May 08

6 Things a Writer Should Always Do

While there are a number of writing tips and processes, below are six of the most important for new authors.

1. Stop. Learn. Jump.

I see it much too often. Authors jump into writing and publishing a book without knowing a thing about writing. 

If you STOP and think about it, anything a person wants to accomplish needs a foundation and building materials to accomplish it.

Want to play the piano?

Guess what. You need to learn how to play.

Want to become an electrician or plumber?

Guess what. You need to learn how to do it.

Want to be in finance or become a nurse, a doctor? 

Again… you need to learn how to do it.

Writing is a skill; it’s a profession just like any other. 

This is especially true when writing for children. There are many additional guidelines to follow in the children’s writing arena.

This process involves spelling, writing mechanics, grammar, and so on. These are the foundation of good writing.

So, stop and think about what you want to do. Then take the time and effort, and if needed, spend the money to learn how to write. The next step is to jump in and write your outline or first draft.

2. Decide how you want to write.

I’m a pantser, usually. This means I fly by the seat of my pants. I jump in and start my story without an outline. I have an idea, then let the story and characters take me on the journey.

Now, this isn’t for everyone. And if you’re writing a novel, it’s probably best to have some kind of outline to guide you from point A to point B.

While I jump in with picture books and chapter books, I do use an outline for middle-grade stories. 

When you’re writing 30,000 to 100,000+ words, there are so many things to remember. It’s not wise to leave the details to chance; it will lead to mistakes.

There’s no right or wrong way to write in regard to outlining or flying by the seat of your pants. Just use whichever process you’re comfortable with.

3. It’s always a good idea to use character sheets (cards).

While character sheets are a useful tool, if you’re writing a children’s picture book of under 800 words, you shouldn’t need them. But beyond that, it’d be wise to create one for each character in your story.

According to

“The term ‘character development’ can be used in literary contexts to refer to the way in which a written character is described and fleshed out.” (1)

Creating your character is the process of adding factors like personality, family and friends, appearance, and the other elements that make your character believable and unique. Even your character’s name matters.

Character sheets help you keep all the details intact. If you forget something about a character, just check the sheet.

And if you create a new quality to the character, add it to the sheet.

4. Pause before acting on information you get online.

The internet lets everyone and anyone offer writing advice. Some of it is excellent, but some not so much.

Keep in mind that someone just starting out on the writing path may decide to give advice on her blog just to keep an active blog.

Be cautious and know who is offering the advice. It’s always best to take advice from an experienced writer with a track record.

5. Revise. Edit. Proof.

Revising, editing, and proofing is a must, but after you actually write the first draft. Let the first draft just flow – get the words down. 

Once you have the first draft, it’s time to revise. 

Revision is the major process in writing. It’s the fine-tuning of the overall story. This process is where you look at the story structurally and logically. It’s making sure all the elements of a good story are there. 

Once you revise the story and it’s where it should be, it’s on to editing.

Editing deals with sentence structure. It makes sure each sentence is structurally sound and understandable.

Finally, it’s on to proofing. 

This is where you get out your magnifying glass to check each sentence, line by line. The job here is to find typos, misspelled words, beginnings of sentences and paragraphs, and so on.

6. Get your work critiqued and accept feedback graciously.

If you’re a smart writer, you will have a critique group or at least one qualified person to review your work. Or you may hire a professional to review or critique it.

It’s just about impossible to see all the mistakes you might have made. Basically, your brain knows what you wrote, and that’s what it’ll see. 

In an article at, psychologist Tom Stafford is quoted saying:

“The reason we don't see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.” (2)

This is why it’s a good idea for a critique group or professional writer to go over your manuscript.

While it’s important to have your manuscript critiqued, it’s also important to accept any feedback graciously. 

This isn’t to say you need to incorporate everything you’re told into your story, but you should take the feedback to heart. If it makes sense, use it. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t use it. You know what your story is about better than anyone else.



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Sep 08

Writing and Mountain Climbing

How is writing like mountain climbing?

“Because the creation of a novel is akin to a mad scramble up a mountainside layered with loose pebbles, any handhold or solid ground you can find will be a blessing.”
~ Walter Mosley

The article where I got this quote from (link below) deals with Mosley’s writing style which doesn’t include character sheets or any other form of mapping out your character’s ‘life’ prior to writing your novel.

I love the quote above. As Mosley explained, as you’re writing, your character develops before your eyes. There will be situations or events in the story that you didn’t plan on in the beginning and your character will need to deal with it. If it’s a new experience, how can you tell how he’ll react?

We’d all like to believe (or write) that our protagonist will act nobly in every new situation, but that doesn’t always happen. It’s the same with people in real life.

You or your character will not know how you’ll react in a situation you never experienced before.

It’s kind of the same with your story itself.

Pantsing Your Way

As you’re writing, the story often takes on a life of itself as do the characters. It’s kind of amazing when this happens.

This type of writing is by-the-seat-of-your-pants and usually called pantsing.

The quote above was referencing this type of writing and why creating structured, highly detailed character sheets isn’t worth it. Stories change as you write them. And, if it doesn’t, it will definitely in edits and rewrites. You may take your characters and storyline in an entirely different direction.

Characters Create Themselves

Letting the characters develop as you write gives you much more freedom over who and what they are or can become.

I’m a pantser because I find it easier to have the story start itself, but if I’m writing a picture book series or a children’s chapter book or a middle grade, I do keep character sheets. This is especially important with all series.

I would find myself often looking up the quirks and characteristics I created for a particular character in earlier books in a series I was writing. Then inspiration or necessity or desperation kicked in and I created character sheets for each character as I went along. It does save time in the long run.

Simple Outlines Work

I also do sometimes create an outline for chapter, middle grade and young adult books as I’m going along in a story to give me a guideline. I usually don’t start out with one because I let the story develop the beginning for me.

You might call it the muse kicking in or the story taking charge, but whichever it is, it’s appreciated.

But, once I pause along the way (it could be in chapter 4, 5, or 6) and wonder what happens next, I do work on where I want the story to go from that point.

I don’t add much detail to the outline, just a general direction.

This works for me.

What about you? How do you write?

Source for quote:
(Literary Hub article)
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