Writing Engagement – A checklist of what you should be doing

In the previous week, I shared with you my checklist of things I try to avoid as a writer or be aware of in my words. It will most likely be of no surprise, to now expect a list of what you should include as a writer. This is of course just my opinion but you may find some use for it never the less. 

Feel free to print this off and use it as a guideline.

  • Dramatic Characters – Especially if there are many. e.g. a fat man could cause the room to shake as he slugs down the stairs. 
  • Good description – Weave it in. Choose the right detail. What makes them unique? Use the character’s viewpoint and personality. Minimum, relevant details allow the reader to use there imagination.   
  • Like a film – Tell the story like you’re watching a film or looking through a camera. All you’re doing is saying what you see. Good characters have the control. 
  • Work in reverse – A handy tool if you’re struggling to create your plot. If you know what the climax or end of your story is. Write that first and work in reverse order. 
  • Use yourself – Using your own fears, desires, passions etc is a great way to create depth in characters if you’re struggling. An overly descriptive person (me) who doesn’t understand the meaning of words but uses them to be important (not me), see how you can create from yourself.
  • To begin with – Try to use different ones such as, I imagine, I feel, I picture, I can picture, I think.  
  • Be precise and exact with words – Don’t waffle. Get rid of anything that doesn’t directly add to the story. If you love what you’ve written, save it for another story where it fits better. 
  • Be creative – Think outside of the box.  
  • The fourth wall – A handy technique in some stories, breaking that fourth wall and talking to the reader is a great way to keep them entertained and adds wonderful depth if done right. 
  • Italics – Use italics for someone’s exaggerated wording in speech. 
  • Set up expectations – Make the reader continue to read in order to find the answer. E.g. refer to something that happened in the past but don’t tell the reader what it is. Keep them guessing. 
  • Fitting naturally – Anything you write needs to fit naturally in the story in order for it to flow well for the reader. Don’t write random accounts of a past memory if nothing the character is doing would cause the recollection to appear. 
  • Foreshadowing – Foreshadowing focuses on dropping hints about certain things that the reader may or may not pick up on. If done well it can really bring the ending together nicely. 
  • Prologue – Prologues are sometimes a great way to begin a story. Whether it’s the beginning of a romance in which someone gets divorced or the beginning of a horror where someone wakes up on the floor, covered in blood. It can be a great way to engage the reader. 
  • A good plot – Character + Problem = your plot. Meet the requirements for a story. 
  • Twists and turns – This goes unsaid. You want an exciting story. Otherwise, you might as well be writing a dictionary.             
  • Character profiles – Create a profile of a character and stick to it. Write every little detail. The evilest of people make sense in their own head. 
  • Use the five sensesSight, sound, smell, taste, touch. 
  • Living to the scene – Live to the scene and character. An old lady, for example, might notice someone not wearing a coat if it’s raining out. Simple things like this can remind you of the character and connect to them more. 
  • Metaphors – Be clever with your words. 
  • Words saying more – Create hidden meanings with your words for example through attitude, beliefs and feelings. 
  • Fewer words – It’s better to have fewer words that are more relevant than to drone on.
  • Make it obvious when speaking – Don’t make readers have to use there brain too much. They will lose interest. Use hints, yes, but don’t make things difficult for your intended audience. 
  • Write like you’re having a good day -Try to write like you’re having a good day. Put 100% into your work to create good work. 
  • Something happens often – Something exciting needs to happen fairly often to keep the reader turning the pages. Every 250 pages minimum is a good guide to keep people interested in the story. 
  • Trends and fads – Try to avoid writing about specific trends and fads to avoid the story seeming outdated and not connecting with younger readers. Usually, there’s no need for such specifics anyway. 

I will continue to add to this checklist as I add more into my notes. Writing is indeed a learning curve and it never stops. If you think of something you feel like should be on the list or perhaps you disagree with something. Comment below and let me know. I’ll reply ASAP to your comments.

Writing Avoidances – A checklist of what not to do

When I first ventured forth into the world of writing I had a lot to learn and made a lot of mistakes. Over the past year, I have begun compiling a checklist. This is something I use as a guideline to follow when checking overdrafts. It’s quite simple, a list of things I like to make sure I avoid. Some points are what most writers would also recommend avoiding whilst other points such as ‘Offensive language’ isn’t a rule as such and many writers including myself will use certain language if they feel it’s needed as part of the story. For example, I felt that swearing in Detective Mentis added to the development of the detective and detailing for his personality. 

Feel free to print this off and use it as a guideline.

  • Unnecessary Description – Don’t describe how someone got to the door. It’s not worth the words. Leave such things to the imagination of the reader. 
  • Don’t be afraid of ‘said’ – Sometimes we feel like using ‘he said’ ‘she said’ dulls our writing. Not at all. By avoiding these you may find yourself overcomplicating writing and using unnecessary wording. 
  • Predictability – Don’t be predictable in a story, it’s just boring. Wallpaper could be skin. A lamp could be a portal to another world. 
  • Be strict – You have to be strict on yourself when writing. Cutting over the unnecessary parts and only using things that are relevant to the story and add something to the plot. It’s easy to get carried away with words if you’re not careful.  See what I mean? 
  • Bad Grammar and Punctuation – This is a given. If a reader spots any mistakes then they may not read on. Whether it takes 1 draft or 20. Make sure you keep your readers turning the page. 
  • Too many characters – If you have to keep a record of the characters you’ve used then you most likely have too many. Simplify the amount you use. Characters can play multiple roles in a story. 
  • Write for the intended audience – Keep in mind who your audience is.  There’s no point writing a story about a loveable giraffe if your audience is middle-aged adults. 
  • Characters not being unique – If you create flat, boring characters then the pillars of your story will not be able to hold the weight. 
  • Overusing speech tags – Every writer has ones that they favor. Watch how often you use them. ‘He said’ ‘She said’ are your basic speech tags.
  • Using names too often – If you mention Derick at the beginning of the paragraph you don’t need to remind people of his name 4 times over in that same paragraph. Once is plenty. 
  • Inconsistency – People’s names, behaviors, habits occupations all need to be consistent throughout your story. Don’t make Derick a salon owner and then change it to Dennis the golfer halfway through.
  • Being too experimental – It’s good to be different but don’t go so far outside of the box that you can’t even see it. Remember your audience and don’t overcomplicate the story. Different, not confusing. 
  • Character Actions – Derick is a vocal, no-nonsense character and yet he’s just kept his mouth quiet when someone had a go at him. Would Derick do that? Don’t make your readers think “Why the hell would they do that?” Characters actions need to fit.
  • Stakes need to be high – All plots have a cliffhanger or problem that needs solving but for a story to work the stakes need to be high (and make sense). Derrick isn’t going to risk his own life to save a fish, however, he would risk his own neck to save the life of his child. 
  • Backstory/memories – These are important components to add depth to characters and a storyline. However, don’t info dump. You have to weave these details in.
  • Don’t add random characters – You may have a problem in your story that has created a plot hole. Don’t take the easy route and add a character to fix the problem. That ruins the story. It might take another edit but it’ll be worth it. 
  • Offensive language – Back to what I was saying about your intending audience. Don’t swear in a kids book and don’t put gory scenes in a romance. Focus on your audience. 
  • Don’t use a simple plot – You need to make your story seem new and fresh. Like nothing that has been done before – even if it has. Without being too out of the box. You need to find a balance between simple and complicated. 
  • Don’t make it too long and wordy – Sentences should be short and to the point unless necessary. Keep an eye on your word count for your genre and only use what is relevant to your story. (The joys of editing)
  • Bad structure – Don’t put all the best bits of the story in the middle. Spread out the good bits to keep the readers going.  Again, who is your audience? 
  • Italics – Sometimes you may use italics to set something apart on the page which is fine, just don’t do it too often. No more than one line should be necessary. 
  • Don’t stereotype – Generally, you shouldn’t stereotype unless it’s obvious i.e. someone fat making a lot of noice coming down the stairs. Don’t stereotype other than in the simplect form otherwise you risk being called out by the reader and that can easily effect reputation. 

This is the checklist as it stands now but I will without a doubt add to it as and where from my writer’s notebook. The great thing about being a writer is that the learning never stops.

Meanwhile, if you think of something you feel like should be on the list or perhaps you disagree with something on the list. Comment below and let me know. I’ll reply ASAP to your comments.