Writing is a bit like fitness. It's easy to get out of shape if you stop working on it.
That isn’t to say that everyone can keep up with Haruki Murakami, the Japanese author who runs marathons and writes prolifically while the rest of us binge-watch Netflix.
Don't worry though. Even if you're not a best-selling author, there are plenty of tips and tricks to sharpen your prose.
Deborah Stansil and Janet Cooper are two UK-based writers who run a course that equips ghosts and other freelance writers with the skills to pay the bills.
Deborah ghostwrites across a wide range of areas but specialises in fiction (horror and YA), and Janet is a teacher with a degree in creative writing.
They’ve kindly allowed me to share a preview from their Ghostwriting 101 course, which aims to help authors improve their copy, write across different genres and get repeat business.
1.) Use the active voice, not the passive
“In simple terms, active voice is where your character performs an action on a subject
which is stated by the verb in your sentence. Whereas passive voice is where your
character is acted upon by the verb.”
I remember journalism lecturers banging on about this. The passive voice sounds dull and responsive, as if you’re answering a boring question. The active voice is a concise way of delivering information that adheres to the Subject + Verb + Object structure.
Active voice: Stevie (Subject) ate (Verb) the apple (Object).
Passive voice: The apple was eaten by Stevie.
“It’s easy to fall into the trap of over using them and the best way to deal with this issue is to just write them in if they occur naturally, and then when it comes to editing, every time you see one, ask yourself if you really need it.”
I agree. Kill your darlings. I’d also add to this: delete unnecessary adverbs. I know it hurts.
3.) Believable characters
“The key to writing well-rounded and believable characters is for you to get to know those characters inside out and back to front. Don’t view them as a means to an end – view them as real people with a past, a future, opinions, hopes and dreams, and likes and dislikes.”
4.) Show, don’t tell.
“Rather than telling a reader something, show them through your character’s actions.”
This one will happen naturally if your characters are already believable.
5.) Plot outlines and meeting word counts
“The trick to getting the word count right is to get the pacing of the story right. The easiest way to do this is to break your plot outline down into words per section.”
I find that setting a daily word count helps - if you fall short one day you can compensate the next day. This also helps me structure my time more effectively.
For more writing tips and info about the course head to Debbie’s Site, My Random Musings.