Top 10 Writing Tips of 2014 + What’s New for 2015

Every year I learn new things about writing. Every. Single. Year. But in 2014 I feel I really topped up the ol’ brain with writing tips. Maybe because this was my first full year blogging, and creating a post every week forced me to learn by analyzing the mistakes I made, dissecting problems I encountered, and studying the breakthroughs I eventually had. So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Writing Tips of 2014…

(click the titles to read the full posts)

  1. Pitch Before You Write. Instead of waiting until the query stage to create a pitch for your novel, do it before you start writing. This will help flag any problems with the story and ensure you have an idea that intrigues others. In 2015 I vow to pitch my novel to trusted friends, fellow writers and beta readers to make sure my story is the best it can be.
  2. Set Personal Deadlines. I know the tricks to doing this (punch the clock, start small, be accountable to a critique partner), but thus far have not been very good at following my own advice. But 2015 will be different! I’m creating a calendar of deadlines and come hell or high water, I will stick to it!
  3. Recognize Writing Ruts. I’m stubborn and tend to write like a dog with a bone – I just won’t let it go! Maybe if I keep editing this beat sheet over and over and over, the story will work. And sometimes that is the case. But sometimes I’m just in a rut. So this year I learned to recognize that point where I stop making progress and honed the discipline to step away from the “problem story” for a while by working on another story. So far this has worked well and I’m going to continue this approach in 2015.
  4. Make the Stakes about Love, Death or Survival. I resisted this piece of writing craft advice until I studied all of my favourite novels, movies and TV shows and discovered that this applies to all of them! Now before writing, I clarify the stakes and make sure they embody one or more of these three primal urges.
  5. Stay Off the Internet. This has been soooooo hard. I broke up with the internet early in 2014, and even wrote 7 Tips to stay away from it, but didn’t always succeed. I have, however, cut down significantly. In 2015 my goal is to cut down even more.
  6. Stop Over-Revising. This is my biggest downfall, but halfway through 2014 I discovered two simple questions to test if my revisions were reasonable or overkill: 1) What is the emotional core of my story? and 2) What story problem prompted this revision? Because of these questions, I predict way less unnecessary revisions in 2015!
  7. Map the Mushy Middle. Act II is a tough section to write if you don’t know the MidPoint and the Crisis moment. Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat” book helped me through this by explaining that these two plot points are mirror opposites of each other – one is a false victory and one is a false defeat. Read the whole post and never get lost again!
  8. Map the Hero’s Transformation. Plot is nothing without character. This year I wrote a lot about Character Change, but figuring out the Emotional Midpoint was the biggest game-changer for me. It really helped me track the hero’s inner journey. For more, read my post or James Scott Bell’s book “Write Your Novel From the Middle.”
  9. Every Scene needs Conflict, Stakes & Change. This is something many writers know but don’t always apply. So in typical Heather fashion, I came up with six questions to make sure these three crucial things are in each scene I write.
  10. Start with The End. Conclusions make or break a story. Even though I knew that, I usually started developing a story idea with no clue how it would end. This lead to a lot of failed novels. For my own sanity, I now figure out the ending before I start writing. And I follow the 3 Steps to Make an Ending Right as well as ensuring Act III has 2 Key Elements to make it unforgettable.

Whew! That’s a ton of learning, but not all. My fellow Writeonsisters taught me lots too with great posts on the elements of gothic fiction and releasing your inner Poe, the Pomodoro Techniquecreating writing time in three acts, writing with kids, what an MFA gets you, plus a handy checklist for self-editing.

Most of all, we learned that though blogging is rewarding and informative, it can also be very time consuming. So in 2015 writeonsisters.com has fewer regular blog slots, but more space for guest posts, blog hops and fun surprises!

2015 WriteOnSisters Schedule

MONDAYS – Heather

TUESDAYS – when the mood strikes, we’ll participate in Top Ten Tuesday

WEDNESDAYS – Robin

THURSDAYS – day off/ surprises/ guest posts

FRIDAYS – Book Reviews

Plus, in April we are doing the A to Z Challenge again!

Thanks to everyone who read, commented on and shared our blog in 2014. Here’s to a great 2015 filled with even more amazing things to learn!

Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at heatherjacksonwrites.com or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

13 thoughts on “Top 10 Writing Tips of 2014 + What’s New for 2015”

  1. I’m a huge fan of personal deadlines. Since I seriously took up writing a few years ago, I’ve always set them for myself–and stuck with them. I’ve gotten some funny looks from others who know I don’t yet have an agent or editor and wonder why I’m talking about deadlines, but these have kept me accountable and help me pace myself to make consistent progress. I also like the idea of pitching before you write–even if it’s just putting together a mock query letter. Really helps make sure you have the foundation of the story in order and reveals gaps in character or plot!

    –Sam Taylor, AYAP Team

    1. Good for you for sticking to your deadlines! I have no trouble meeting client deadlines, but I find personal deadlines difficult and applaud those who consistently meet theirs. Hopefully I’ll be better at this year. And the fact that you meet your own deadlines will impress your editor/agent when you do get one. And yes, pitches/mock queries are so useful! Thanks for the comment, Sam!

  2. Thanks so much for the post, Heather. I followed a lot of your links and they were all time well spent. Given tight time constraints, that means a lot to me.

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