Writing Advice

Whether you’re just starting out or have a few books under your belt, every writer can use some advice. On this page you’ll find links to different writing topics, from starting a story or novel to publishing and marketing. I’m always updating the page so check in often, there’s something for everyone.

New! Interview with Deryn Oliver, Voice Over Artist: https://kellyaevans.com/deryn/

I asked other authors to offer up writing advice. They did! https://kellyaevans.com/authoradvice/

Want to try your hand at writing historical fiction? This article is for you: Writing Historical Fiction

How about writing historical horror? Writing Historical Horror

Using Weather in your Writing: Using Weather in Your Writing

The Senses in Writing: Using the Senses in Your Writing

Story Structure Basics: Story Structure

Using Dialogue and Dialogue Tags: Dialogue

The basics – a list of writing topics with hints and tips:

Write everyday

This old chestnut is still kicking around the internet and other places writers gather. Some people swear by it, and sure, it might work for some. But it doesn’t work for everyone, and if you’re one of the people who find it difficult to write every day, it’s okay! We all have busy lives and while getting into the habit of setting aside time to write IS a good idea, sometimes life gets in the way. Write as much as you can when you can. And don’t feel guilty about not writing, it’s counterproductive. 

1st, 2nd, or 3rd person? POV? 

There’s an idea that all young adult novels should be in the first person present to add to the immediacy of the story. That’s fine, it does work. But like the last bit of advice, it doesn’t always fit every tale. Trust your instincts. Think about how the voice ‘feels’ in your head from all angles, one of those will strike you as the right one. YOU know how your story should be told, listen to your gut!

Editing

Many writers edit as they write, especially newer authors. What this means is they write a paragraph/scene/chapter then edit it before they continue with the story. The problem many of these writers encounter is they fall into the Never-Ending Edit Cycle. They just cannot get past editing and rewriting and editing a chapter to the extent they never finish the novel. I know a LOT of writers this has happened to. 

The best advice I can give is try to force yourself to just write. You can go back and edit afterward. It’s a much better use of your time getting the story/novel done and THEN going back. Unless you encounter major issues while you’re writing, there should be no need to edit as you go. 

Speaking of encountering major issues, there ARE ways you can avoid these! 

Planning vs Pantsing

  • Planning: outline of entire book, can work on it for a few days, can add in bits you think about so when finally sit down to write, no need to think about anything, you just write 
  • Pantsing: need to go back afterwards and all the little bits you’ve thought of
  • Planning: can keep story and timeline straight, know where all characters are at all times
  • Pantsing: timelines more difficult to keep in the right order, jump back or forth by accident
  • Planning: if you have any big issues, you’ll find them before you even start writing and work them all out
  • Pantsing: if you have issues, you need to stop writing the book and go back and fix them all, affecting the rest of the story – confusion

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of plotting. As a historical fiction writer, I find planning out the dates and events ensures I keep as closely to the actual history as possible.

But not everyone is a planner! Author S. Alessandro Martinez is a confirmed pantser. His reasons:

  • It helps the story flow more naturally
  • You can get cool twists and turns you perhaps never saw coming
  • Pantsing allows the characters to do what they’re going to do and how the react more naturally as the story continues. As a writer, you experience the story for the first time with them.

It’s up to you as the writer to decide which approach works best for you. Try each once and see which feels more comfortable. A few writers I know use a combination of planning and pantsing.

(If you’d like to check out Martinez’s work, his website is https://salessandromartinez.com/ and you can find his latest novel here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08NSRB4M6/)

Word Count

If you’re a newer writer, get used to counting the number of words you wrote in a session rather than number of pages you’ve written. Most writers who discuss their work talk in terms of words written. 

Re word counts for various forms of storytelling, this will give you a basic idea: 

Adult Novel: 50 – 100k words, depending on genre ie fantasy/sci-fi can go as high as 110-120k words (longer for established authors with a history of successful novels)

Young Adult Novel: 50 – 80k

Middle Grade Novel: 25 – 40k

Novella: 15 – 40k

Short Story: 2 – 15k

Flash Fiction: kind of random, anything from 100 words to 1000 words, depending on the publication requesting the story

Non-Fiction books vary depending on the topic (ie memoirs can be as short as 50k but history books can go as high as 200k words). 

The Back Blurb (for novels)

Many people write the back blurb for their novels AFTER they finish. I write mine first, and put a lot of effort into it. Not only will it be useful for querying, it will keep you to the story you want to tell and prevent wandering plotlines. 

The First Sentence

A lot of writers focus intensely on the first sentence. The first line in a book can grab a reader or turn them off completely, so it IS important. BUT. You do NOT need to get it right the first time. If you write your first line and are unhappy with it, leave it as a placeholder and go back and change it later. It’s YOUR story, you can go back and change ANYTHING!! 

Show vs Tell

This is a difficult concept to explain and something every writer struggles with when they start. The ‘accepted’ percentage of show vs tell is 80% show and 20%. But what does this mean? 

It’s easier to show you than tell you! 

Max was sad when his grandmother died. This is telling. I’m telling you how Max felt. It’s fine, but too much of this slows the story and will turn your reader off. 

This is better: 

Max sniffed and wiped the lone tear that had escaped as he watched his grandmother’s casket being lowered into the ground. 

Instead of stating outright that Max is sad, I’m showing you his sniffs and tears and instead of saying his grandmother is dead, I’m showing you the funeral. 

Passive vs Active Writing

Active writing keeps the pace of the story going. Passive writing slows it down. Sometimes you want this in your scenes however a lot of writers slip passive language in without realising it. 

Example: 

Passive: The vampire was being chased across the cemetery by the monster hunters.

Active: Monster hunters chased the vampire across the cemetery. 

In a passive voice, the subject (the hunters) receives the action from the verb (was being chased). 

In the active voice, the hunters are chasing. It’s a much more energetic way of describing, especially when you have an intense action scene. 

A good practise is to do a search and replace for certain words or phrases: was being – was ‘anything’, could have, should have, might have – anything that makes your writing weaker. 

Building Characters (A Quick Guide)

  • What they say – what they say to themselves, their friends, their superiors/inferiors
  • Physical description – what they actually look like reveals character ie ‘a halo of golden hair framed her small heart-shaped face” or “her thin pinched face peered out between the waterfalls of straight black hair” – you get the idea
  • Physical movement – the nervous habits or ticks/twitches reveal character – ie spinning a ring around their finger, playing with their hair (this can be used to show someone is concentrating deeply on something, or is distracted, or being playful) 
  • How other characters react to/around your character – does your character bring out the worst in someone? Make them happy? Cry? 
  • The character’s own actions: the decisions and choices they make, the path they chose, how they react in both good and bad situations all reveal character

Coming soon: publishing and marketing!

My books are available here: http://goo.gl/2Rfwws

Sign up for my newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/hgJO9b

Copyright K Evans 2022

%d bloggers like this: