I’m hosting a guest post today by Alec John Belle, the talented author of “Shadow People”, a YA paranormal novel.
10 Tips For Becoming A Better Writer
Because I became an author at such a young age, many of my friends and readers want to know tips on how to become a better writer. Over the last year, I’ve learned many important things that I’d like to share.
1. No writer is perfect.
This is a concept that was always a bit hard for me to accept, because I have struggled with perfectionism a lot for most of my teenage years. Once I was able to accept that no writer can be perfect, it made writing a lot more fun. As you write, you’ll find that your skills will grow along with you. Readers have definitely noticed changes from my first book to my third.
2. Keep improving your craft.
This sort of goes hand-in-hand with #1. While you need to write as much as you can, try challenging yourself to do things differently. Write shorter sentences. Try using bigger words (but not too big, because then it’s really noticeable and clutters your work). Try playing around with more metaphors, personification, and other figurative language. As you write, you’ll find what writing style works for you.
3. Don’t listen to the myths.
One of the biggest writing myths I always hear is that books should take a year or longer to write. There are many authors who do not take a year to write a book, and some can even write a book in a month. Another myth is that you need to plot before you write, and that’s not always true. You write at your own speed. You plot if you WANT to plot. Don’t fall into the traps of myths, because when you do, you’ll feel as though you’re doing something wrong. Writing is an art, and you do whatever you need to do without following a specific step-by-step rule book.
4. Write what you want to write.
This may sound obvious, but it’s the truest thing I can say. Write that you’re comfortable with and don’t try to write something just because it’s “in.” If you’re not fully engaged with your story, it will never be as good as you want. Follow your heart. Write what you love.
5. Don’t be afraid.
When I wrote my debut novel, Before I Break, I was absolutely terrified of writing it. It was a story that I knew needed to be told, but didn’t want to deal with the pressures of outside forces telling me I was wrong and causing controversy among readers. Thankfully, my family pushed me to write the book, and I am still very proud of it to this day. A lot of times, banned books turn out to be the best books. There’s a reason for that.
6. Don’t focus on word count.
Obviously word count is important when writing a book, but it’s not what is most important whatsoever. Sure, if you’re looking to go the traditional publishing route, you’ll want to stick to guidelines as much as possible, because agents are picky. But if you’re self-publishing or are with a hybrid publisher or small press, it’s not that important. Write as much as you need to, whether it’s 50,000 words or 120,000 words. It’s all up to you.
7. Don’t think traditional publishing is the only option.
When I started writing, I attempted to find an agent. After getting a ton of rejections (some quite rude), I decided to look elsewhere. I discovered the world of self-publishing and realized there are some truly amazing indie authors out there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do it much longer due to financial reasons and discovered Booktrope, a hybrid publisher. There are so many options out there. If you want your book out there, you can make it happen. Don’t limit yourself to one place.
8. Do let other people read your work (and accept criticism).
When you’ve finished a draft, good chances are you’re going to think your book is the best thing that’s ever been written. When you allow other people to read your work, it allows you to have the opportunity to hear things from a reader’s perspective (someone who isn’t so attached to the book and would catch potential problems). These people are not your editors, but rather friends, family, and other writers who can give you the type of criticism you need to make your work better. Often times, writers want someone to pat them on the back and tell them how perfect the book is. But the truth is, what good is that if it’s not true? In no way am I saying your book is going to suck, and in fact, it might be really good. But every writer needs feedback and every writer, no matter how good, is not perfect (see #1). These people will help you realize the mistakes in your work and will help make it better, and believe me, you want it to be the best that it can be.
9. Edit, edit, and edit some more.
After it’s been critiqued, it’s time to tear through that manuscript. Rip it apart (not literally, although if you do, I suggest you have another copy saved on your computer). Rearrange things, insert new scenes, take out the unnecessary stuff, etc. This will better your writing in the end and applies for all kinds of writing, not just for novels. Once you’ve done that, you can polish it up with revisions. Note: You as the writer should do some of your own editing, but you can’t edit it all. It’s impossible for a writer to edit their own work. Believe me, they’ll all tell you the same thing. You need a professional editor (not a teacher or your mom) who probably has a degree of some kind. Yes, it may be costly, unless you go the traditional publishing or hybrid publishing route, but it’s definitely worth it.
10. Read more.
Reading is what helped me become a better writer. It wasn’t an English class. It wasn’t an editor. It was reading. Reading opened my mind as to how quotations worked, how sentences should be structured, and also showed the the “five sentence” paragraph rule doesn’t really apply in fiction. It showed me that writing can be whatever I want it to be, but grammar, sentence structuring, quotations, etc. are all an important part of writing. The more you read, the better writer you’ll become. If you take any of my advice, I hope this is the one, as this is what helped me the most. Reading and writing go hand in hand, and it takes a reader to be a writer.
About the Book
Title: Shadow People
Author: Alec John Belle
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Heather Hawkins, a newly changed Monster Hunter, thought life couldn’t get any more complicated after the incident at the tower one week ago. With Kadin gone, she thinks life will finally go back to the way it should be. Until The Council calls a meeting for her and Hayden to discuss the incident. Hayden Williams is released from the hospital and wants to put all of the things he saw that night to the back of his mind. When The Council decides to meet with him, his hope is that he can get it done and over with so he can finally move on with his life. That doesn’t happen when he realizes his family has a big secret; one that he is very much a part of. Other forces against the Monster Hunters have different plans. Heather, Hayden, and their friends start unraveling the truth about the world they live in, and dangers are lurking in the shadows. A danger that could lead them all to their demise. In the second book in this paranormal young adult series, secrets will be revealed, and enemies will join hands, leaving you with an ending that no one could see coming.
Alec John Belle resides in Carson City, NV, where he is currently attending high school for his senior year. At the age of 16 he wrote his first novel, Before I Break. His hobbies include reading, writing, and obsessing over Pretty Little Liars. He writes paranormal and contemporary young adult, but often blends real social issues into his paranormal works. Alec can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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