Thursday, January 7, 2016

Take a Challenge! by Susan Tuttle

Susan Tuttle
Our first full week of 2016 is over! I can hardly believe it. As we stare down this new year, many of us have made resolutions or are focused on One Word for the upcoming months. New habits and new focuses are wonderful to have. They help us form a fresh start for the days ahead, but what about a new challenge?

If we don’t constantly challenge ourselves as writers, we grow stagnate, and our readers will feel it. It can be easy to churn out what we know, after all, there’s a certain comfort level in the familiar. And while familiar is good for readers, losing the fresh angle to our voice is not.

So this year I challenge you to take on a challenge. Here’s some ideas for varying levels of writers:

1.  If you write full length, try a novella or even flash fiction to tighten your words and plot. This forces you to focus on the main points of your story along with truly considering each word. In tightening sentences you’ll discover new ways to say old things, continue to grow your vocabulary, and ditch overused words.

2.  On the flip side, if you write shorter length, try a full length. Dive into the extra word count that will push you to learn how to weave in secondary characters with, perhaps, their own plots. Learn to juggle the small story within the big. Deepen descriptions. Expand the world you’re creating.

3.  If you’re a Pantser, try at least outlining your story. Push yourself to envision at least the bare bones of where the story needs to travel and write those notes down. You may find it saves you from rabbit trails and major editing later on.

4.  Read books on craft and apply what you learn! Many of us are out of school, but we should never stop learning. Take a month, put away your computer, and pick up a book on something you’re struggling to learn. Some great ones are:

a.  Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Brown & King
b.  Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfield
c.  Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

5.  Show your work to others. It can be scary, but the feedback is invaluable. And I’m not talking about people who love you and will gush over your words even when they are not so gushable. If a writer is going to grow, they need constructive criticism. You should have both a great critique partner and also unbiased readers. It’s scary, but at some point you have to put your work out there.

6.  Attend a writers’ conference. Yes, I know, many of us are introverts (my hand cannot raise any higher on this one), but the connections you make—both industry wise and on a friendship level—will enrich your writing life. Plus, to go with challenge #5, the education you receive at these conferences is amazing. I’ve attended both large scale and smaller scale conferences (ACFW and Breathe are 2 of my favorite) and have only grown in my writing life as an outcome.

I’d love to hear any other challenges you may already be taking or have done in the past to improve your writing. We can all learn from one another. Writing may feel like a solitary thing, but it’s in community that we grow the most.

Happy New Year, friends!

Susan Tuttle is a homeschooling mom of three who is crazy about coffee, dark chocolate, and words—both reading and writing them. Combine that love of words with her passion for leading women to a life-changing encounter with Christ, and you’ll find her crafting Inspirational Contemporary Romance stories laced with humor, love, and healing transformations. When not cheering on her Ironman hubby, chasing the family dog, or tackling complex math problems to teach her kids (yes, even the third grader), you can catch Susan at her blog, Steps.

Susan contributes on the first Thursday of each month.

 

1 comment:

  1. Susan, this is such a great post and your advice is spot on! I used to be a total panster and had constant plot problems. One day I made a list of key points and things went smoother - not perfect. I continue to plot more with each book and it truly helps.

    Also, thanks for the heads up about Make A Scene. I have the other two books you mentioned so
    I definitely want to check this one out.

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