Suzie Cunliffe is a professional copywriter working in Cornwall.
1. Be specific
Don’t give generic descriptions.
You will build a much better story / character / setting by introducing specifics to your narrative
2. Avoid adverbs
Going through a text and strengthening the verb instead will instantly lift your writing.
3. Make every word earn its place
Whether it’s an adverb or an adjective, noun, vowel or connector make sure it is adding something to the reader’s experience. Watch dialogue especially and if your character is saying the same thing three ways, lose two of them.
4. Keep it simple
Make your story as complex as you like, but tell it simply. If a reader is confused they are likely to move onto the next story. Split up long sentences, don’t use three weak words where one stronger one will do.
5. Show me, don’t tell me
This one has been so important for me. At a basic level, don’t say ‘John was anxious’ say “John had bitten the fingernail on his index finger so far he could no longer hook his teeth behind it to gnaw.”
6. Trust the Reader
In the example above did you know what John was feeling from what he was doing? There you go. Trust your reader.
7. What do they want?
Think about what each of your characters wants in a scene and this will propel them forward.
Their actions should be based on their desires and the reader should get a sense of what that is, without you, the author, having to say it out loud.
8. Bury the Details
This is about keeping some mystery alive.
Similar to the previous point it’s about creating a subtext to a scene to make it more real. Convey the characters wants in their actions rather than just plonking them on the page.
9. Let the reader ask the questions
Think very carefully before putting a question in your text. Not “John entered the room. Why was it so empty? What had happened here?” but “John pushed open the door. The room creaked with emptiness. A star of David was painted on one wall in what looked like blood.”
10. Read it aloud
Usually the best way to pick up sentences that sound wrong.
If you stumble over it. Bin it.
Or change it if you’re feeling slightly less draconian!
Find a reader (or two) who you can ask to critique. You’ll be surprised how people tend to pick up the same problems; making it far easier to redraft.
12. Find your voice
This is tricky but as a writer your voice needs to stand out from the din of the crowd.
A good exercise is to write a description of your home town. Close your eyes; picture yourself there and…
13. Just write
No inspiration? Tough.
If you have to hang around waiting for inspiration to strike then you might as well give up now. Write it even if it sucks – first drafts usually do anyway – like an athlete, training is important.
Bottom line: if you don’t write: you’re not a writer!