In my role as teacher, I have shared these tips with students:
WRITING IS EXERCISE FOR YOUR BRAIN. Some writers might be lucky enough to have ideas just pop into their heads. For me, I have to decide to write. This means, making the conscious effort to put my brain in a writing mode. For me, my brain is usually “idling,” like a car: it’s on but it’s not really moving. When I’m ready to write I have to tell my brain: think about this! When I do this: actually put my thinking cap on, I can feel my brain change; it goes to a deeper level. Almost always, I come away some nugget I can work with.
WRITE IN THE MOST BASIC TERMS. Do NOT take the time to come up with the perfect word or the perfect image. If you’re imagining an old gnarled tree swaying its bare limbs in the dark gray of a storm and at the moment all you could think to write is: It was dark and there was a scary big tree, then write that. You will have many opportunities to come back and work the magic of words and phrasing. What you don’t want is to lose the image you have in your mind. You want to be able to recall that dark afternoon with the tree.
WRITE BIG – Delete nothing at first. Save everything, you never know when you might need it. On your laptop, create a file that’s called: “extra” or “dump” or “deletions.” One day you might decide to cut an entire paragraph because you don’t think it’s serving your main theme and that’s great, you want to pare down your writing but you never know when you might need something you’ve deleted.
READ YOUR WORK THREE WAYS. Use your laptop to create, move your text around, even edit. It’s your main writing utensil. But every now and then, print your story on paper and read it. Your mind reads off of a computer much differently than it does off a piece of paper. I ALWAYS find more edits when I’m reading off of paper rather than my computer. THEN, and this is most important: read your story OUT LOUD. There is a definite rhythm and poetry to how your writing sounds out loud. On paper, you might not notice that two or three words together are fighting for the same sound. Reading aloud also alerts you to word repetition.
REWARD YOURSELF FOR GOOD WRITING. Each day when you pull up your work, before you dive into the parts that need work, reward yourself by reading a paragraph or sentence that you think came out really well. It will put your mind in the right spot, make you think: oh, yeah! I can do this. Let’s write more like this.
LET YOUR WRITING SIT. Whenever possible, let your writing sit. When you let it sit for a day or two and then come back to it, you see all sorts of things that you had missed previously, and new ideas flow forth.