Monday, May 17, 2010

10 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing

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by C. Patrick Schulze

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Nice to have you visit again.

I am in the middle of wrestling my manuscript to the ground and find I learn something new every day. With that in mind, I thought I might offer all my writer friends some general writing tips on how to improve your writing. Outside of the first tip, these aren’t offered in any specific order other than what came to mind at the time.

Let’s begin with what I think is the secret to success as a writer: persistence. As a father, the mantra I imposed upon my poor daughters was, “Practice, practice, practice.” (Though grown, they still make fun of me about that one.) In any case, as with every profession, the more you do it the better you become.

2. Invade your readers’ senses. This means when writing you find opportunities to have your characters use their five, or as some say, twelve, senses. When your characters smell the honeysuckle, so do your readers.

3. Diamond’s are not a girl’s best friend. Well, I think it was Marilyn Monroe who informed all men that diamonds are indeed a girl’s best friend, but for women writers, (and their male counterparts), it’s verbs. The strength and exactness of the verbs you choose is the most powerful tool you possess to elevate your writing. The best verbs bring emotions or pictures to your readers’ minds.

4. Create interactive settings. That is, write in such a way as to have your setting come alive. The first time I took my writing to my critique group, every person mentioned a visual I had in my story. They commented on a scene where a boy reached up to grab his father’s shotgun from over the mantel and I wrote about the glow from the fire as it warmed the boy’s legs. It is those inconsequential images that paint those all important and powerful word pictures that immerse readers into your story.

5. Backstory belongs in the back. When I learned how to write backstory into my novel, I had to rewrite large chunks of what I already had on paper. Those long-winded paragraphs about what happened before my character came into my story became short, concise inserts within the story.

6. Bodies have language, too. Think of a person who has received astonishing news. What might they do at that time? Inhale? Shriek? Curl a lip? So might your characters. And best of all, readers love characters’ body language.

7. Conflict is king. Conflict is much like a drug drip in a hospital. That happy little bottle always hangs around and you get to dial it up whenever you want to. Conflict, not action mind you, but conflict is the power behind your novel.

8. If conflict is king, characterization is queen. Every novel rises and falls on the backs of those people who populate your novels. Effective characterization is a difficult skill to master but when you do, even you’ll fall for your books.

9. Knowledge is power. By this I mean, your writing has more strength if you give your readers the knowledge they require. It’s more interesting if your characters know the bomb is about to explode as this creates tension in your reader’s mind. As Alfred Hitchcock said, "There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it."

10. Give ‘em what they want. Your readers read for a reason and as a writer you should know that reason and cater to it. The lesson here is to learn your market. Write to satisfy your readers’ needs and not your own.

What tips might you like to share with my readers?

As always, know I wish for you only best -sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers"


  1. C Patrick SchulzeMay 17, 2010 at 9:59 PM

    I guess you shouldn't read tomorrow's post then, Alex, as I've got ten more...