My Guest on this week's blog... is not a writer. However he brings some superb practical advice and a wonderful opportunity for readers and writers alike. Intrigued? Ladies and Gentlemen...
3 Short Tips
to Improve Your Writing
To begin with, I think it worth mentioning that I have the utmost respect for the dedication of all writers to their craft and adoration for the phenomenal literature that all too often emerges as a result.
|Aesop Magazine website|
Great fiction breaks down barriers by offering a window into the minds and thoughts of others. It reveals not only the ways in which we diverge from one another, but also our interconnected aspirations, intrigues, fears and sensitivities - played out inside an innumerable multitude of characters and scenarios.
Though you will find no published novels or short stories with my name attached, for the topic of my guest post, I thought it only logical to offer up a few insights on writing that I have gleamed over several months spent as editor of the soon to launch short story magazine 'Aesop Magazine'. I hope that my experiences in selecting and editing stories for publication will prove invaluable to novice and expert writers alike in honing their skills.
The first and foremost piece of advice I would like to offer up is to have confidence in yourself and to write to your strengths. Use insights gleamed from your own experiences to help shape your narrative and share your work with others to gain feedback and criticism.
The difference between an award winner and unpublished author is all too often vanishingly small, and in a fiercely competitive industry, minor changes can lead to drastic differences in the reception of your work.
To me, the best fiction should have the capacity to immerse the reader inside itself. The more contrived a story feels, the more detached the reader will become. While this is certainly not saying that a story needs to be grounded in the real world, inside the world of the narrative itself, events, characters and interactions should feel plausible and conceivable, no matter how shocking or surreal they might be.
Alice in Wonderland may have little correlation to our everyday experiences of the world, but its success was in no small part due to the understanding by Lewis Carroll of the kind of world he created and the implications of this for his characters and their interactions with one another.
Having talked about the importance of staying true to the world you have created in your writing, it is also worth mentioning that the rubber [Eric: that's eraser for those across the Atlantic] is far more important than the pen(cil) for any writer in bringing their stories to life. And this is a point I have found to be equally true for writers of all abilities and most definitely of myself.
Whether it's a sentence or paragraph that drags on for too long, an over abundance of particular words in close proximity to one another, or inconsistent spellings of names and places, there are literally thousands of small ways to break immersion with a story.
Though you might not catch them all, if you can minimise their frequency, the result will invariably be a better flowing narrative that will hold your readers' attention for longer - giving you an edge against others, who have been less scrupulous in their self-censorship.
For shorter chunks of text, there are several great (free) websites that can help with this kind of thing. Wordcounter is just one example and provides all sorts of useful information. By copying and pasting in your text, it can instantly tell you your most frequently used words and how often they appear, how long your sentences are, how many paragraphs you have and more.
If, like me, you're in the habit of writing long sentences with lots of clauses, or paragraphs running into hundreds of words, then tools like this can serve as a great reminder to go back and break up your work - making it more approachable to the casual reader.
As this article begins to creep ever closer to the thousand-word mark, it seems an appropriate moment to offer up one final pearl of wisdom. This is that brevity is key.
Although there is nothing wrong with fleshing out the world you have created, extraneous 'filler' content should be avoided at all costs. Writers often feel compelled to include various forms of deviation from the central plot. While they can serve to enrich your story, it is worth taking the time to ensure that they don't do the opposite. When it comes to the world of writing, particularly with short fiction, it is all too often true that less is more.
If you are unsure about a segment of your story, the safest bet is to remove or reconstruct it, rather than leaving it as is.
I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all who have taken the time to read this far, but particularly to Eric for offering me this slot and taking the time to curate this wonderful blog. I hope I have provided some small insight into the thoughts and considerations at play when selecting a story for publication and that as a result you will notice a subtle, but visible improvement in the quality of your work - and successes with future stories.
For those who are interested, you can subscribe (for free) to Aesop Magazine via our website, or submit a story to appear in one of our future issues. I look forward to reading any submissions you might make and hope you'll love the final product as much as I've enjoyed making it.
Aesop Magazine will appear MAY 4th. Watch out for it if you are on the London Underground, or order your free electronic copy from anywhere else via the link below.
Following the completion of a Masters in Cultural Studies in 2012, I worked as a copywriter, and subsequently as an executive at a branding and design agency. As rewarding as these jobs were, I decided to pursue my dreams and in September of 2014, the idea of the free to read short story magazine 'Aesop Magazine' was born. For the past several months, I have had the pleasure to work as editor of my own magazine, and am currently in the process of orchestrating the final details before the inaugural issue of the magazine is launched.
Subscriptions for electronic copies: http://www.aesopmagazine.com/home-1.html
Submissions for future issues: www.aesopmagazine.com/submissions
Thanks, Max, for those useful tips. I wish you the greatest success with this endeavour. I expect to see thousands of copies of Aesop Magazine in the hands of commuters on the London Tube soon,,and for those of you not on the Underground, get your free electronic copy via the subscriptions page on their website.
Eric @ www.ericjgates.com