5 Tips to Writing a Story – National Story Telling Week
By: Rachael, redwigwam
It’s coming up to National Story-Telling Week, a great time to listen to magical stories, and maybe even think about writing one of your own. The beauty of writing your own story is that it’s yours. You get to decide whether it’s shared with the world, or whether you want it all to yourself. It isn’t always about getting published or winning a creative writing prize. Creative writing can improve your mental well-being, and even increase self-esteem. A hobby that’s good for your health!
But where do you start?
If you’ve never written a story before, staring at a blank computer screen or piece of paper can be daunting. Don’t panic though, you can do it! Here’s 5 tips ready to help you begin your story.
Write all your thoughts down first
A lot of writers refer to this as ‘word vomit’. If you’re thinking of starting your first story, it’s probably because you have an idea in mind, or something in particular you’d like to write about.
Don’t worry about how it looks, get everything down on paper first – even if it doesn’t make sense. Many successful writers, such as Stephen King and Ernest Hemingway, have said there’s no limit to how bad a first draft can be.
Your first draft is for you.
One way to craft your writing is to read - and read a lot.
Stephen King in his Memoir on Writing says: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
We’d recommend thinking about what genre you’d like to write, then buy books based off that. You’ll start to get a feel for the writing, and you’ll pick up (without realising) different writing styles.
Show, don’t tell
This is something every first-time writer struggles with - but once you get the hang of it, and make it a habit, you’ll be fine!
“Jessica was sad to see her daughter leave for University.”
“Jessica gently dabbed at the tears rolling down her face with a scrunched-up tissue, as she watched her daughter drive away for University.”
Showing involves using description and action to really help the reader experience the story, whereas telling is more of a summary, and a lot simpler. Showing instead of telling is crucial for a reader’s experience.
Here’s some more tips on how to show and not tell:
- Use the Characters Five Senses
The best way to do this is by writing down everything your character can see, touch, hear, smell and taste. Then you can rewrite the scene using strong verbs.
This can be difficult, because when we smell or taste things, we don’t often think about it in a descriptive way, but the more you think about it, the easier it’ll be.
- Use strong verbs
Strong verbs are when a character takes action - such as ‘walk’ or ‘think’.
This helps create a vivid image in the reader’s mind.
- Avoid adverbs
As Stephen King says, adverbs are not your friend.
Adverbs can break a reader’s immersion in the story. It becomes more about the words than the story itself. The story is about the character and the reader – and, unfortunately, you don’t belong there!
An example of an Adverb is:
“Patrick ran quickly into the common room.”
This gets in the way of your reading, when it could be written like this:
“Patrick sprinted at the common room doors, smashing them open.”
- Use dialogue
If you ever find yourself stuck when it comes to showing – rather than telling – use some dialogue. It’s in real time and is always an effective way to show the reader what’s going on. Great dialogue, that flows well, is a great read and it helps the reader see friendships and connections your character has first-hand. All without you ‘telling’ them anything!
Introduce your main character as early as you can
Your main character should be the first-on-stage. Since the plot will revolve around them, it’s important that the reader sees this character first, and develops a relationship with them.
Think about how you want to present them to the world. What’s their name? What do they look like? Don’t stress about the deep stuff at first, your character should unravel as the story unfolds, so there’s plenty of time to give your character more depth later.
Thinking about writing your first story is actually way scarier than getting it down on the page. Once it’s all on paper, you should feel a wave of relief. If you have an idea, just go for it!
Last, but by no means least, remember that writing can be difficult. Make sure to congratulate yourself over everything you achieve.