About Diane Armstrong:
Top Tips for Writing
Years ago, when I started writing, there were times when my mind was as blank as my computer screen. To try to motivate myself, I placed a large sign on my desk: You wanted to be a writer, so write! That did the trick much of the time, but in summer, when parks, beaches, and cafes beckoned, the temptation to be outdoors was too great.
Eventually I discovered that giving in to temptation stimulated my imagination and helped to hone my writing skills. Here are some tips that worked for me.
- Make a date with yourself to write regularly. It doesn’t matter whether you set aside ten minutes every evening or half an hour twice a week. The important thing is to keep to it. This is your writing time. You might be surprised to find that once you start writing, the ideas will keep flowing past the allotted time.
- Pay close attention to what you see along the road or in the park instead of walking in a daze. Look at the joggers pounding the pavement, the sweat spreading under their arms. Notice the patterns the trees make on the dappled paths, and that young woman whizzing past in her sports car.
- Be specific. Name the trees. Are they blue gums, pencil pines or Moreton Bay Figs? How many kookaburras were sitting on the power lines? And that car—it was a yellow Lotus convertible, wasn’t it? Being specific makes your writing visual and fresh.
- Use what you see to evoke memories. At the beach, you hear the waves lapping on the shore, and see children splashing in the waves. Near you, a boy and girl are kissing, lost in the delight of the moment. Do you remember your first love? Your first kiss? Being dumped by a wave, terrified of drowning? Try to evoke those feelings.
- Show, don’t tell. In the café, the waitress seems fed up. You infer that from the way she bangs your coffee cup on the table, sighs loudly when you ask for sugar, and trudges around. So describe her actions. That’s more powerful than writing interpretations. You might consider why she acts that way. Has her boyfriend left her, is she worried about the child she left at the day care centre, or is she ill? Already you have a character for the story you might write when you get home.
- Jot down what you saw, heard or felt during your writing time. If your mind is blank, and you can’t think of anything to write, just start by writing `I can’t think of anything to write because…’ You’ll find that the ideas will soon flow.
- Don’t forget: you wanted to be a writer, so write!