Three tips that have helped me with my writing!
Veronica Roth received this advice from her professor Shauna Seliy and calls it her “number 1 tool.” The idea here is that your backpack is small and your journey long. Every item you pack must be crucial to your trip or you’ll be wasting space.
Now apply this idea to your writing. If a scene or detail isn’t crucial to your plot and the advancement of the story: CHOP IT!!! Easier said than done of course.
The first time I learned about the backpack on Roth’s blog I wondered if I had any moments in my “backpack” that I didn’t need. I went back and started rereading my draft and was shocked at how many unnecessary moments, characters, and details I had squished into my story.
Enter the red pen.
My main character is walking and eating an apple. Why is she eating an apple? Is she going to choke on it? Nope. CUT!
My main character is working at the local store. Why? Not sure. CUT!!
My main character goes for a walk in the woods alone. How is this advancing anything and why did I write such a scene? (I was probably walking through my own metaphorical “woods” and wandering through writer’s block). CUT!!!
You get the idea.
2. Jeannette Walls: “Get it Down!”
First, I have to say that I love Jeannette Walls. I admire that woman so much! Her memoir, The Glass Castle, seriously impacted my life.
Walls came to speak at a University that I was teaching at and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend! One piece of advice she offered to the audience really stuck with me.
“Just get it down on paper,” she said. Let go of your fears and doubts about your story not being good enough or important enough. Everyone has a story that is worth sharing. You just have to start writing it. Write every day. Just get it down.
Hearing this from one of my all-time favorite authors was really motivational for me and changed my approach to writing.
3. What is your character’s tell?
I can’t remember where I read this one, but it helped me develop my characters. What are the mannerisms that make your characters unique? What are the little human quirks that make them, well, them?
The thought process behind this I found very helpful. For example I realized for some characters I could decide their “tell” quite easily. I knew their back story well, their likes, dislikes, strengths, and flaws. Their “tell” seemed almost obvious.
For others, I was at a loss. I had to figure out why I couldn’t decide what their “tell” was. Was it because I didn’t flesh out the character as well as I thought I had? Was it something that would evolve as the character evolved?