Book Reviews
Author: JustAWriter

Chapter 11
A Helpful Hand - Courtesy of Lady Coldfeather

So, the lovely TKSK has very kindly asked if I would give a brief summary of what exactly goes through my head when I sit down to write, and how it can help all of you hopefuls out there to improve your writing skills.

First things first: these tips and practices are purely what work for me; they may not necessarily work for everyone and I don’t class them as entirely professional because – well, I’m not yet published and don’t really have experience in the literary or publishing world to speak of.

In saying that, let’s get started.

What do I do to get into the writing zone?

I have an awful habit of not planning where it is that I’m going with my story. Honestly, nine out of ten times, I just sit down and write. But, when I do have a particular angle or direction in mind, I strive to pour absolutely everything necessary into that scene. In other words, you have to take control and really picture what you can imagine happening; the expressions on your characters’ faces, what their voices sound like, how their emotion impacts the setting, how the setting impacts them; what you want your readers to experience, what you can do to invoke strong reactions, and how best to do all of this. Give your story its own backstory – this sounds far-fetched, but it all helps for a clearer understanding for you, the writer. If you don’t know where you’re going, your readers won’t either.

If you feel like you’re having a severe, crazed day of writer’s block, that’s ok. Really, it happens to us all. Open up a new word document, and write – totally anything you want – which is unrelated to the piece you’re having trouble with. Read a book or two – preferably two, and I’ll explain why; this is a really good practice, I find. What I do is, I take one book which is starkly opposite from my own writing, and one which is quite similar (it can have similar ideas and themes as well). It’s good for finding a clearer direction, and it also helps break down that wall blocking your creative output.
Listen to music! I can’t stress how progressive this can be. If you happen to land on a song which relates to your book/poem/short story – awesome. Create a whole playlist.

I could go on, but you get my point. It’s not enough to just sit down and write, most of the time. It’s good practice for when you’re just starting out, but writing blindly is completely counter-productive. And what you’re left with is fifty-plus pages of excellent, raw technique but no direction what-so-ever, and you realise you have no idea what you can do with this. I have been in this place so many times. Don’t fall into the habit. Plan, research, envision – then go for it.

How do I know if a storyline is worth it?

I can really only say that whatever you come up with is worth it. Stick with it; persevere, even when there are days when you’re re-reading it thinking ‘What the hell was I thinking? This is terrible.’ What you write, now, could be important stepping stones for the future. Never give up on a storyline. If it comes to you, if it’s natural, keep going. Even when it seems like hard work, or that it has no set ending, don’t give up. Try leaving it a few weeks, a few months even, and then return to it.
For example, at the moment I’m starting on a project seemingly new, “The Fractured Grey”. It’s something, actually, which has been on my mind for maybe four years. Although the setting, backstory, themes and, well, most of the characters were drastically different back then, the basic framework has never altered.
And for this, I’ve had terrific feedback. So like I say, treat everything as a draft until you really feel that it’s right, that you’re happy with the finished article.

Deciding on names, characters, themes and such:

Usually I’m quite lucky, in that the majority of main characters come to me fully formed. Maybe not all of them have names, but they have personalities, fears and dreams, weak spots and redeeming qualities. They feel almost real.
This doesn’t always happen, of course. A good site I landed on a couple of years ago is “Behind the Name”. Just type it into Bing or Google and it should be the first link to appear. It’s a brilliant source for any and every sort of name you can think of, and each one includes a small blurb of information on its history and meaning. You can also type a few choice words in, if you’re looking for a name with a particular meaning, for example “sea” or “beautiful”.
Deciding on characters and themes can be tricky. They’re both the foundation of your writing and also the clever, nifty accessories which throw your readers and leave them amazed. You really have to ask yourself what you want your story to be about, and how the correct choice of theme and collection of characters can really make it. I would advise studying how authors go about this. Everyone has their own technique but most good published writers have a grip on what they want to convey, and how they should do it.

Summing up, I think all who love writing should just keep at it – you really never know how much you will improve, and what will manifest. Whether you’re nine years old, or ninety, just go for it, if only for personal enjoyment. And also, everyone has the capability to develop their skills in some way or another. Just have fun with it, and don’t get frustrated with lack of progress. Time is a great tool.

Lady C.


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