Writing Your Story, Your Way: Tips for Aspiring Authors
We all dream of being the next Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway but writing is a deeply personal journey, and every aspiring author embarks on it with a unique voice and perspective. The beauty of storytelling (and the mark of a successful writer) lies in the individuality each one brings to the craft, whether that's a short story or a full-length novel.
In this blog post, I'll share tips and strategies for aspiring authors to help you find your path and write your stories in a way that's truly your own.
1. Finding Your Writing Style
Exploring Different Writing Styles
One of the first steps in writing your story your way is to explore different writing styles. Writing styles encompass the tone, mood, and voice of your writing. Some authors prefer a poetic, lyrical style which lends itself more to literary fiction, while others lean toward crisp, straightforward prose. Take time to read widely and discover the styles that resonate with you. Don't be afraid to experiment and blend different styles to create your unique voice.
Recognizing Your Natural Writing Voice
Your natural writing voice is your literary fingerprint. It's the way you express yourself on paper - a combination of your personality, experiences, and influences. While this part of writing can be hard work, to discover your natural voice, write freely and without inhibition. Write about subjects that matter to you, and you'll gradually uncover your unique style.
Also be aware that your natural writing voice may change over time as we have new experiences. As a young writer in high school, I was highly influenced by famous writers such Judy Blume and Jodi Picoult as well names of experts such as Kurt Vonnegut. Later, at university, I was exposed to Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Zadie Smith, and later I developed a love of fast paced thrillers by John Grisham and darker stories such as Neil Gaiman. Since moving to New York, I'm discovering more new writers, as well as learning more about some of the American greats such as William Faulkner and Anne Lamott. The most important thing is to recognize these influences and rather than emulate, draw upon your own personality and experiences.
2. Setting Clear Writing Goals
Defining Your Writing Objectives
Every successful writing journey begins with clear objectives. Ask yourself: What do you want to achieve with your writing? Is it to publish a bestselling novel, share your personal experiences, or simply enjoy the act of writing? Also, ask yourself why this story and why am I writing it now? Defining your goals will provide you direction and motivation.
Creating a Realistic Writing Schedule
To achieve your writing objectives, you need a realistic writing schedule. Find a routine that works for you, whether it's early in the morning, late at night, or during lunch breaks. Consistency is key, even if you can only dedicate a small amount of time each day. Over time, these regular writing sessions will add up, bringing you closer to your goals.
3. Developing Strong Writing Habits
The Power of Consistency
The only way to become a great writer (not just a good writer), is to be consistent. Establishing a routine and sticking to it, even on days when inspiration is elusive, is crucial. Writing regularly not only improves your skills but also helps you develop discipline and resilience. Some of the best advice I was given is to understand that the writing process is a collection of good days and bad days, and while a blank page can be terrifying, it's important to let go of perfectionist tendencies and get something - anything - down on paper. To become a better writer, the magic is usually in the editing.
Procrastination can be a writer's worst enemy. To overcome it, the best way is to break your writing tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. Set achievable daily or weekly goals, and reward yourself when you accomplish them. Additionally, identify and address the root causes of procrastination, whether it's fear, self-doubt, or perfectionism.
Writer's block is also a challenge for many writers and when I ask best-selling authors what their best piece of advice is to overcome it, I get a variety of answers; some refuse to acknowledge that it exists and believe it's our brain's way of procrastinating. Others have personal rituals designed prevent it. For me personally as a writing coach, I just try and remember this quote:
“Start writing no matter what, the water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
4. Crafting Memorable Characters
Understanding Character Archetypes
With my first book The Good Mother, my characters came to me almost instinctively. With my others (The Home and The Perfect Lie), they took a little longer to develop and I spent a significant amount of time working on them to make them memorable. Either way, characters are at the heart of good story-telling and reflecting them through good writing is definitely an important skill. Understanding character archetypes can help you create well-rounded, relatable characters. Whether you're writing a hero's journey or a coming-of-age tale, recognizing and subverting common character archetypes can add depth and complexity to your narrative.
Breathing Life into Your Protagonist and Antagonist
Protagonists and antagonists are the main driver of conflict and drama in your story. Write their backstories (even if it doesn't make it to the page), motivations, and flaws to make them human and relatable. Readers should root for the hero's success and empathize with the antagonist's perspective, even if they disagree with their actions.
5. Building Engaging Plotlines
Plotting Techniques and Structures
Effective plotlines are essential for keeping readers hooked and in my online course, Kick Start Your Book With Karen, I go into depth on how to create a narrative structure around several identified plot points and include different plotting techniques and structures, such as the three-act structure, to give your story a strong foundation. However, don't be afraid to deviate from these structures if it serves your narrative.
Balancing Conflict and Resolution
A successful plot is a delicate balance of conflict and resolution. Introduce obstacles and challenges that push your characters to grow and change and ensure they're realistic enough to suspend belief. Provide moments of triumph and despair to keep readers emotionally invested in the story's outcome.
6. World-Building and Setting
Creating Vivid and Immersive Settings
At a recent literary event I attended, there was a session by Taylor Moore titled How to Make Setting Your Character. He gave lots of tips based on his own writing and success but one thing that stuck with me is to ask yourself: what is your character's relationship with the setting? Do they love it or hate it? Why? How does it influence their decisions and experiences? Also, consider how your setting influences plot and genre.
In a nutshell, Moore advised that settings should be more than just a backdrop; they should be characters in their own right. I would argue this is especially true if you're writing fantasy fiction. Whether it's a small-town diner or a sprawling galaxy, the setting should contribute to the story's themes and atmosphere so describe your world vividly, appealing to all the senses.
7. Effective Dialogue Writing
The Art of Natural Dialogue
Dialogue is a powerful tool for character development and storytelling but can be tricky to get right. It needs to sound authentic and reflect your characters' personalities. Word choice can be extremely indicative of personality so eavesdrop on conversations, listen out for speech patterns, and practice writing natural-sounding dialogue. One of the best ways to test if it sounds natural is to read it aloud.
Advancing Plot and Character Through Dialogue
That being said, dialogue should work harder than just conveying information; it needs to propel the plot and reveal character traits. Use conversations to build tension, reveal secrets, and deepen relationships among your characters.
8. Editing and Revising Your Work
The Revision Process: From First Draft to Final Manuscript
Your first draft is just the beginning. Embrace the revision process as an opportunity to refine your story. I tend to address major plot and character issues, then focus on sentence-level edits for clarity and style. Seek feedback from beta readers and critique partners to gain different perspectives on your work.
A book worth reading (and I wish it had been published when I was writing my debut novel) is Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like A Pro by Allison K Williams. It's great for aspiring writers as it spends a lot of time on the editing process and how important it is to crafting your manuscript.
Seeking Feedback and Constructive Criticism
Feedback is invaluable for growth as a writer. Share your work with trusted peers or writing groups to receive constructive criticism. Be open to suggestions and willing to make changes that enhance your story. As a first time author, the hard part is always receiving feedback but working with a collection of trusted beta readers, who are in a position to give you writing advice can be invaluable.
9. Navigating the Publishing Journey
Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: Pros and Cons
Decide whether traditional publishing or self-publishing is the right path for you. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. Traditional publishing offers resources and distribution but can be competitive, while self-publishing provides creative control but requires entrepreneurial skills. For more information on publishing, check out this post: Which type of publishing is right for you?
Marketing Your Book and Building an Author Platform
Regardless of your publishing route, marketing is crucial. Start building your author platform early by engaging with readers on social media (hello #booktok!), creating an author website (I use Wix), and participating in book-related events. Develop a marketing plan to connect with your target audience and promote your work effectively.
In the world of writing, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Embrace your unique journey as an aspiring author, and remember that your story is worth telling your way as there is no one else who can tell it better. Finding your writing style, setting clear goals, developing strong habits, and crafting memorable characters and plots will help you create a book that resonates with readers and fulfills your writing aspirations. Trust in your voice, stay committed to your craft, and enjoy the process of writing your story, your way.
RELATED POSTS: 18 Quick Tips To Improve Your Writing
SUBSCRIBE If you haven't done so already, subscribe to this blog for more writing tips. I'm always adding new posts to the feed, so if you're not subscribed, there's a good chance you'll miss out.Subscribe now and get my FREE downloadable PDF,5 Ways To Unleash Your Inner Author.