Seven must-follow writing tips from Amy Lilwall
6th June, 2018
People associate writers block with not being able to put pen to paper. There is a difference between being unable to write anything and being unable to write anything good. Don’t worry about writing something bad, or something that has nothing to do with your brief or project; whatever you write can be edited or used at a later date.
Every time you write an abstract word like ‘volatile’ or ‘nostalgia’, think of how you could convey that idea through action. ‘She had to hold her breath every time she looked at that old photo,’ carries so much more feeling than, ‘she felt nostalgic’.
Kill the adverbs
Stephen King famously said, ‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs.’ When I first started to write, I thought that using ‘ly’ adverbs served to convey precise meaning whilst decorating a sentence. Now, when I use them, they feel cheesy. Along a similar line to point 2, if you write creatively, you should be able to describe someone writing creatively without using the word ‘creatively’. I think that’s what creative writing is all about.
At weekends, as soon as I take my morning shower I know that any plans for writing will get lost in popping out to the shop or cooking a nice lunch – things that people do when they are clean and presentable. As long as I’m still in my PJs, I’ll type away. I guess the real tip here is to know when you’re at your most productive. For me, it’s the morning.
BE the writer
One of my students told me something that I’ll never forget. Pour yourself a glass of wine and think about Hemingway or Wilde in some messy Parisian apartment. Tread in their footsteps, be the artist. Shift the focus from what you’re creating to what you are. This advice made me laugh but I think the student definitely had a point.
Love your characters
Even the bad ones. Give them a reason to be bad, something that will make you understand why they do what they do. Don’t kill them off or punish them unless they deserve it. Don’t be mean to the good ones unless they can be rewarded.
Editing is a heart-wrenching task. The original draft of The Biggerers was 173,000 words long. An average novel is anywhere from 85,000 to 110,000. I had to put The Biggerers on a serious diet. In his Poetics, Aristotle prefers causality in story structure; he states that no section should be removable without the whole thing collapsing. Even though I feel very attached to some of the ‘fluff’ in my writing, I know that it has to go if it has no bearing on the direction the story is taking.