Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Five: The Best Writing Lessons I've Learned

I've only been a creative writing major for a year, but I've been writing since I was 11. Since coming to Susquehanna, I've been blessed with some amazing professors who have helped improve my writing so much in such a short time. It hasn't all been pretty (I've had some embarrassing story flops), but I've learned so much about the process and what works for me. So here are some of my most important lessons about writing.

1. Don’t be afraid to delete. Your story can always become a thousand times better with revisions. Don’t be scared to change characters/scenes/the entire story. It might take on a whole new life of its own. I have rewritten stories two, three, four times from a blank Word document, and each turned out better than the last. Get rid of the meaningless stuff to find your real story.

2. Know how much information your story can handle. Don’t try to plot a novel and squash it into a short story format. 20 pages is not enough for detailed character arches and a laundry list of secondary characters (see lesson #1).

3. Just because you want something to happen in a story doesn’t mean it fits or makes sense. I can make the characters do anything I want, but that doesn’t mean readers will buy it. It’s so important to ask, “Does this make sense?” before writing anything. If it doesn’t, it’s time to rework it.

4. Write characters you connect with. You need to love your characters in order to stick with them through an entire story. If I don’t click with one of my characters, chances are their story won’t ever be finished.

5. Take risks. Tell a story that’s a little crazy. You’ll stick in readers’ memories, and chances are, they won’t think it’s as out-there as you might. I remember going to workshop terrified after submitting a story I thought no one would believe, but it turns out they all became invested in it. Risks pay off!

What about you? What important writing lessons have you learned?

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