.

Okay, hopefully your writing will never sound like this, but you get the point.  If you use the same words too often, especially unusual words, your readers will get annoyed very quickly. 

  1. Use action tags

Instead of tagging your writing with, “he said, she said,” try to tag it with a character’s action.  Let me show you what I mean:

“I’m so excited for Creative Writing class today,” she said.

OR

She clapped her hands with glee and did a tap dance.  “I’m so excited for Creative Writing class today.”

Action tags give your readers more insight into what your characters are feeling and help them picture the scene.  They also help with showing rather than telling.

  1. Give your characters desires

The first thing you need to ask yourself when writing a story is, “What do my characters want?”  Then give your protagonist a specific desire or goal, design obstacles to keep him/her from achieving it, and decide how this goal will ultimately be achieved or changed by the end of the story.  Supporting characters need desires, too, but you’re protagonist’s desire will be the most influential.  Desires are the main force driving plot and character development.  Once your characters each have one, everything else will start falling into place.

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