Taking your writing to the next level is hard. Ask any writer who has been seriously pursuing writing for more than a year. It’s more than just taking your writing to the next level. It’s about taking your writing to the next level all the time. To the next level, and then the next level after that
Writing is a journey, not a destination. Each book is a stop along the way. For anyone, who is seriously pursuing writing, growing in your craft should be a perpetual goal.
Sometimes, improving and leveling up your writing feels like:
Ugh. One step forward, two steps back! Or a in this little pup’s case, no progress at all!
Here are a few things i struggled with – and how I improved.
# 1 characterization
I had no idea how to create a good character. When I began to write, all my characters sounded the same, acted similar. Overcoming this takes time and dedication and lots and lots of practice. This was something I always knew I struggled with. How do I create authentic people? To be honest, I am still learning all the time, new ways of how to create more authentic characters that readers will love, hate, relate to, remember, etc. It’s not easy.
There are two things that helped me to overcome writing lackluster, flat, boring characters.
- I wrote up pages and pages of backstory that I thought would end up being part of the someday-published-novel, only to find out that none of that was important to the reader. While the reader does not want to read bunches of backstory, they do like to find tidbits of backstory here and there. So writing all of that backstory up solidified in my mind what the character’s life was all about and what their goal was going to be for the beginning of the book. Later, I did this same type of thing in the form of an outline instead of writing up bunches of dialogue and action. Doing it in outline form still, for me, helps to solidify things in my mind. I also had the freedom to change things, play around with things, ask hypothetical questions, ect. Writing it in outline form is of course, much faster. It’s like talking to yourself, or telling yourself the story in your head. This method obviously, is not for everyone.
- I picked up The Plot Thickens which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. One of the best writing resource books out there. (See my book review HERE) I wrote out a character sheet that was listed within The Plot Thickens and also found other character description sheets online. I created my own (rather lengthy one), using questions I found that applied to my story, my genre. Filling out character description sheets allows you to, not only hone their physical description, their economic/family background, etc, but it asks you to dive into your character’s mind and heart and soul. A good character description sheet anyway.
#2 Creating realistic dialogue:
If there are any writers out there who have never, ever struggled with creating and producing realistic dialogue, I argue the point that they are probably lying. The balance that is hard to strike is creating realistic sounding dialogue that isn’t flat and boring.
There are several methods to help combat writing flat, boring, unauthentic dialogue. Much of these I have discovered over the years through researching, and listening to people talk.This is something that takes time and practice. Here’s some tips I have picked up from various sources over time.
- Don’t write a character’s dialogue just to tell the reader something. Unless you’re Deadpool, or Hamlet, 99% of characters don’t break the 4th wall and the purpose of their dialogue should be to talk to the other characters, not to inform the one reading. Readers are smart, they can read in between the lines. I still struggle with this. Sometimes there is just so much stuff we want to make sure our reader understands. The hardest part is weaving important bits of knowledge into your writing and trusting the reader to figure it out on his/her own.
- Listen to people talk in real life, and notice how they talk to each other. A recent article I read suggested also to listen to the pattern between the 2 or more people of talking and attempt to identify their relationship just based on the dialogue. Are they friends? Are they siblings? Are they dating? Are they married? Is it a professional encounter? Is there tension? how can you tell?? If you write historical fiction, find a good historical fiction documentary/movie to watch and study the dialogue of the time period.
- Think visually: The longer I write, the more I practice thinking of dialogue scenes like movie scenes. Think about what you are doing while you talk to people or while someone talks to you. Are you standing still or do you shuffle or lean on something or shift your weight? Do you play with your phone? Do you pick up random stuff off the table or counter or desk? Are you holding food, or a drink? Are you sometimes multi-tasking by listening to multiple conversations? Do you space out sometimes? Are you trying to study, do paperwork, type, draw, write, etc while someone’s talking to you? What nervous ticks do you have? Do you play with your hair, or your fingernails, or your jewelry? These kinds of actions serve to enhance a dialogue scene. Because it’s not what is said, but sometimes it’s what’s not spoken that is more important. The body language present throughout a conversation speaks volumes. Implementing authentic body language and other psychical actions by the characters will help to enhance your dialogue scenes.
I wrote up this post with 4 aspects of my writing that I have been working to improve on in the last several years and discovered the insane amount of information I gave. So I decided to break it up into two posts.
Yey for you, the reader! Stay tuned for Part 2!
Do you struggle with similar writing issues? How are you taking steps to improve?