Writing is a passion and a talent that comes from within like all other creative forms. It all boils down to how well you are at choosing and stringing words together in such an order that informs, entertains, angers, saddens, delights, or moves you in other ways. While I do not believe that talent can be taught or learned, I do think that technique can. Advice can be given and best practices can be shared. There are tools out there that can aid us in honing our craft or give us a well timed shove down the right path. I have recently been pointed to a couple of cool tools that you might find helpful. One will lend a hand with the conception of a project and another that will assist you in editing and tweaking your project as you scream through that final painful push to give birth to your literary baby.
Having trouble getting started? Have all those ideas evaporated? Go to the Archetype website (the Fiction Writer’s Guide to Psychology) where you will find a a whole bunch of useful writing related resources and tools. The area of the site that I want to particularly recommend to you is the Story Starters & Idea Generator page in the Muse section. They are totally random and that is part of the beauty of them. Each one consists of at least two independent ideas that are paired together to act as prompt. There is a plot generator, a character generator, a and a problem situation generator. The plot generator gives you an opening situation and a description of an additional character for your protagonist to interact with. The character generator gives you a gender and three traits to help flesh your characters out. The problem generator throws a group of quirks that befalls your character and an obstacle for him or her to over come. Give it a try. Start generating.
At the ass end of your project as your WIP nears completion and you are going through some final editing and polishing there is a software program that might be useful. I am an Apple fanatic so it pains me to say, you are fortunate if you are PC user, because there isn’t a version of Smart Edit for the Mac.
Smart Edit is freeware. It is not a word processor but it can scan your finished project for monitored words that may not have been picked up by spell check. “Examples might be ‘form’ which is often incorrectly typed in place of ‘from,’ and is never flagged as misspelled by a spell checker, or ‘loose’ and ‘lose,’ two more words than often slip through when writing and editing.” There is a dialog tag counter, which is used “to flag over use of unusual tags. Most published novels that have been run through SmartEdit show a rate of use for ‘said’ to be about three times as high as any other tag, and in some cases even more, or unusual tags are something you might want to look at, and SmartEdit highlights them for you.”
The Cliché, Over-used Phrase and Word Frequency Counters are just what they sound like. Smart Edit will find and highlight common Clichés as well as phrases or words that you consistently or possibly over use. Finally there is an adverb counter, which “identifying adverbs that are used too frequently, or that probably shouldn’t be used at all.”
As I stated earlier, I am a Mac user and cannot install this program on my laptop but it looks like an interesting tool to add to your arsenal. Let me know if you try it and if it is in fact useful.