How to write a winning story

Five tips to help aspiring authors refine their writing

Allison Vanderzanden | Lifestyle Editor

Writing is a learned and actively practiced skill, just like playing an instrument or sport. For writers who have dreams of being published in the future, completing a working manuscript is the imperative first step. Here are some tips for aspiring writers to kick their stories up a notch. 

  • Find an original voice. Gathering inspiration from other authors and stories is great; they are professionals, so there is much to be gained from reading lots of material. But in the end, nobody else can write the exact story that is in one’s own mind. Tell a brand new story in a unique way, and let the passion and enthusiasm shine through in every page. 
  • Put aside anything distracting when sitting down to write. Do a favor for the story: give it full attention until it reaches an ending. If writing a novel, try to finish a full chapter or scene all at once. Conversely, try timed writing: write anything that comes to mind without stopping for, say, twenty minutes. It will be much less intimidating to continue working on it in the future if the pages aren’t blank.
  • Learn the rules, but don’t follow the rules. What this means is that the rules of writing can’t be broken, twisted or meddled with if the rules aren’t known to begin with. Take the time to master formatting, grammar and a standard plot structure, then play around with them to make the story unique. 
  • The best advice I ever received was from my high school English teacher: “Kill your darlings.” It is all too easy to get attached to one’s own characters, scenes, settings or piece as a whole — I know from experience. However, readers and editors will have a different perspective than the author. Keep this in mind when editors suggest revisions: they are trying to help the story come across better to the audience, which sometimes means changing or completely deleting the author’s favorite parts. 
  • Keep writing and don’t give up hope. Building and completing a manuscript is just the first step to getting work published, and it can be a very difficult process trying to get a story accepted at a publishing house. Let passion and commitment to the story drive the journey, and always keep working to present the best possible piece. 

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