Carolyn Lewis's Top 10 Tips for Writers

Carolyn Lewis (creative writing tutor, award-winning short story writer, and author of 'The Novel: A Perfect Recipe' and 'The Short Story') gives her top ten tips for polishing your work to perfection...

Carolyn Lewis (creative writing tutor, award-winning short story writer, and author of 'The Novel: A Perfect Recipe' and 'The Short Story: A Guide to Writing Short Stories') gives her top ten tips for polishing your work to perfection.

1: Develop a reading habit
I firmly believe that if you don't read, you can't write. So read everything you can lay your hands on. Read good novels, bad novels, novels that are bestsellers. Observe the way that other writers go about their craft. Look at the way they handle dialogue, how they build their characters, how the pace and plot of the novel is achieved.

2: Develop a writing habit
Try to write something every day. Whether it's one sentence or a thousand, get into a writing habit. Make time for your writing. Factor it into your day, every day.

3: Bring characters to life
A well-drawn character is believable, recognisable and easy to identify with. Define the essence of your character, understand the sort of person they are and the way they might behave in any given situation.

4: Write believable dialogue
Good dialogue should offer the reader insight into a character, and offer information which moves the plot along. Create authenticity, but don't copy real-life conversation with all its repetitions and disfluencies.

5: Offer beauty in the details
Paint a picture for your readers with detail and specificity. Don't write about a cup, write about a cherry-red teacup with a delicate handle and tiny white daisies around the rim.

6: Plot your way through the novel
'Plot' is merely another word for 'what happens' - the circumstances, problems, tasks, twists and turns, and how a character deals with them. Develop your storyline, examine the timing of your climactic scene, and make sure each element is resolved by the end.

7: Learn how to show, not tell
Aim to show your reader a scene, rather than simply describing it in dry, reported prose. Create a feast for the senses. Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste allow the reader to fully engage in a scene, and experience it as if they were there.

8: Conquer Writer's Block
Keep writing... put one word after another after another, even if you think they're no good. That way you'll have something to edit after a session, and editing can be the spur to writing fluently and breaking the 'block'.

9: Be professional
Agents and publishers don't want to read a fancy font, green ink, or your manuscript tied up with a red ribbon. Keep it simple and professional. Use an easy-to-read font in 12 point type, double spaced, with the pages numbered consecutively.

10: Deal with rejection
Don't take it personally. Stay objective. If there's a comment on your manuscript, then ask yourself "Do they have a point?". If they have, then fix it. But don't dwell too much. Simply send another piece out there so you've always got 'an iron in the fire'. Keep pushing at the door... and one day the door will open!


About the author

Carolyn Lewis (MPhil) has taught Creative Writing for more than 15 years. She is a novelist and prize-winning short story writer. Carolyn shares her expertise and wisdom in two easy-to-use guides The Novel: A Perfect Recipe and The Short Story: A Perfect Recipe (both are SilverWood Original titles).

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