Posts Tagged ‘learning’

I know I promised to blog the link to each chapter of my book ‘Writing Tips 101: How To Be A Good Writer’ but I actually forgot. Sincerest apologies!

About a month ago I posted the first lesson on Planning. The next lesson is on plots and subplots.

Check out the lesson by clicking on the below link:


If you have any comments, suggestions or questions either post them either here or on Wattpad.

I will post the next link in a few days.


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What has inspired this blog you may ask? Well the other day I was reading a story on wattpad and I left some comments on a chapter to help the author improve their writing. The story wasn’t bad, it was actually quite good, but there were issues. For one, there was a lot of telling and not enough showing. There were some badly structured sentences and some tense and grammar issues. This author mentioned his writing needed work and welcomed criticism. That was all the encouragement I needed so that is exactly what I did.

Now before you think he took offence at it, I’ll say now that he didn’t. What did happen shocked me, I must confess. Another random reader came along and replied to one of my comments saying just two words…. ‘stop hating’.

At first I was shocked and it stumbled me. I had to think quick and for a moment I panicked. Had I been too harsh? Was my comment rude and thoughtless? Then as I read through the previous comments, I noticed she said the same thing to another person who made a very similar comment to mine. I looked through all my comments and previous comments and came to this conclusion: there was no hating whatsoever.

This girl who took offence at it assumed we were being harsh. I wrote back and said we weren’t hating, we were offering constructive criticism. She responded immediately saying ‘no it’s hating’. I asked her if she wanted to improve her own writing and if so, would she want to accept criticism. Do you know what she said? I’m sure you’ve guessed it already. She said no!

So this is what inspired me to write this blog. So how important is constructive criticism?

My answer… It’s extremely important! If you don’t accept criticism you’re never going to become a better writer.

I’ll be honest, criticism can hurt. A lot. Being told your work is crap is like adding salt to an open wound. You feel like your heart is about to burst out of your chest. It’s the most painful thing you’ll endure as a writer. You’ve spent hours slaving over a story…it’s your baby! Then to be told it has flaws…wow it’s the most crushing feeling. Sometimes it means having to rewrite your entire story. All you want to do is cry. Burn the entire manuscript. Give up being an author all together. Trust me, we’ve all been there.

All I have to say to this is: Never give up.

Accepting criticism makes you a better writer, trust me. You’ll learn where you’re falling short and soon enough you’re ten times better at it. It will improve your future writing, which in turn won’t have as many criticisms. It’s a happy outcome really.

Once you’ve learnt how to overcome the heartbreak of criticisms, you’ll realise how important it is. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still feel that twinge of hurt when someone pulls your work to pieces but you’ll hold your head high, take it on board and make improvements.

This is basically what I told that girl. I sent her a private message because I didn’t want to argue with her in the comments of this guy’s story. I learnt she was 13 so she still has to learn a lot about writing and I just explained how important criticism is. Her final response was ‘I just don’t like criticism’. Well, duh. Who doesn’t like criticism? Okay, some people might but not many of us do. For me I don’t like it per se but in another sense I do. I don’t like that pang when I’ve been told something doesn’t work but I love learning how to improve and I love how much better my writing is afterwards.

So to finish off, let me stress once more that while criticism isn’t nice, it’s so important. You will become a much better writer because of it.

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write what you know

I hope you’re up for a bit of reading as this blog will be a long one. Today I’m writing about me and the lessons I’ve learned while establishing myself as a writer. I’m hoping that the mistakes I made will help other people to become a good writer.

There is a lot to writing but one important thing to remember when you write is to write what you know.

That’s an expression I live by. As a writer you will always have to do some research because we don’t know everything. However, our own experience will often contribute to how well we write. For example, when we write about pain it’s usually because we’ve experienced it ourselves.

This is where my own experience will come in. You see, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. At five years of age I would write the cliché princess is locked in a tower, prince charming saves her, they fall in love, they marry and live happily ever after. Embarrassing I know but I was five, what do you expect?

This went on for a good few years, I was obsessed with princesses. Then as I got older, I stopped writing for a while and just read. I read so many books and when I started writing again, I had ideas but they were ideas from other books I’d read. I struggled to write something new and unique. I believe now that because I was so young, lack of experience contributed to that.

When I was a teenager, primarily between the ages of 13 and 17, I really got into writing teenage romance. Unfortunately, I had the same problem as when I was five. I was obsessed with happily ever afters’ so all I wrote about was meeting Mr Right, falling in love and everything was perfect. It didn’t help that I read a lot of teen romances so the ideas I had were very similar to what I had read.

At the time I thought my writing was good. I got my friends and family to read it and they agreed. It really made me happy knowing they thought I had potential as a writer so I kept on at it. They were the same stories just with different character names and different events. But it was the same romance story, the same happy ending, the same perfect relationships. To me though, I thought it was great! I thought any publisher would snap up my work and call me the next prodigy.

Oh how wrong I was.

When I was about 18 or 19 I stopped writing because something was niggling at the back of my mind, something that told me my writing really wasn’t that good. I also got fed up with writing the same thing over and over again and I had no new ideas. Around the same time I found out that the compliments I got from friends and family were lies. They said my writing was good because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. What they didn’t realise was that lying to me hurt my feelings more than if they had been honest from the beginning.

The upside though is that I learnt a big lesson from it. The most important lesson I learnt is that you can’t always trust your friends and family to give you honest feedback on your work. I learnt when you write you have to have an imagination, you have to have life experience, you have to have a love for writing.

The thing is though, I had imagination, I had a bit more life experience and I love, love, love writing. However, at that time I didn’t know how to apply those to writing. So yes, I took a long, well earned break. In the back of my mind I always had a desire to write but I had no motivation to do so.

Then when I was 23 I moved out of home for the first time. A friend and I moved in together. For six months we lived together and had a great time. Then a few months later I got a new job, moved away from my family, into my own place and my friend got married. It was when I moved away that I started getting ideas for writing again.

The break I had did wonders. I had new ideas and I started to understand what writing was all about. Of course I wasn’t a pro, I’m still not a pro, but I was better than I once was. I had a lot more life experience behind me and I learnt how to use it appropriately to make my stories good and believable.

While my sisters and I had a fun childhood together, we weren’t as close as some siblings are. Why? Because of the age gap. My oldest sister was born in 1972, my second oldest sister was born in 1978 and I was born in 1982. We got frustrated with each other because we were all the wrong age to do things together. How is this relevant to my writing? I’ve experienced sibling rivalry, especially when there is a large gap in age. This can be very useful if I’m writing about family and siblings, I understand the rivalry.

My Nana died when I was 13 and this devastated me and my family. She was an amazing woman and life just isn’t the same without her. I’ve lost a lot of other friends and family in death too. As heartbreaking as it is, it made me a stronger person. And I can now write about death and I understand the pain, the sorrow, the emptiness. Once again, to write it well you have to experience it.

A few years after my Nana’s death, my mum was diagnosed with depression. I was 17 at the time and many times she tried to kill herself. Thankfully she didn’t succeed. How is this relevant to my writing? After she was diagnosed, I had to grow up quickly because suddenly, with my Dad working full time, I had to run the house while still going to school full time. I researched depression and gained a lot of information on what it is, what causes it and how to help someone with it. This can be very useful if you’re writing about someone with depression. You have to understand it to be able to write it. There is a lot of misconceptions about depression so you really, really, REALLY have to know what you’re talking about.

And one more. I’ve had two jobs where I was subject to bullying and harassment, making my life miserable. It made me learn to stand up for myself and not take crap from anyone. How is this relevant to writing? I’ve experienced a lot of nasty people and this helps me create the villains I need in my novels. On the other hand, if you’re writing about someone going to work and what they experience during the day, it’s easier to write it if you’ve experienced it. It’s not as simple as going to work, type a few words and come home again. A lot happens at work that changes you. Oh and it can make a pretty amusing story too!

These experiences are just skimming the surface, I’ve had many other experiences but I’m just trying to make my point clear. When you write, you write what you know. If you’re writing a scene about heartbreak, usually you’ve experienced it yourself. You write the feelings you once felt and you add some oomph to them to make them relevant to the character.

On wattpad, I have a novel called In Love With Mr Wilson. It’s a teen romance about falling in love but being unable to do anything about it. There’s humour, there’s sadness, there’s angst. Every emotion written in there is written because I’ve experienced that particular emotion somehow. I’ve added a touch to it to make it real to the character and to the reader. The thing is though, if I hadn’t experienced those feelings, I wouldn’t be able to write about them.

And before you ask, yes I remember what I wrote about teen romances above! 🙂 The thing is, I’ve learnt a lot from my teen years and this is not even remotely like what I used to write about. Without sounding arrogant or self-assured, this is one of my best pieces. It’s not going to be published, this is just something I want people to read for free. However, for me it was a breakthrough, proof that I have improved from many years ago. Finally I have written a teen novel that is not the typical ‘they meet, fall in love and live happily ever after’. Yes it has a happy ending and yes two people are in love, but it’s real. Real things happen, people get hurt, they act irrationally, all the things we humans do. Not have a bust up and two seconds later they’re back together again.

Just on a different note for a moment, can I just say how important it is to write and not sound like you? It’s so easy to write the narration and sound as though you’re the one talking. You are the one writing the novel but you’re not the one actually talking. It’s the character that’s talking. Make the character sound like them, not you. This is especially relevant in dialogue. The way you speak will shine through in the dialogue so be mindful of that. I’ve read a lot of stories by amateur writers and this is where most of them fall short. It’s not an easy task but it is possible with a lot of practice.

Here’s a hint for you: go somewhere where there are people talking and just listen. Listen to the way they talk, what they say, how they say it. You will learn a lot!

You want your novel to be alive, you want the characters to be real and have their own personality. Unless you’re writing an autobiography, or you’re specifically giving your character your personality, don’t make them sound like you. As I said, there is still a lot more to writing and you will always have to do research as you can’t write a novel based purely on your own experiences. However, your own experiences will help along the way.

I still view myself as an amateur writer and I always will until I’m published and selling books. One day I will be published, whether a publisher snatches me up or I go down the self publishing route, I guess only time will tell. But one day you will see my book out there to buy. Then and only then will I stop calling myself an amateur.

So in conclusion, write what you know but at the same time make your characters real! Your own experiences will make your novel perfect.

If you wish to read some of my writings, and see for yourself how I write now, please visit wattpad.com. You will find me under my username LisaStanbridge.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to hear how you’ve established yourselves as writers and what experiences you’ve had.

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