Things I’ve Learned About Writing

A laptop computer and a cup of coffee. Caption reads: "Coffee always helps."

Things I’ve Learned About Writing blog post by Iris Carden.

Here’s a list of things I’ve learned about writing:

  • The absolute best way to find typos is to publish the project, then pick it up and read it a month later.
  • Whatever the problem is, coffee is the solution.
  • Using humour is tricky. Some people don’t like my sense of humour. These people are wrong.
  • The finished word count should be however many words it took to tell the story.
  • Ordinary people make great heroes.
  • In the real world, people don’t always overcome their trials. Often they are broken and remain broken. Characters who reflect that help broken readers understand themselves.
  • Sometimes fancy words and flowery descriptions get in the way of telling the story.
  • When you’ve pushed a character to the absolute limit, it can be fun to push them further.
  • A brief conversation between characters can avoid many paragraphs of exposition.
  • Stories don’t have to be realistic. If the story is well-told, readers will just go with it no matter how unrealistic it is. (Something I learned from reading Stephen King novels.)
  • Readers don’t need the story to be realistic, but they do expect characters to be realistic, in that they maintain their character and only change, or grow, if there are circumstances to cause the change or growth.
  • Fictional horror is like an immunisation. It helps us face our fears in a controlled setting, so we’re better able to face the real horrors in life.
  • Binge writing or binge reading is far safer than binge eating or binge drinking. (OK I admit I haven’t tried binge drinking, but I have seen the effects on others.)
  • Bad writing days happen. It’s OK to come back tomorrow and try again.
  • Characters can only know things I actually know. This can be seriously limiting.
  • The corollary of the above is that everything I’ve ever learned or experienced is useful.
  • I encounter lots of other writers on social media. They are not competitors but colleagues. Readers who have enjoyed the work of one indie author are more willing to try the work of another. Encouraging each other is important.
  • Rewriting is always an option.
  • Scrunching a bad chapter up and throwing it in the bin was easier, and a better idea, when I typed on actual paper. It’s harder and a bad idea when it’s in a computer.

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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