5 Simple Tips To Becoming The Writer Of Your Dreams

Writing is a lot harder than people think, especially for budding writers. You think that all you need to do is to write, until somebody tells you that your story is not so great, that it has loopholes and that your characters are not well developed. So, you go in search of writing tips because you want to get better. But it doesn’t get better, because suddenly, you’re bombarded by tons of writing advice and trying to adopt them all!

I know it’s crazy, and that’s why I’m here to help!

In this article, I’m going to share five tips that I genuinely think will help you. You don’t have master all the advice you’ve read online or elsewhere, just master these.

Ready? Let’s go!

 

1. Read

Read Shakespeare, seriously.

There’s no going around this, if you want to be a good writer, you have to read. And make sure you’re reading the right stuff. Read good books by authors who have mastered the craft of plot building, character development, and language use. You might ask, “How is a newbie supposed to know this?” Well, this is my advice, read classics for a start, you can hardly go wrong with these. As you do this, you’ll get a sense of what’s good and what’s not.

 

2. Write

Maybe this should have come first to stress its importance, but you need to write. Write often, practice what you’re learning from your reading. I always tell my StoryCrafting students that writing is like building a muscle, the more you do it, the better/stronger it’ll get. I suggest that you write every day, if you can. You may start by writing a page, two, three, as far as you can go, just make sure you’re consistent. Do this unfailingly for six months and see if you will not recognize improvements.

 

3. Let A Good Beta Reader Critique Your Work

A beta reader is like an investigator.

Now we’re getting to the hard stuff. I saw somewhere that submitting your work to be critiqued is like giving someone a sword and telling them to take a stab at you! 😀 So let me just tell you now, it takes a great deal of courage to give someone your work to critique, and no, I’m not talking about a family member or a friend who’s afraid to hurt your feelings. I’m talking about someone who knows how to identify plot holes, weak characters, faulty themes, weak sentences, and other shortcomings. Someone who’s not afraid to tell you, that the story doesn’t work and you should do a rewrite or abandon the idea altogether.

I am working on a post on how to get a good beta reader so look out for it. But the general gist is this, a beta reader (or just someone) will give concrete advice to strengthen your work. A beta reader is a fresh pair of eyes, helping you to see what you can’t see and noting the improvements in your skill. When you know that your work will be examined, it compels you to work harder at it. If you have this as a budding writer, it is priceless.

 

4. Follow And Subscribe To Magazines

When you follow reputable magazines (such as The New Yorker, or Catapult), it gives you insight into the quality of work that you should aspire to. Some of these magazines have helpful interviews and podcasts that you can read and listen to, and they can be like a mini-workshop experience. You discover writing processes and ways that you can improve on yours. I remember once reading an interview of Maya Angelou, where she mentioned that she read portions of the bible for the aesthetic language. I found that interesting and made a note to study those portions as well.

Following these magazines, also gives you insight into how the industry works, and what you need to do to succeed in it. The more you read, the more you’ll recognize patterns and industry secrets.

What I love the most about following literary magazines however, is that you will find writers whose writing voice and style are similar to yours. This helps you to refine the list of writers you wish to understudy. Let me say this, it helps when you find a writer whose themes and writing styles are similar to yours. So, don’t try to reinvent the wheel claiming your style is “new” and “fresh”, read their works and learn their techniques.

 

5. Permit Yourself to Grow

I tell my students this cold hard fact, my course is not going to transform you into an overnight genius writer. It will guide you, but you still have to do the work of studying and writing. Too many writers (myself included) are impatient with themselves, trying to achieve perfection after a short time of practice. You need to find your writing voice, and when you do, know how to employ it. So give yourself the permission to grow, and make mistakes. So long as you continue to read and practice, you’ll do just fine.

 

Trust me when I say that these five tips are really what you need, but note that you cannot do them without study, discipline and commitment.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. Please share your thoughts below!

Happy writing!

7 Effective Tips For Improving Your English Grammar And Writing Skills

The Adams lived in a former British colony. The English language was—and still is—the lingua franca. Thanks to their university education, they all understood and spoke English fairly well. Or so they thought. Until two of the Adams’ son took an interest in writing stories and essays. The preteens showed such remarkable talent that their parents began to brainstorm on strategies to help their children enhance their English writing skills. Should they hire an English Language tutor or a creative writing mentor? They asked around. They got many more conflicting opinions and advice. Feeling overwhelmed, they decide to consult Google. “How Can I Write English Better?” They typed in. Just as one of the advisers had predicted, the search engine inundated by a plethora of results. Continue reading “7 Effective Tips For Improving Your English Grammar And Writing Skills”

Life as a Writer Mom: 8 tips every writer mom can benefit from.

If like me you have to combine parenting and writing, you most likely understand how much of a struggle it is. It’s difficult trying to collect your thoughts and attending to screaming children. But we love our children, and we also love our work! So what to do?

1. If they’re old enough, help them to understand your work.

You’d be surprised to see that your children can understand. I suggest sitting them down and explaining as best as you can what you do, and how you need time to work. Sometimes all they really need is to understand that the tapping on your keyboard is not trifling but serious work. Now don’t think they’ll be gone for hours, if they give you thirty minutes of interrupted work time, use it well!

2. Have scheduled times to write.

If you work from home, take advantage of the hours when they are away at school or asleep if they’re too young for school. If you don’t, it’s a great idea to plan to write at night, if you can stay up. Plan to write when you will have little interference from the children, otherwise the process will not only be frustrating but unproductive. There’s no point writing under pressure if you’re going to end up deleting it anyway.

3. Find ways to engage them.

If you can’t help having them around while you work, find something that engages them. Have them paint, draw, play an instrument (certainly not a drum or a saxophone!), play games or watch cartoons. The trick is to keep them busy enough to prevent interference.

4. Distract them with food.

This might seem silly, but food really works. Is the house quiet when the kids are eating? Yep, that’s the silence you need! I’ve realized that sometimes they’re bothering me because they are hungry or simply want something to nibble on. So, I make sure that they are well-fed before I start working. I also ensure that I have snacks and drinks to keep them filled after major meals.

P.S:  You might want to check out this tantalizing article on food writing, if it’s your thing.

5. Make them a promise to look forward to.

Promise them an outing or a treat if they let you work. I know, this sounds like a bribe, but I like to think of it as something they’ve earned for letting me do my work. Staying away from Mummy has to be really difficult for them! So, Mummy’s working and they’re working too!

Caveat: You must keep your promises! Children may be impressionable but they don’t forget an unkept promise.

6. Have someone babysit them.

So maybe this should have been number one, but not everyone can afford childcare. If you can, get someone trustworthy. I recommend hiring someone who has been referred to you. If you can’t afford childcare, you can ask a family member, or a friend to watch them while you get your work done.

7. Plan a retreat.

Sometimes you really can’t get enough work done no matter how hard you try. In this case, you might want to consider going on a retreat. There are several opportunities available for female writers, although they don’t come cheap. If you scout well enough, you might find some that offer a part scholarship that reduces your cost. You can also plan a retreat with friends where the cost of accommodation and feeding is reasonable. If you still cannot afford these, you can plan to visit a relative alone and hopefully get some work done.

8. Have a support group.

It really helps to have someone to talk to about your struggles, because sometimes it can be overwhelming. There’s no shame in admitting that you feel inadequate. A good cheering can give you the boost you need to finish that project. Stay away from people who only make you feel worse and gravitate towards those who will encourage and guide you.

I try a combination of these tips. But the honest truth is that it takes a great deal of effort to work effectively as a writer mom. However, the key to remaining productive is remembering that you’re not alone and that there is really no excuse for failure. Give yourself a pep talk if you must, but do what you have to do.

Got tips or suggestions of your own you’d like to share? Leave a comment!

Happy writing!

Apply for the Miles Morland Foundation Writing Scholarship!

Miles Morland, Creative Writing, African Writers, Writing Scholarships,

From June 30th to September 30th 2018, applications will be accepted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. The scholarship will endow fiction recipients with £18,000 (over twelve months) and non-fiction with up to £27, 000 (over eighteen months).

Requirements

  1. Applicants must be born in Africa or have both parents born in Africa.
  2. Entry excerpt must be a published work (literary fiction) of up to 2000-2500 words that has been offered for sale, with proof of publication.
  3. A 400-1000 word proposal for the work they intend to write. This work must be up to 80,000 words for a full-length book (collection of short stories or collaborative work not allowed).
  4. Official documents showing that the applicant or parents were born in Africa.
  5. A brief bio of 200-300 words.

This scholarship is non-residential and scholars will be responsible for their accommodation during the scholarship. Please the FAQs and Entry Requirements for more details.

 

Good Luck!

3 Things To Do Before Publishing Your Work.

Creative writing tips

You’ve just finished writing the first draft of a story and you’re excited about it. You have set your characters free, so you feel relieved. Now you can’t wait for the world to read it, you hope they can understand the world you’ve created and that they care about your characters.

Before you send that work out however, read this!

1. Go over the story.

A first draft is what it is, the first. As you revise your work, you might discover that you have not considered an angle, explored the theme to the best of your ability or underdeveloped a minor but significant character.  You want to be sure that your work is saying exactly what you want it to say, so it is important that you go over it several times before you share it with the world. I have sent out work that I hadn’t thoroughly revised and I was sorry for it, so read that story one more time.

 

2. Share it with a beta reader.

A beta reader is basically someone who reads your work objectively to point out its strengths and weaknesses. Such a person should understand what to look out for. So I’m saying, don’t share it with someone who will only flatter you. He/She should understand characterisation, theme development, setting, language and plot. You might not find all these qualities in one person, so it’s alright to have more than one beta reader.  A good beta reader will look out for the little details that your story lacks. I have a beta reader who points out my weak sentences and another one who points out my long ones! If you’re reading this and you don’t have a beta reader, you should get one!

 

3. Have it edited.

This is super important! You need an editor to correct grammatical errors, proofread and ensure the coherence of your work. I have seen too many people whose works have little to no consistency or order rushing to get published. In the first draft you’ve dumped so much information, some of which is unnecessary and needs to be taken out. A good editor identifies these and helps to polish your work. No matter how many times you read the work, you cannot see all your errors because you wrote it. Don’t be afraid of editing, in fact, embrace it as a necessary tool for the refinement of your work.

I know the thrill of wanting to share your work quickly, and I have published work I am not very proud of, because I didn’t take note of these three tips. Don’t be like me, do better!

Got any questions or comments about anything you’ve read here? Feel free to leave a comment and share your own experiences!

Happy writing!

Hunger Mountain: Call for Entries

Hunger Mountain, journal of the Vermont College of Fine Arts is now accepting entries for its 23rd issue. Simultaneous entries are allowed. Themes are yet to be announced, but feel free to submit your best work in the meantime.  A $3 fee applies in each category.

Fiction

Submit stories no more than 8000 words “with characters who are alive and kicking, storylines that stay with us long after we’ve finished reading, and sentences that slay us with their precision.”

Poetry

Submit “truly original poems that run the aesthetic gamut” between one to five poems within a file.

Young Adult and Children’s Literature

Picture books, young adult and Young Adult crossover work acceptable (in text form).

 

See more submission details here.

Good luck!

5 More Days to Go: Loraine Williams Poetry Prize

Got a poem ready for submission? Entries for the Loraine Williams Poetry Prize close on May 15. Simultaneous entries not allowed. Submissions may include “no more than a total of ten standard pages in 12-point or larger type”.  The winning poem will be announced by August 15 and will appear in the Spring Issue of the following year. “All submitted poems will be considered for publication in The Georgia Review; any selected will be paid our regular poetry honorarium of $4 per line.”

See submission guidelines here