Write with purpose and be flexible. It’s important to have a game plan in mind. There’s much to be said for well thought out character outlines and scene summaries. I have plenty of them on hand. But sometimes its just plain OK to hit the keyboard with reckless abandon, with no destination in sight. Crank up the radio and channel the inspiration that fell in your lap earlier in the day. Have fun with it. Be crazy. Don’t edit. I’ve written some of my best scenes this way and talk about an adrenaline rush. In a nerdy, writer, sort of way 😉
Play with different genres. I know writers hear all the time to “pick a genre and stick to it.” Wise advice, to be certain when building a platform and readership, but when it comes to just you, your writing space and imagination, feel free–better yet–take the liberty to play around with different story ideas, time periods and locations. I mostly write historical fiction. Petticoats, wagons and butter churns pretty much make up my world, so to keep from losing my mind, I allow myself to play with crazy plots as they hit me. Recently I put down two chapters of a contemporary suspense-kidnapping-romance. Might not jive with the whole Appalachian brand thing, but it sure was fun and it helped stretch my writing muscles and was a ton of fun to hash out. And one never knows…wait do I smell a future Christy Award? Kidding!
Get critiqued. And I don’t mean by anybody. Your mom, aunt or grandma do not count. Because one of those ladies just might think that Daisy Lou Starlight is a great name for your heroine. *hand to forehead*
Get critiqued by someone (better yet several someones) who knows the ins, outs, ups and downs of good writing. Yep, it’ll sting. I sort of think it’s supposed to. Kind of like a really tough workout. You might not feel so great while your in the middle of that seventh treadmill mile, but your body will thank you for it later. So will your book…and your agent and your editor. And mind you, not all critique groups (or critique partners) are created equal. I’ve had my moments of tears. But those moments were few and far between. Equipped with a little discernment and a learners heart (read that last part five times), you will find your writing and storytelling grow in ways you never thought possible.
Learn from what you read. Didn’t like that last beach flick? Thought that mystery was some of the greatest writing ever? Don’t just put the book aside with a satisfied sigh (or fling it at the wall). Let it marinate. Shoot, take notes if you want to. I typically analyze everything I read and when a line stands out at me as being totally amazing, I take a moment to figure out why and how. What makes it so special? What’s the writer doing here. It’s not just luck…it’s a craft. And if a story line isn’t doing it for you, study the characters–is something about them bugging you? Is the plot just going nowhere? Too many pet phrases? Take note for your own writing on what to avoid and what to embrace.
To take things one step further, if a book has a strong impact on me–whether good or bad–I sometimes look it up on amazon and read some reviews. This helps me gain a little outside perspective. Maybe readers agree with me, maybe not. But it’s helpful to know what others think. What makes them tick. Could very well be the same readers that rate your novel one day. So their opinions carry a good bit of weight.
Learn from the pros. Last but definitely not least. I’ve chatted recently with other writers about my journey toward publication (which might I add is getting REALLY close! But that’s a whole ‘nother post) Anywho, the best advice I can usually give is to READ BLOGS. Yes, read blogs by the pros. Agents. Editors. Authors. You name it, if its good, read it, study it and see how you can apply it to your own writing and career. Think of it as a free creative writing and marketing education. I can’t tell you how many times in the past I read blog posts or articles on how to write the perfect pitch. Then how to write the perfect query. Proposal. And so on and so on. There is a wealth of information on the web (and in many fabulous books). Take advantage of it. Learn. Learn. Learn.
I’d love to hear what advice and tips you all have to keep from being a stagnant writer!