4 #WritingTips To Make Your Writing Better

We’ve all been given writing tips that have helped us improve our writing skills.
Hopefully these will help you too.
These are the best tips I’ve been given, you may have different or better ones…
please share them in the comments, as we’re all here to learn and grow!

4 #WritingTips to make your Writing Better - The Last Krystallos

Said is not dead - it's alive and well - Four #WritingTips To Make Your Writing Better - The Last Krystallos

Said – is not dead… © Lisa Shambrook

1. Dialogue…I try not to go too fancy, I stick to said in general and ignore all those flowery replacements especially the pretentious ones. The internet is full of ‘Said is dead’ and ‘Over 200 ways to say said’, and maybe at school, whilst increasing your vocabulary, it’s great to learn new ways to say said but in a novel be sparing with your speech tags. Editors and authors know that dialogue is part of the story and speech tags are purely there to inform which character is speaking and when. Most dialogue tags should be invisible to the readers so as not to detract from the story.

If you’re character moaned, muttered, grumbled, murmured, and exclaimed all the time, your reader will soon long for a simpler flow of words. By all means sprinkle different dialogue tags throughout your work, but said, asked, answered, and replied are the preferred verbs.

Another important piece of advice I’ll always remember is how to use dialogue tags. I still see people writing: “It was so funny,” she laughed.  *Remember that you don’t usually laugh and speak at the same time. The same goes for sighed, sneezed, and spat for example. The piece of dialogue should finish and the action added in a new sentence or continuation: “It was so funny.” She laughed. (note fullstop and capital letter) or “It was so funny,” she said and laughed. (note comma and continuation adding the action in the sentence).
*edit: If you do use these tags be sure not to overuse them and make sure they work in context, it has been pointed out to me that it is quite acceptable to spit out words and laugh etc whilst talking, and, yes, I’ve certainly spat out an angry phrase before!

Four #WritingTips To Make Your Writing Better - The Last Krystallos

Dialogue from Beneath the Distant Star © Lisa Shambrook

2. Lose a good chunk of adverbs, or words ending ‘ly’. Please DO use them where they fit, and sometimes they’re the perfect word, but be sparing. For example if you’re writing about anger show the anger in the context of the story, demonstrate it to your reader through your character – for example (note the bold sentence):

“And it’s your birthday, why are you out here?”

Jasmine’s grin faded and a flushed smoulder spread across her features instead. “Well, at least someone remembered.”

“C’mon, we’ve got presents. Dad’s waiting for you downstairs. He’s waiting for us both. Aunty Rachel’s probably yelling up the stairs at us now!”

Jasmine’s face darkened further at the mention of her mother. “So, at least she’ll know what day it is now.”

I could easily have written:

“And it’s your birthday, why are you out here?”

“Well, at least someone remembered,” said Jasmine angrily.

“C’mon, we’ve got presents. Dad’s waiting for you downstairs. He’s waiting for us both. Aunty Rachel’s probably yelling up the stairs at us now!”

Jasmine’s face darkened further at the mention of her mother. “So, at least she’ll know what day it is now.”

The first example shows how the adverb just isn’t necessary and you learn much more about Jasmine’s response through the description, rather than just telling the reader she’s angry.
See my previous post: Don’t Just Tell Me, Show Me for more information about writing with emotion.
(Example text taken from Beneath the Distant Star book three of my Hope Within novels)

Stephen King On Writing Quote simplify - The Last Krystallos

Stephen King On Writing Quote – © Lisa Shambrook

3. Write simply. I love simplicity in my writing. You’re telling a story, not writing purple prose – unless you are, in which case, go for it! This does depend on your style, but most readers are more engaged in a story if it flows and simple words are usually less distracting. Stephen King told us not to be ashamed of our short words, my story is smoother and sleeker if my words, though beautiful and important, carry the reader without removing you from the experience.

That said – make sure your writing does contain appropriate big words unless you’re writing for small children. It was books I read as a child and teen that gave me my extensive vocabulary. There’s a lot to be said for looking up words in the dictionary and learning new ones. And I’m a huge fan of words, simple ones and complicated ones!

Four #WritingTips To Make Your Writing Better

Read aloud to find your spelling mistakes…I’m very sure my children were singing not sinning! © Lisa Shambrook

4. Lastly, the Best #WritingTip I’ve ever been given – Read your work out loud, especially dialogue. Reading through your work is imperative, in silence or aloud, but reading out loud gives a further depth to your work. Before reading out loud you’ll be sure there are no other distractions around and your attention is on your writing. You’ll engage more closely with your manuscript and you’ll hear it. You’ll hear the flaws, the way dialogue doesn’t flow, you’ll see the spelling errors Spellcheck didn’t highlight, and you’ll notice awkward sentences and placement. You’ll also hear what does work and be able to enjoy those passages that do!

If you can’t bear reading your work to yourself, find a friend or partner to do it, or use an app, you can even enable Word’s Text Speak command. Give it a try! Reading aloud has enhanced my writing and editing process hugely!

So, these are the tips that have really helped me – what has helped you most?

What makes your writing better?

What are your best writing tips?

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14 thoughts on “4 #WritingTips To Make Your Writing Better

  1. Julia Lund

    Really good tips. Number 1 was highlighted to me in my writing when I had it professionally edited. I also agree that adverbs should be minimal – I think it was Terry Pratchett who said you should only use one if you were prepared to have a fingernail ripped out. There are almost always other verbs you could use: she walked slowly could become she ambled, dawdled etc.

    One of my pet hates in a book is telling as opposed to showing. It’s rare that I enjoy a backstory info dump too. I’ve read so many books that include info that the reader doesn’t need to know. Leave it out, I say. It’s enough to dtop me finishing a novel. If I wanted information, I’d read non fiction.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      Gosh, yes, info dumps…to be avoided at all costs! Another lesson I learned early on – I had a tendancy to over explain, but we need to give our readers credit and they don’t need everything spelled out!

      Reply
  2. Tom

    A good post Lisa, and I use all of your tips. I also agree with Julia’s observations regarding verbs and info dumps.
    Tip 1. One of the techniques which I like to think has improved my work is to leave each draft aside for two to four weeks without touching. No sneaky looks, quick edits; nothing. During the manuscript’s rest period I work on something else, and when it goes to rest, I bring out another piece of work. Using this technique I am presently working on a novel, an anthology of short stories, and three separate short stories for other targets.
    Tip 2. Yes, I read my manuscript aloud (privately and with no music or background noise), but importantly from hard copy (in double-spacing), and with a red pen in my hand ready to strike and amend.
    Tip 3. It may sound like a simple idea, but I believe ‘naming’ the chapters gives a book more value and attraction for readers.
    Instead of ‘Chapter 1’, I might have ‘Chapter 1 – Here and There’
    Tip 4. Beta readers are a Godsend, and have only really got into using them in recent times.
    Once again, great write up my friend. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      You’re right a fresh look after a break can be very revealing and can show us where we went wrong on one hand, and can help us fall back in love with it on the other!
      Beta readers, we should treat them like the valuable gold dust they are, I adore mine.
      I like naming my chapters too, I feel like it knits the book together.
      Thanks, Tom.

      Reply
  3. Let's CUT the Crap!

    I agree with all the above. My tip has already been mentioned above about leaving a writing till you see it with new eyes. Great post, Lisa.
    Thank you for the Speech instructions. I’ve wondered how to set this up. Now it IS! 😀 ❤ ❤

    Reply
    1. Lisa Shambrook Post author

      Glad it helped, Tess! I had no idea about the speak option for a while, then discovered it. It can sound a bit odd compared to a ‘real’ voice, but it can still be valuable and help us listen with a different ear.

      Reply
      1. Let's CUT the Crap!

        I’m not sure about the speech option either because I’m better when I have the written hours in front of me when I listen. Always wanted to try this, though. Word’s speech function a little better than some I’ve heard. After a while that mechanical voice will probably put me on edge. 😀 😀

        Reply
  4. Lizzie Koch (@Lizzie_Koch)

    Thank you for a useful post. I will no doubt use it again and again as it’s so easy to slip into bad habits especially when you’re racing to get the idea down on paper before it disappears! The one thing I would add is the learning never stops and posts like this always remind you and make you think a little bit more.
    PS. I love your flowery moments. xxx

    Reply
  5. Kevin Cyr

    I find dialogue one of the strangest components of writing. Some writers have it without much practice, others struggle to do it well. I struggled for so long, but you’re right, the best thing is to write simply. When I think too hard and force the dialogue, its always bad. But when I let it flow and have the characters ‘talk’, it’s better.

    Great post. Have a nice day!

    Reply

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