Trust in serendipity to bring you the information you’re looking for while doing research. Once you start looking, you’ll be surprised how often it will fall right into your lap. Sources include TV documentaries, newspaper articles, blogs, a random conversation, or whatever.
Keep your eyes open! No matter how weird the subject, the information is out there somewhere. Somehow the Universe does a great job of delivering it in the strangest ways. Keep your eyes and ears open. The other day I found an old program I’d recorded months ago on my DVR that fit in perfectly with something I was researching for my current WIP. Once you make up your mind to find it, you will.
Once I start writing a story, it’s all I want to do. It becomes my obsession. However, life must go on. Errands need to be run, house and yard work needs to be done, exercise should still be a priority. Much to my surprise, I’ve found that some of my best ideas and solutions to “plot holes” come when I’m doing some mindless chore like washing dishes or driving a familiar road, not when I’m laboring away on the computer. This has made those times much easier to tolerate. I’ve even looked forward to trips into town, knowing that I’ll undoubtedly get some good ideas and insights along the way.
If you live in a city where you have to pay extremely close attention while driving, this may not work for you. I’m fortunate enough to live in the boonies with ten miles of country road before I even get to the highway, then another five before I get into my little town. If you’re not so fortunate, mowing the grass, vacuuming, and exercising are also excellent for getting into the “zone.”
When writing a story from multiple viewpoints, I find it helpful to concentrate on one character at a time. That way I can really get into his or her head and trace the story line as it plays out for them. Maintaining the proper chronology seems easier as well. This is most common for secondary/supporting characters as opposed to your protagonist, who is driving the story.
I tend to get ideas for scenes that don’t necessarily fit where I am writing, especially a first draft. In other words, I don’t start with Chapter One and proceed in order. When an idea comes, I need to get it written right away, or it will evaporate. This works for me, but does require paying attention to the story’s timeline and keeping everything in the proper sequence. My main point is not to ignore an idea when it comes your way. They can be fragile and disappear if you don’t capture them when they’re fresh in your mind.
Beta readers are worth their weight in gold. Make sure your story is as good as you can possibly make it yourself before sending it out to them. You waste their time as well as your own when they pick up issues you could have fixed yourself with one more edit.
Definitely spellcheck! There’s no excuse for spelling errors! Proper usage of homonyms (e.g. their, there, and they’re) is one thing spellcheckers will miss as well as simply typing the wrong word. We all tend to read right over them in our own work, but there’s no excuse for blatant garden-variety typos that a spellchecker should catch.
I have made this mistake before and had things pointed out that I planned to fix. My first draft tends primarily to be action and dialog, any imagery and emotion sometimes missing entirely, or more of the “tell” mode instead of the preferred “show.” I have learned to wait until I’ve really polished the story to my own satisfaction before handing it over to a critique group or beta reader. Bear in mind it is probably the only version of your story that they’ll ever read. Don’t you want it to be your best work?
Including a character from another country, ethnicity, or culture in your story adds texture and interest. Unless it’s already one with which you’re familiar, however, be sure to research it so your details are accurate. Otherwise, those who know better will either think you’re clueless or even be offended.
One of my favorite movies is “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” It demonstrates the concept of culture shock beautifully. Stories always need conflict, so this is another way you can create some between your characters. It’s also fun and interesting to learn about other places. If you’ve always lived in the same place your entire life, you may not realize how different even the state or country next door is from what’s familiar to you.
When I worked for NASA they had us take Cultural Awareness training since we were working with people from all over the world. They pointed out that cultural norms are not right or wrong, they just are. It’s unfair to judge another culture based on your own because you simply don’t know how they evolved. Learning about the history of an area is another way to understand the underlying programming for individuals who either lived through it or its aftermath.
I’ve probably said this before, but when I get stuck trying to visualize something, I go out to Pixabay or simply google whatever it is to find some pictures. It can really help me describe something when I’m having difficulty finding the right words. If you can’t see it in your mind when you describe it, the reader probably won’t, either.
Having a visual “story board” fits well with this. Grab some pictures of your characters as well as various scenes from your story. This is especially helpful if you tend to write primarily action and dialog. They’re important, of course, but imagery is important to make the story really come alive. Otherwise, it may wind up reading like a screen play, which really doesn’t establish a bond with reader like visual and emotional details.
There are multiple ways to maintain suspense. Withholding information is one technique, but sometimes you can actually build more suspense by telling the reader more instead of less. Blatant surprises your reader didn’t see coming can backfire when they find them irritating.
You can still keep the reader wondering what will happen by giving them more information. If the reader knows what’s going on behind the scenes and that the protagonist is in danger, they’ll be biting their nails, wanting to warn them, and wondering how the hero or heroine will handle it.
One way to think about this is to consider whether stories about the Titanic are any less suspenseful for knowing how it ends?
I was actually surprised when I discovered Amazon giveaways work rather well. You have to “buy” as many copies as you want to give away, but the good news is that it actually counts toward your ranking! If you lower the price before doing it, you can do so for relatively little cost. Some places charge your horrible fees to give away your book, which is ridiculous for us indie authors! Plus, they usually insist on print copies while Amazon lets you do a giveaway with your e-books.
This is one way to get Amazon to help promote your book. They do the distribution, which simplifies the process. I have found it to be one of the most cost-effective promotions available, especially if you lower your book price before setting it up.
Authors all want to gather positive reviews, not only because they’re encouraging and feed your ego, but because they help readers decide if they’ll like it and then, hopefully, buy it. Being an active reviewer yourself is good karma and helps you network with others.
You can learn a lot about writing from other author’s work, both negative and positive. Once in a while something in a book may drive you to distraction. When this happens, think long and hard about whether you’ve ever been guilty of the same faux pas. When you read something that makes you hope you can write that well someday, spend some time analyzing what made it so outstanding so you can incorporate a similar technique in your work.
As an author I don’t know what I’d do without Wikipedia. It is the first place I go when I want to get a fundamental and easy to understand glimpse at something. If I need to do more research, I do, but more often than not I find everything I need for the purposes of a novel right there. If you haven’t used them, you should try them.
They are a nonprofit who relies on donations and hopes to keep it ad-free. If you use them, I encourage you to donate. They are a tremendous resource and it’s beyond refreshing to be free of ads distracting your attention.