Writing Tips from Dawn Meredith

Leaning Over The Edge Every Day
by Dawn Meredith
photo (C) Dawn Meredith

The process of writing can be a thrilling and daunting one, like leaning over the edge, every day. You feel perilously close, the wind rushing up at you, but you know you have to break through those personal confidence barriers to hone your skills and find the opportunites that are out there. What have my hard-won lessons about writing been so far?

  1. Write whatever comes, whenever it comes. Don’t judge it, try to ‘fashion’ it, just get it out of your head and free up some headspace! Always have a notebook or two handy.
  2. Be organised. Make sure you know where you’ve put those fantastic ideas and always have a back-up copy.
  3. Ask for feedback, but match the person to the task and genre you are writing, eg: your test readers need to be the target age group or people with experience with that age group.
  4. Be prepared to pay for proper advice. You don’t have to agree with everything you are told, but there is a lot of wisdom out there and you are still learning. Successful people in the industry have the best advice, so ask!
  5. Get involved. It’s lovely to sit at home in your cave and type and dream and get excited about the research you’re doing in your favourite area, but you must be a part of the writing community to get those valuable contacts. With the contacts come the opportunities. Writers are amazingly generous with each other, despite the competitive nature of our business. We all know how hard it is to get somewhere and other writers pass on tips and celebrate your victories with you.
  6. Never tell yourself you’re hopeless. You have the drive, the talent and the support out there. Keep going, no matter how dark the pit.
  7. Put yourself forward. Ask. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Opportunities don’t just come floating by, sometimes you have to manufacture them yourself by creating a space, a little niche. Someone will do a double take and think – “Hey, I actually like that idea.”
  8.  Be accessible. Have an online presence, no matter how small, business cards with your contact details and be prepared to hand them to people. No one rejects a writer’s card. There is a general spirit of curiosity about us and what we do. Promote yourself, because no one else will!
  9. Bite your tongue. Even irritating people have something worthwhile to say. Take away whatever you can from every encounter. Be a sponge!
  10. Observe behaviours. Characters are based upon observation and intuitive choices we make when writing them. They get sifted through the unconscious mish-mash and come out making sense, somehow! Jot down your observations in a notebook, which I recommend you carry with you.
  11. Commit to writing every day, no matter what it is.
  12. Be prepared for the fact that you may get sick of your current project. Get some space and distance from it by working on something else.
  13. Come up for air occasionally! I recommend walking. Fresh air does your brain cells good and the physical motion relaxes and tones your body. You will feel so much better when you sit back down to write again.
  14. Avoid brain freezes by trying new, random ways of jogging your brain to look at things differently. Cut up newspaper clippings, pop them in an envelope and randomly select a few to see what it fires off. Open a random book and copy down the first line you see. Try to work it into your current story. Watch TV and write whatever comes into your head, from ads, programs etc.
  15. Accept that some of your projects will never be published, but are part of your apprenticeship. Also, some things are ahead of their time, so put them away and wait for the right moment to bring them out into the light again.

Notes from Stephen King’s
On Writing
1.                  Vocabulary – expand it. Read!
2.                  Grammar –
a.       Passive vs active
b.      Banish the adverb
c.       Short sentences
d.      Create strong, clear prose
3.                  Paragraphing –
a.       a topic sentence followed by others which explain or amplify it. This helps organise thoughts.
b.      Let nature guide you
4.                  Shut the door to work – it’s a serious commitment.
5.                  Find a ‘writing place’.
6.                  Set a daily goal and stick to it.
7.                  People love to read about different work or occupations.
8.                  Include a teacher figure perhaps
9.                  Character and situation –
a.       Predicament drives plot
b.      People being themselves
10.              Keep the ball rolling – descriptions should be crisp.
11.              Good dialogue should make us feel we are eavesdropping on an interesting conversation.
12.              Add real-life details you see in your characters, ie: quirky mannerisims.
13.              The bad guy isn’t one dimensional but ALWAYS chooses to do what you wouldn’t.
14.              Characters must be strongly different to each other.
15.              Take a classic situation ie: jailed, abusive husband escapes and returns to kill wife and reverse the genders.
16.              Descriptions –
a.       what is it you want the reader to experience?
b.      Which sense is strongest stimulated in this scene?
c.       Clothing descriptions should be general, not too specific, unless details are crucial, ie: ‘fashion-victim wardrobe’.

Dawn Meredith
July 2011

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