Simple Writing Advice You Should Never Forget | pretending to know what I am doing again

Hello everyone!

Today I am doing a post about writing and some of the simple writing advice that I think is really important to remember. Now, I am not an expert at all, but I’ve heard this advice and think it is timeless and pretty universal. This is also a great opportunity for you all to tell your wisdom as well because I LOVE to know people’s favourite advice and it will help me (thank you in advance).

But here is my basic writing advice that you shouldn’t forget….

INFJ: How I Write – The Book Addict's Guide to MBTI:

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Writing Tips

(1) INTRODUCE BIG DETAILS OF THE SETTING OF THE SCENE FIRST, THEN WEAVE SMALLER DETAILS THROUGHOUT.

SOURCE: TUMBLR USER, JUSTAWRITINGAID

When trying to set the scene it can be hard to know where to start especially as a beginner. I kept thinking they need to know the angle of the blades of grass and the distance between each character. But the best way is to start with the big things (i.e. forest at night) so they get the important details immediately. You can tell them about the bluebell dancing with the moonlight later as you slide it into plot or dialogue.

It is more interesting this way because books which over describe everything are just a bit boring, you don’t want to be 5 pages into the chapter and still writing about the wind movement. So, this is a stable, trustworthy rule.

 


(2) ‘SAID’ IS NOT A WORD TO BE AFRAID OF

Primary school acted like ‘said’ was the worse word and the only way to improve writing was by using any word but said. This is not true. ‘Said’ is more than good enough. When you use lots of different words for said it ends up actually looking like a primary school kid wrote it (the same with similes I find).

Obviously at times you should use other words for ‘said’ as these can be great for situation which need to display something more but don’t be afraid of using ‘said’ either. Also, dialogue works best when you mix it up with action, just saying.


(3) MIX LONG AND SHORT

Pacing is way more complicated than this, but this can help so much. Mix long and short paragraphs, scenes, dialogues, chapters, sentences, actions, everything. It looks and reads better. Don’t have a uniform length for anything, mix it up. This can literally change the way words feel. (That sounds dramatic and cheesy but it’s true)


(4) FORGET YOUR GENERALISED AUDIENCE – JOHN STEINBECK

This is really important because the only thing a generalised audience can provide is contradiction. For example, if I go on twitter and tried to write a book for the first 100 book tweets I saw it will be full of different things that don’t work together and amid all these voices, you lose your own distinct voice which is going to make this book what it is.

There is no universal book so stop trying to write it and focus on what you love and want. It will give you the best results. Or focus on your ‘one ideal reader’, you know the imaginary reader you are writing this for, sometimes you have to block everyone out and just fall into their arms to remember the reason you are writing your book.


(5) GOOD DIALOGUE ILLUMINATES WHAT PEOPLE ARE NOT SAYING – ROBERT TOWNE

This is probably the vaguest point here, but I think it is really important. Characters aren’t open books if they are anything like real people and readers don’t like to be hand-fed every detail. Part of the joy of reading it figuring it out and building this picture. So, don’t worry about not getting every detail spelled out on the page, just try to find out if it is there, in the character’s very being and essence.


(6) YOUR STORY SHOULD BE 50% LEFT WITH HOLES FOR THE READERS TO FILL IN, NEGATIVE SPACE TO PUZZLE.

SOURCE: TUMBLR USER, WRITE-LIKE-A-FREAK

So, this links to the previous point but you really shouldn’t spell everything out for the readers. It can make it a boring read. Let the readers be an active participant in this story, they will love you and your story for this. (see this pin for more detail)


(7) EMOTIONAL SCENES = WRITING LESS.

Emotional scenes can be really hard but the most powerful thing I’ve noticed is when they are minimal. Sadness and all these traumatic emotions are often surrounded by silence and it makes the feelings so much grander and real. The silence and stillness of the words can create a lot of feelings and they’re atmospheric. When I want to write something impactful, emotional, I will use less words but make sure the words I’m using have the biggest effect possible.

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Motivational

(1) A WRITER NEVER FINDS THE TIME TO WRITE. A WRITER MAKES IT. – NORA ROBERTS

I have a thousand excuses not to write every day and I could easily never write. There will always be something else, so I have to make time if I want to do this. It won’t just happen. I have to make this happen. I know time is reliant on privilege as well but starting and finishing a book will requiring lots of carving out of your free time which you will have to actively choose to do. This is a big one for me as I do love to procrastinate. 


(2) THE FIRST DRAFT OF ANYTHING IS SHIT – ERNEST HEMMINWAY

I actually used to hate this advice as it felt like what I was working on and felt pretty good about was being called rubbish but then the self-doubt came in these words were like music to my ears.

First drafts are just the beginning and barely resemble the end product, so you do have to remember that this is the first step to making it something to be proud of. You are just beginning to know this project and it will improve over time as you work on it so never compare it to an end product because they are simply incomparable.


(3) THERE IS NOT ONE PATH TO BECOMING A PUBLISHED AUTHOR. DREAMS AREN’T THAT BASIC.

This is important to remember because writing a book, or any dream, doesn’t have a generic ‘to-do’ this list you must complete. There are thousands of ways to achieve something and just because you aren’t doing it like that one professional writer, doesn’t mean that your way is any less. Keep going, keep dreaming.

This point means something to me as I hated English and chose not to go to university so sometimes it feels like being a writer is out of my reach, but I honestly don’t think it that simple anymore. 

(4) IT JUST MADE ME HAPPY, SO I DID IT. – ALICE OSEMAN.

I love this quote. It is so simple yet so easily forgotten. We all want happiness but basically everything can distract you from actually getting it. And I think with writing a book, you have to be passionate and happy about this project to get the best results. You don’t want to put your blood, sweat and tears into something you don’t really care about. Do you know how hard and miserable that would be?? (not to mention the end result would suffer for it).

I also love this because it reminds you to not focus on doing it for money (because lol), for a critic’s love, for fandoms, for approval or even for publication. You have to do it for yourself because it is the only way it will be any good, it is the only way you can love the final product. The enjoyment of creating should be the reason you start and the reason you finish, right??

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Ok there we go.

Now I have a writing board on pinterest which I adore and is the only reason I became a writer but it has over 600 pins. So, I created a new board with my top 20 pins which is based on this type of ‘simple’ advice. I love it because it instructs you how to improve your writing as it is easy and straight forward yet can have massive impacts so please check the pins out HERE. I made sure it was only 20 so it didn’t take up too much time.

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Please, please tell me your favourite writing advice as I would love to know.

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44 thoughts on “Simple Writing Advice You Should Never Forget | pretending to know what I am doing again

  1. I agree with a lot of these points (said is not dead!). I think the one about first drafts is especially true and it allows me to just jot down my story in its rawest form without worrying about how good it is. I’ve been planning more lately and I think it’s been immensely helpful for when I need to write fast. Also definitely studying your favorite books and analyzing a) what you love about it and b) why it works is so helpful to nail down what you like to see in stories and hence, what you might want to write. I really appreciated all the work you put into this, Sophie ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay thank you !! I know, said is a good word!!
      Yesss it really is as you are only just starting and you can’t spend all your time worrying that it doesn’t look like a finished product but it is the start so it is full of things that need to be changed !! It is the first stepping stone in a journey!!
      I have been planning a lot too and it does help you have a well established idea and to be so comfortable in what you are writing about as well.
      Yes I do that too. To look at why you like it and how it made you feel like that as reading is the best way to improve your writing for sure!!
      Ah… thank you so much for saying this and for reading!! ❤ ❤

      Like

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I recently started writing again after about a five year hiatus and really needed some of these reminders.

    The best writing advice I ever received was in college. My professor would always tell us our first drafts are like the “test pancake” – the one that you put on the pan before it is actually hot enough and it gets a little mangled. The drafts get you to a pancake you actually want to eat (read.)

    I try to tell myself this when I am writing anything – sometimes getting it out on the page is enough. Editing does wonders but you can’t edit if you don’t have that really sad pancake first.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww.. you’re so welcome and I’m so happy it could be helpful for you. It can be really hard to get back into it after you’ve had a break.
      That is a really good analogy and so true. I’ve seen another along the lines of a first draft is just you scooping sand into a bucket so you can make a sandcastle later which I liked. It is just the first stepping stone in this journey and isn’t going to resemble the end product which is important to remember when comparison and self-doubt enter your life.
      Yes starting is the best thing you can do and to keep going !! Best of luck with your writing !! ❤

      Like

  3. Great post! I just started writing my book and will surely keep these tips in mind while writing it. Keep it up!
    Btw I too blog @ The Confessions Of A Music And Book Addict and would appreciate some support!
    Stay safe,
    -Prutha xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always love reading about other’s writing advice so this was a great post to read! 🥰 I agree with so many things that you said. I often struggle with how many details to include when I’m writing a scene – I fear I might do too little or too much – so getting the big details out first is amazing advice!😄 When writing dialogue it can really be helpful to include actions and weave throughout the scene what the characters are doing while they were talking. It really helps me make the scene feel more alive 🙂

    Thank you so much for all the tips! I’ll have a look at your Pinterest Board as well 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay I’m glad you like reading about writing advice too!! ❤ Thank you so much Caro!! ❤ I'm glad you could agree with my advice as well. Yes it is a struggle to know how much detail is too much or too little so I loved that advise a lot as well as it gave me something to focus on!!
      That's so true as it definitely brings the scene to life so it feels like people are have a conversation where you can picture them and you can interweave important details as well and get to know the characters more through doing things!!
      You're so welcome! Thank you for reading !! and thank you again !! ❤ ❤

      Like

  5. I love the advice you have here! And I will never know why some people hate the word ‘said.’ It’s a fine word!

    I ALWAYS struggle with how much detail to include and where to put it. Description is just…so hard for me, idk why. but that’s a really good tip!

    A piece of writing advice I’ve always liked is the one about eliminating filter words. Instead of ‘she saw the dog run,’ just say, ‘the dog ran.’ It helps to make the story feel more present 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh… thank you so much Becky !! ❤ I know I remember in school being told to never use it but it is good word and I like it a lot !!
      I know descriptions can be hard as you could write paragraphs but then it is tedious so you want to include the right information but how do you know what the right information is?? It is a lot so I thought that tip was great and gave me something to focus on !!
      Oh yes that's a really good point as it does make readers feel more involved, showing instead of telling in a way. Thank you !! ❤

      Like

  6. Ooh this is wonderful, thank you for compiling and explaining all of these tips! 😀

    I’ve certainly had to unlearn my fear of the word “said,” thanks to misguided teachers telling me to never use it. But it’s a great word to use and helps keep the focus on the actual dialogue, not the thesaurus of words used to describe it! 😉

    Yesss the mixing long and short advice is something that has made ALL the difference for me! I always keep that in mind whenever I’m trying to make a passage just sound or look nicer.

    The advice about leaving things unsaid and letting the audience fill in holes is such a good reminder too, since I sometimes just want to spell everything out! But it’s good to trust the reader, and leaving things for them to figure out themselves makes for a much more interesting reading experience.

    Haha the “first draft is shit” are words that I LIVE by. I don’t know how to write a first draft that isn’t terrible, so it’s reassuring when I hear that that’s how it’s SUPPOSED to be! 😂

    And awww, that Alice Oseman quote is lovely 🙂 Such a nice reminder that writing is supposed to make you happy! The joy of creating is reason enough to do it. Thanks so much for this wonderful post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Margaret !! ❤

      Yes they really did like to put down the word said but I really like it and it is useful. Yes writing can literally look like a thesaurus threw up on it and it doesn't sound as good!!

      Yay, I know it is such a simple bit of advice but it really can change the writing with how it flows and just presenting it in a readable manner on the page.

      Same, I definitely want to spell everything out like 'look at the link' or 'he did this because of that and that together.. blah blah' but you have to trust readers which is scary but makes for a nicer and more immersive reading experience!!

      Yep.. we all need to fall back on these words but first drafts are so rough and just the beginning so it can't be anything but the first stepping stone!! These words can be the most assuring thing ever !!

      I love it as well and it is important to remember because we like things that make us happy, and hearing people get a career out of something they love is always something to look up to haha!! Definitely!

      You're welcome!! Thank you so much for reading and all your kind words!! ❤

      Like

  7. This was so interesting to read, Sophie! I don’t write haha 😅, but it’s always cool to learn about writers’ writing processes and all. That tip about using “said” really stuck out to me because it made me think about how I don’t mind it all when authors use “simpler” words, in fact I find that I usually prefer it? Most of my favorite stories felt readable and straightforward, and I think that speaks to an author’s talent 🙂. This post makes me super curious about your WIP! Good luck 😄💕!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw.. thank you so much for reading even though you don’t write ❤ Yeah even before I was writing I was intrigued by author's progress and all the different ideas people come up with !! Me too and you don't want your writing to look like a thesaurus threw up on it. I like writing which feels natural and is straight forward. I'm glad to hear you do as well ! 🙂
      Haha maybe one day I'll share more about it !! Thank you sooooooo much Belle !!! ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your first two! 👏🏼👏🏼 I couldn’t agree more. I love using “said” because I never notice it when I read? Also, I love books that weave details throughout (*cough* Hunger Games). This is such a great post, Sophie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh.. thank you so much !! I love said, it is the best and yes it doesn’t make the readers drawn to the word so it just feels like a normal conversation and then when they scream the readers can feel that impact more !!
      YESSS, I need to read the hunger games !!
      Thank youuuu!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This post is amazing! All the writing advice is so true and so helpful. I have a pinterest writing board too but it’s basically a bunch of prompts and tips XD. Saving this post for later!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. i can definitely agree about using 132438852 different synonyms for ‘said’ when i was younger because i thought it made my stories seem more advanced!! i’m so glad i eventually learned that it’s perfectly fine to use ‘said’ 😂😂

    and #7 also really resonated with me; using minimal description in emotional scenes really helps the reader connect with the story because they get to actively visualize some of it with their own imagination!! 😀 this post was soooo helpful, Alice Oseman’s quote was REALLY inspiring for me to read. it’s so beautiful to do something just because it makes you happy, that’s really rare these days!

    i loved reading this!! hope you’re well ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I was reading an old piece once and I don’t think I used said once and I had all these other versions which just felt forced throughout it so I’ve definitely learnt not to be afraid of said!! It is a useful word, haha!!
      I think minimal description can be really useful, it feels kind of quiet and haunting so it builds a bit of an atmosphere which can be so effective and like you said the readers have to visualise things and they can put a lot into the well-placed silence so it is really great I find !!
      Ahh… that makes me so happy!! Thank you Ash!!
      I know I loved that quote so much!! We rarely get to see that people prioritise happiness in that way so it was heart-warming to read and inspiring !!
      Thank you sooo much ! ❤ And thank you, I hope you are well too !!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is such an amazing advice post!
    You’ve put everything so simply and I am really impressed because a lot of advice posts I’ve seen online are super confusing! There’s so much to remember!
    Amazing post, Sophie ❤ ❤
    – Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Emma !! ❤
      I'm glad it came across as simple and easy to read as that was what I was going for !! There is a lot of advice out there so it can be very hard to know what to do so making it a bit simpler helps me personally !!
      Thank you, that means a lot !! ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hello Sophie!!
    I really love these tips. Thank you for sharing!
    Perfecting scene descriptions is something that I’m working on. I hate writing scene descriptions haha. I never liked reading long descriptions of scenes, and when I started writing, I thought that I had to describe every detail that’s in it. It was when I started paying attention to the scene descriptions in my favourite books when I’ve realized that you don’t have to spend too much time describing what is in the setting, since the reader can fill in much of the scene using their imagination!
    I can’t agree more about Alice Oseman’s tip about doing what makes us happy. It’s great to keep this in mind especially when we are stuck in a frustrating part of our writing or writing journey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Sophie !!
      I’m so glad you liked reading these tips !!
      It is hard to describe scenes as there can be a lot going on so you want to make it easy for your readers to follow but not over describe everything !! It isn’t my favourite to write either, I think my favourite is dialogue!! Yes definitely I think a learning point for me was getting to trust the reader and that they don’t need everything spelled out for them as they can fill in blanks and use their imagination. It is often rewarding for them to do so as well!!
      Yes I loved that quote as it just reminds you why you are doing this and that is brings the best out in you and your work!! Definitely important to remember in those rough patches !!
      Thank you for reading !! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely, mastering scene description is an art I think 🙂 I love writing dialogues as well. They are the part of writing that flow the smoothest for me. Happy writing and stay well!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Girl, I NEEDED THIS POST. So thank you so much haha. I suck at writing, it is not my best subject at all and I am not exaggerating. This post was very helpful and I will be using these tips often. I just love your style of writing ahh, I hope we can support each other because I’m relatively a new blogger!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. AH these tips are all so good and such great reminders as I’m heading into a new project! I used to be so afraid of “said” and always wanting to find new, more elaborate words, but said is a word that could and should be used and I’m getting a little more at ease with that fact the more I write! And yes to first drafts. It’s so hard to know you’re writing something that’s not that great, but we have to do this in order to make it even better later on. We can’t work with a blank page 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay I’m so glad these tips could be helpful and best of luck with your new project !!! 💛
      I know I was always told that said is a bad word but it is really good and useful at times so I like having the reassurance to use it !! 😊
      Definitely, it really is just the first stepping stone on this journey so you need to do it so you can work on it later. You definitely can’t compare it to an end product !! YES, you can’t work on a blank page !!
      Thank you for reading !! 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Ah, this post came at the perfect time since I’m in the middle of brainstorming a WiP!! Thank you so much for sharing these tips, and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be coming back to this post in the middle of my writing process ❤ I really like the word said! I don't know why some people think you shouldn't use it! I also like that generalized audience quote by John Steinbeck! Whenever I see a tweet, headcannon, whatever about someone's favorite/least favorite trope, storyline, etc., I always immediately think that I should include the thing they like/not include the thing they don't like. But I think it's super important to ignore what certain people want and write what you want to read, or what you know is right for your book instead—because no one story theme or trope is everyone's favorite! Also, I know that first drafts are *supposed* to suck. But idk why I feel bad for writing bad ones, because I have this irrational fear that someone's gonna find it, read it, and then judge me for my bad writing 😅

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh.. that is so exciting that you are working on a WIP !! It is always a fun time then stressful then fun again and so on 😂
      I hope this could be helpful in some way !! 💛💛 Thank you !!
      Same !! I know I was always told to use other words for said but it is a good word !! When you try to use any word but said I don’t think it helps your writing at all !!
      I thought Steinbecks quote was really good as well. I do the same when I see people mention things like that but like you said you have to include what you want and what works for the story otherwise it can be full of loads of things and honestly it is probably impossible to include everything everyone likes 😂 so true if a favourite was a universal thing the world would be a lot simpler and not in the good way !! 😅
      I know self doubt when writing a draft is the worse and I feel the need to throw it away because it is that bad. I would hate for people to read my first draft too but it is the first stepping stone you have to take. I always try to remind myself of this !!
      Best of luck with your writing !!! 💕

      Like

  16. Another wonderful post. You’ve definitely put a lot of thought, effort and research into your writing 💕
    I think the said rule works both ways tbh. If you’re obsessively trying not to use it then it can come out reading a bit like a thesaurus but at the same time if you overuse it, it does grate on the reader. (I almost threw a review book across the room because it said ‘said’ about a dozen times on one double page). And I definitely agree about varying long and short. If people use the same sentence structure continuously, especially with short sentences, it doesn’t end up reading like fiction, instead it sounds like a list.
    And yes you should definitely write for yourself 💕 you can’t try to create something for everyone else as it’s impossible, like you said, to please everyone. Plus it’ll just push you to lose your passion and motivation.
    Yes I definitely agree that there isn’t one path to becoming a writer either. Every author has a different backstory and I don’t think you have to have a lot of English degrees to be a great writer.
    I can only really think of three bits of advice. 1) Vary your sentence starters. If you make every one of them begin with the characters name or he/she it reads like a list of actions not a story. 2) Leave it a while before reading things back through. I’ve noticed that when you go to check your own writing for mistakes immediately after finishing it you end up missing them as you automatically read it in the correct way. 3) Even Harry Potter got rejected. It’s got to be one of the most popular books of all time so the people making these decisions can definitely be wrong and a rejection isn’t the end of the world (even though I imagine it would definitely feel like it).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Charlotte !! And thank you for saying that. I spend too much time on Pinterest when I should be writing !! 🙈but at least it is kind of productive 😂
      That’s true actually it does work both ways. The goldilocks effect, you need it just right !! Wow yeah that is too much, getting your dialogue pacing is important !!
      I agree sentence structure can so effect how the writing comes across and even the emotion of the writing so it is important to know what to use and when. You don’t want it sounding like a list !!
      I think it is really important as sometimes you can get lost in trying to get everything for everyone so remembering why you started this story and what you want it to be is so important !! It will make you lose your passion if you do anything else I agree !!
      Yesss thank you “every author has a different backstory” so important !!

      Oohhh I have never thought of varying sentence starter but that is great advice as it can help it feel like a story.
      Yesss leaving it a while can make you notice so many more things. And I make a lot of mistakes tbh so it’s important !!
      So true about rejection. It is hard but hearing stories like this can motivate you and remind you to keep going !!
      Thanks for sharing all your wonderful advice !! 💛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve never used it but I’ll have to try it out sometime. Although tbh it’ll probably distract me a lot too 😂
        Ooh that’s a good way of putting it.
        Yeah definitely. Especially for the emotion like you’ve said.
        And then it will just end up lacking the emotion that you mentioned before. And without that passion it very likely won’t stand out. Plus by trying to please everyone surely it would be full of contradictions.

        Ooh I’m glad to have came up with a suggestion then ☺️
        And I’m sure everybody makes mistakes. Its odd how you automatically read it how it should be it you reread your work too soon.
        That fact just always surprises me too tbh. Like how on earth was HP turned down?
        And I’m glad you found it useful 💕

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes it can be very addictive, you’ve been warned !! 😂
          ahha thank you !! It can really effect it all !! Exactly, you have to put a bit of yourself in to get the best out of your writing so passion is important. Yeah, you really can’t please everyone in terms of taste!!

          yes thank you !! 🙂
          I know it is peculiar!! Brains are weird things 😂😂
          I know, it is crazy to think now. You can’t imagine it !!
          Yes thank you so much !! 💞

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Cue more hours of me getting distracted 😂😂
            That’s so true!! And that should keep you inspired to carry in as well. And it’s impossible.
            Yep they are 😂
            I know!! I bet whoever turned it down is kicking themselves.

            Liked by 1 person

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