Check out Livy's Top 7 Writing Tips!
1. Turn off Your Inner Critic, and Forget the Rules
There’s nothing that kills creative writing faster than our inner critic. You know, that voice which spits out lies which say, “You’re not a good writer, you’re never going to be, you’ll always struggle with writers block, nobody will ever like what you write…” those voices have to be shut down.
When you sit down at your computer and begin crafting your tale, pray first, and ask the Lord to help you ignore the lies! Truth is, you are a writer. Just the fact that you have the desire to write, and are actually sitting down and attempting to make it happen, speaks volumes about the gift inside of you!
What you’re writing is not horrible. It’s just practice! Everyone looks back at their first few stories and wishes they could throw them away, but that’s a good thing…it means that you’re growing! And the more you write, the better you will get…I promise!
Your time at the computer is a time to be creative. Not a time to be critical. The purpose of your first draft is to daydream and have a total blast with it! Editing comes later. Don’t allow yourself to edit while you’re working on your first draft! Just have fun, and go with whatever comes. You can make changes later. Stay focused on the fun, creative side of things, and it will be way more enjoyable, and your story will flow much easier! For your first draft, there are not any rules. Embrace the wild freedom of the first draft, and just go for it!
2. Set Realistic Goals for Yourself
I think we can all agree on something as writers. Finishing stories can be really, really hard! It’s easy to begin, bursting out of the starting gate in a furry of excitement, but after a while the inspiration seems to evaporate, writers block kicks in, and writing feels like nothing more than an uphill battle of WORK.
As much fun as writing is, it also requires a lot of endurance and stick-to-it-ness! The temptation to give up can be oh-so-real. But setting goals for yourself, and keeping yourself on a track that is moving forward, is something I’d recommend to every writer! Because, the only way to get better is to keep writing. I’ve found that the more often you write, the more you’re able to exercise your writing skills, and the better you get!
So what’s a realistic goal for you? Writing 10 pages a month? 5 pages a week? My personal goal, is 5 pages a day. Sometimes I make it, and sometimes I don’t, depending on my schedule, but aiming for 5 pages a day keeps me accountable and requires that I have to keep moving forward! I would definitely recommend that you choose a good goal for yourself, and work at it! (And don’t forget to celebrate each accomplishment with a little reward! Chocolate, a good movie, or a long walk are all nice incentives!)
3. Be Your Readers Eyes
Before writing a scene, I like to visualize everything about it. I like to imagine that I’m watching a TV show unfold, and try to be as clear in my mind as possible about what each character looks like, feels like, and what’s happening around them. Even if I don’t describe every little detail, I like to at least know for myself.
For example, if the scene is happening in a green meadow, I like to Google images of green meadows, just so I can get a clear image in my mind before I try to write. It’s important to remember that our readers are blind. They have never stepped inside your mind, and they don’t know a thing about your characters or this world you’re building…so you have to be their eyes. You have to hold their hand, and guide them into this imaginary world by using clear, descriptive words. One of my favorite, classical authors is Laura Ingles Wilder. She was a great writer, because she grew up describing everything to her blind sister Mary. She was her eyes, and she had learned how to describe everything in a way that made sense to someone who couldn’t see what Laura saw. That’s what we get to do as writers!
So take Laura’s advice, and practice being the eyes for your blind readers.
4. Be Firm and Guide Your Own Thoughts
One of the hardest things about writing fiction (for me, anyway) is constructing good dialogue! Creating conversations that sound natural, and yet have a purpose behind them, can be a real challenge! But it’s a really, really good challenge. Your dialogue can’t be without a purpose, yet when you’re creating conversations, it’s kind of like you’re expressing something through code.
For example, say you want one of your characters to express the fact that purity and waiting for their future husband is important to them, yet through the conversation, you want to show (through your other character) that the world doesn’t value that kind of a decision. You have to be strategic, and begin with something lighter (maybe a joke about finding so-and-so swoon worthy, and gradually funnel into the true purpose of the conversation.) Writing with this kind of purpose, rather than just blabbing out random dialogue, isn’t particularly a walk in the park! It takes a lot of practice, and I find that it’s helpful to jot down what the goal of each conversation is, or how it’s going to move your story forward.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh no, I’ll never be able to do that! I don’t have that kind of control over what happens in my brain – I usually just write whatever pops into my head!”
Don’t worry! I used to be the same way! But through writing, God has been teaching me a LOT about taking authority over my own thoughts, and being intentional about directing what my brain thinks about. Writing is an awesome way to practice “taking every thought captive.” The truth is, you can control your thoughts. You can lasso the rebel thoughts, and keep your mind focused on tackling one scene at a time. Again, it isn’t easy, but you can do all things through Christ!
And the most amazing thing about all of this? As you learn to be more purposeful and intentional in your writing, you also find that you can do this in other areas of your life as well! Your brain is a powerful, powerful tool, and when it’s totally surrendered to be used for God’s glory – woah, look out world!
5. Give Your Story a Huge Twist
If your story is feeling a little bit dull, here’s a fun idea for you. Give your story a huge twist! Take one of the following ideas, or writing prompts, and just see what happens with it! You might be surprised how much fun it is!
-What is your characters greatest fear? What if you made that fear come to life?
-What is your characters secret, bad habit or weakness? What if someone found out about it?
-What if you take your character to another country?
-What if your character and their possible love interest are forced to spend time together?
-What kind of problems or social situations are your character uncomfortable with? What if you plucked them out of their comfort zone and stuck them smack in the middle of it?
-What new faucet or quality about God would you like your character to learn about and experience for themselves? How could you create a real life object lesson for that, for your character to walk through?
-What if someone from your character’s past could appear, causing an abrupt disruption to their daily life, causing issues and problems to be worked through in the midst of everything else going on?
6. Be Genuine and Relatable
I have found that readers really respond to characters who are relatable. Anything you can do to put yourself, your heart, and your personality into your story: do it! It can be a little scary to get that vurnable, revealing weaknesses of your own, or using emotions and situations that you’ve walked through and expressing them on paper: but people love when you’re real. They can tell. Readers are amazingly perceptive. They can tell whether a story is coming from your heart, or whether you’re just trying to follow a “formula to success” and want to earn a ton of money writing stories that are “perfect for the market.”
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t feel like you have to follow the crowd, or follow the rules, or force yourself to fit into a mold that doesn’t work for you. There are SO many writing tips, ideas, suggestions, and methods online…honestly, it can be a little overwhelming. Instead of trying to conform to these patterns of perfection, I encourage you to follow your gut. Go with what you feel God has placed on your heart, and allow HIM to take the lead. Be real. Be yourself. And enjoy the process.
7. Know Where Your True Identity Lies
Oftentimes as authors, it’s easy to get caught up in our work. We pour so much of ourselves into our stories, that any kind of rejection, critique, or negative comments about our work can create a lot of insecurity!
I was SO nervous to allow anyone to read my fictional writing. I was afraid that it wasn’t good enough and that my friends would think it was silly. Last November, when I finished my first full-blown-fictional novel, I took a huge gasp for air, prayed for courage, and asked a handful of girls to read The Coronation (which hasn’t been released yet), and let me know what they thought.
I was biting my nails as I read their feedback for the first chapter. Some of them loved it. Some of them thought my storyline was too cliché. Some adored all of the elegant descriptions. Others said I was way too wordy, and I needed to cut back. Their mixed responses as they read through all 12 chapters, sent me on a roller-coaster of emotions. If the feedback was good, I was through the roof excited! If their comments were negative, I felt like I was seriously failing.
It wasn’t until the Lord arrested my attention and reminded me, “Your identity is NOT in what you write! Rejection of your words is NOT a rejection of you. You are not an author who happens to be a Daughter of the King. You are, first and foremost a Daughter of the King. You are a Princess who loves to write, but what you write does not define you. Remember who you are!”
That word was so powerful, and shifted my perspective and gave me courage. Now, I am not afraid to share my work with others.
Why? Because I know who I am in Christ, and if nobody likes what I have to say…well, I’m going to keep writing anyway, because I the Lord has been teaching me so much through the process! I hope to encourage you with the same reminder, you are a precious, priceless Daughter of the King! If you words are rejected, and your stories don’t receive the sparkling feedback that you had hoped – don’t be discouraged! Your value doesn’t come from how many pages you write a day, or how good your sentence structure is, or how many people read you work.
You are not defined by what you do. You are defined by who you are in Christ. Do everything with a pure heart, an excellent spirit and a surrendered mind. And I promise, God will use your little words to touch a heart, and He will get all the glory out of it!
Livy Jarmusch is a dreamer, singer, songwriter and orphan advocate. As the founder of Crown of Beauty Magazine, she strives to reach young women and inspire them to realize their true worth in Christ. She loves fairy-tales, the smell just after it rains, golden retriever puppies and peppermint ice-cream cones.