Writing Tips  |  Revising Tips

1. Be open to new experiences

Whether a dramatic new experience--a year to live in a different country or community, let's say--or something more low-key (a new route home from school, talking to a kid who sits by herself in the cafeteria or to the person who cleans your school)--new experiences help your brain to see things in new ways and put things together in ways that make a good story.  If you're worried about what others will think, just tell yourself (or tell them) what you are doing is necessary if you are going to be a writer.

2. Listen

When people talk to you, listen not just to their words but to their tone, and pay attention to the expression on their face and the way they are standing or sitting.  Practice writing the way people really talk, so someone could tell without "he said" or "she said" whether a line of dialogue was spoken by the cool new kid at school or by the curmudgeonly attendance officer.

3. While you are listening, don't forget to look, smell, taste, and touch

Pay attention to the sensory details around you, and use those details to create realistic scenes.  The more specific your scenes--the more you use sensory details to describe exactly, exactly how your characters' world smells, sounds, etc.--the more universal the characters' experiences will seem and the more easily readers will be able to place themselves in the characters' world and understand what they are experiencing. 

4. Read

OK, you knew I was going to say that, because it's on every single list of writing tips you've ever read.  But I'll suggest reading things you've never read before: browse around your library in sections you don't normally go in, pick up books you've never heard of.  You could even volunteer to shelve books at your local library, to force yourself to handle books you wouldn't normally pick up, as long as you save most of the serious browsing for hours when you're not volunteering.

5. And write

It takes a lot of discipline to sit down at a computer when you don't think you have anything to say, but the more you can make it a habit by writing at the same time, in the same place every day, the easier it will be to "find" the time.  It may be hard to believe, but you'll actually be busier in future stages of life than you are right now, so don't wait for huge chunks of time to materialize later on.  Besides, huge chunks of time are scary when you are afraid you don't have anything to write.  I think smaller chunks of time (an hour or so) are less scary and, therefore, more productive.  (As for when to write--I have heard that morning is best because that's when your creative energy is highest.  I liked writing during my daughter's morning nap because then I could spend time with her the rest of the day knowing that I had already done at least one thing for myself that day.  But I think consistency is more important than whether you write in the morning, afternoon, or evening.  Find a time you can stick with, and stick with it.)  And no, browsing writing websites doesn't count as writing.  : )