I strive to give as many first time writers slash novelists numerous writing strategy tips as they embark on their own unique journey.
This is because like anything else that requires discipline, time, commitment, and sacrifice, more people get things wrong the first few times unless they take necessary steps forward to correct any mistake they might have.
I’m no different, as in both writing and in my other venture of fitness, I’ve made numerous mistakes over the years.
However, as an avid researcher with a never-say-die persona, I’ve corrected many mistakes along the way at the young age of twenty-seven.
Sadly, though, there are a lot of people who’ve been embarking on the writing path the wrong way for years.
I’m not saying I’m an expert or anything, but I will share some of what I learned so you can save yourself time and not repeat some of my mistakes.
You Need an Effective Blog
What’s an effective blog?
First, you need to write about narrow content. In other words, My Freedom Flame is about writing, Get Pro Football Apparel is about football apparel (NFL, CFL, AAF), and Train Daily with Todd is about fitness.
These blogs never dive into other waters, though I did this during My Freedom Flame’s first few months of existence, garnering mixed results, but they weren’t pretty.
Second, an effective blog must contain popular keywords in a Google search box. You can see what’s popular with a paid keyword tool like Jaaxy, or you can simply use a free Amazon keyword tool or even type search terms into Google that are relevant to your blog’s topic.
Your keyword must appear in your title and first paragraph, and avoid using the keyword throughout the post, as Google now reads this as keyword stuffing and will refuse to index you.
For best results, make sure your keyword is “long-tail,” a three to four word phrase.
Respond to all comments. Google loves articles that create conversations and comments are the best way to go about getting ranked after keywords. Any comment you get that’s relevant to your article, approve and respond to it.
Learn to Write
While there’s no right or wrong way to write, as each style appeals to a different audience, I still recommend you learn to write.
What I mean is to learn the rules of grammar, but remember, you’re writing for the general population in most cases, so you don’t need to sound like a scholar. In fact, a scholarly style might be a turn-off.
Instead, learn to write for general audiences.
Use common words instead of fancy ones.
Ignore much of what you learned in school. Notice how short my paragraphs are.
Keep most sentences short.
Use imagery in your text if your blog is crazy long, like over 1,500 words long.
Use headings often.
The same goes for writing manuscripts. Again, paragraphs shouldn’t be long. When I’m editing and proofreading my manuscripts, I strive for at least four paragraphs per page. I don’t mean pages as in the Word document I write on, but the e-pub and .mobi versions I edit my work on as this will be the size most of your audience will read.
If you can swing it, invest in a writing course. Jerry Jenkins has a cost-effective writer’s guild that has an annual cost of about $400/year. He also has a novel blueprint anyone can purchase for a lifetime payment of $2,000. They’re not always open, but I learned a lot from the guild and wish to join the blueprint in time.
Basic Rules to Follow When Writing Fiction
1. Show, don’t tell. Show what’s happening. Don’t tell us it’s cold, show us. Don’t tell us a character is scared, happy, angry, or whatever the emotion, show us through character action.
2. Limit adverbs; they’re lazy writing. Instead of ran quickly, use sprinted, dashed, darted, etc. Again, show the action, don’t tell it.
3. Limit the words that, very, by, suddenly, always, almost, etc. That should be used to clarify something. Very can always be replaced by a stronger noun or verb. By is passive. You don’t need to say someone suddenly burst through a door, just say it. Only use always in character dialogue, ditto for almost.
4. Speaking of ‘almost,’ it’s a hedging word. They didn’t almost smile or almost frown. They either did or didn’t.
5. Use ‘said’ if you need dialogue tags. People don’t cough words, gasp words, simper words, or any other weird tag. They only say things. Even if there’s a question, still say said. The question mark tells the reader someone asked a question, we don’t need to use asked.
6. Use italics in dialogue only if someone’s yelling, saying something in a fierce or forcible manner, or something related. Again, you can use the action to cue the reader on how they’re talking. You don’t need to say ‘yelled,’ ‘shouted,’ or anything of the sort.
7. Don’t be passive. I like to compare passive writing to what you see in sports articles. They’re written in passive language. If your writing style is passive, you’ll bore your reader.
8. Limit point-of-view to one character per scene. In an ideal situation, one point-of-view per book is best. In my first three novels, Cain is the principle character and is my single point-of-view character. In the first drafts of my fourth, I need two point-of-view characters due to the complexity of the work.
9. Speaking of point-of-view, always indicate when there’s a change in point-of-view and always use the character’s full name. For instance, if I had two points-of-view in my first three books, I’d indicate it with Cain Riscattare, notice I used his whole name, or Lira Ross, in the first sentence of my new point-of-view.
10. Omit needless words. After we go through our first draft, we find many sentences and phrases can be chopped. Chop away. The more basic words you eliminate the more power you can add to your manuscript.
A Final Word: Bonus Tip
My final tip today is to use a strategy I picked up in the Jerry Jenkins Writers’ Guild: My first drafts are rarely horrific.
I write one day, and edit the same piece I wrote the previous day the following day.
This allows me to continually make changes to what would otherwise be the horrific first draft many of us are faced with.
The daunting task becomes less daunting.
Now, I didn’t do this with Northern Knights because again, I didn’t know about this strategy but when I implemented it for my following two works, the first of which is in its final editing stage, I found my edit time was cut in half.
Bam! By adding just one tip, I saved a ton of editing time which allowed me to work on other works in a simultaneous manner.
This allows you to keep characters, places, and plot elements straight without deviating. Also, it allows you to know your characters’ personalities better as well, their tendencies, and you’ll continue to tell one story.
Plot holes are less common here, too. In fact, major plot elements hold much better this way.
Try this strategy and while it will slow your writing down a bit, it’ll save you from frustration as you start to edit your manuscript.