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Tips from a Novice - What I Learnt From My First Year Writing on Episode

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  • Tips from a Novice - What I Learnt From My First Year Writing on Episode

    So I have been reading stories on Episode from before the introduction of Ink... and I have been writing my story (slowly, mind you) since about February. I am nowhere near qualified to give you loads of directing tips and tell you how to produce a visually perfect story, but there are some things which I have noticed, both as a writer and as a reader, that I would like to share - one novice to another.

    Plan your stories!!!
    One of my personal pet peeves is seeing parts of the story fizzle off into nothingness. Some writers bring a really interesting and intriguing element into their story (for example, a plan which two characters share with each other and not with the reader). These plot devices really grip you and make you interested in the characters, but a LOT of stories I have read NEVER come back to the small things like this that happen. You think that this secret plan is going to really impact the story, but it never does, which is frustrating for me as a member of the audience. Episode chapters are quite short, so everything should be there for a reason - whether as character development, plot or even just a lighthearted break from the action. I read about this secret plan and I want to know that I will eventually find out what happened to the characters, if the plan was good, and if it ultimately worked out or failed. It doesn't even have to be a big part of the story, but don't introduce an idea that you're not going to see through to the end.

    I think a lot of this comes down to a lack of a plan for your story as a whole. As frustrating and annoying as it can be, planning is a really important stage of making a good story. Otherwise, you start a story in one direction and end up doing something completely different by the end. The beginning and end don't match, you've forgotten to mention things which seemed important once upon a time and generally, it makes your story (which may have actually been really sophisticated) look messy and rushed.

    That doesn't mean you need to know exactly what is going to happen in every single minute of the chapter, or even that you can't change things as you go along. What it does mean, though, is writing down a little backstory for your most important characters and having a little summary of the story arc overall. Of course, when you change things, you can just add to your plan to make sure you're always working in the same direction. Personally, I LOVE character profiles, family trees and terrible sketches. This isn't for everyone, but find a way to plan your story that works for you! It will make it 100x more sophisticated and detailed!

    Check your SPaG
    "SPaG" is one of the terms that I HATED learning about in school. Literally, it just stands for Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar. I know that it can seem really boring to review your whole story again to make sure that the SPaG is good, but these simple and avoidable mistakes can really make your story look messy. As well as that, it reflects badly on you as a writer: it gives the impression that you don't care about your story enough to make it look and sound good, or that you care more about quantity than quality. There are few things worse than reading a story with an amazing idea that was poorly executed just because the writer forgot to proofread. All that wasted potential! Remember that punctuation is the difference between "Let's eat grandpa" and "Let's eat, grandpa" and rest assured: the more time you spend checking your chapters for errors, the better you get at finding them and avoiding them in the first place!

    Don't get disheartened
    Sometimes you might think that your stories aren't picking up reads quickly enough, or that you're getting too much hate. I actually made a post recently, asking other Episode writers how they dealt with negativity on the app. I know it can be hard, but remember that every single read is a person sitting down with a phone, tablet or iPod in hand, choosing to use a pass to read YOUR story! They may even go on to read ANOTHER and ANOTHER! Imagine that! Plus, ask yourself why you're really writing on the app. Is it for the publicity and the reads? If so, are you sure you're writing for the right reasons? I mean, we all love it when we get our stories and ideas out there, but if that's your main priority, you might be disappointed. If you make producing content that you're proud of your main goal, it will improve your writing tenfold.

    Never underestimate the cliché!
    Cliches aren't always bad things, but too many of them aren't good for your story either. As humans, we like familiarity. We like things we recognise and ideas we associate with. However, as a writer, it is important to balance that with creating new and original content! What is the point of creating a new story if it is exactly the same as all the ones that have come before it? There are plenty of stories about nerds dating bad boys, of forbidden romance between a teacher and a student, of love triangles in which you find two SOs madly in love with you, and of teenage pregnancies. Of course, I have read many of these stories and loved them, but they already exist now! Why not try something new? Of course, that doesn't mean you need to stay away from the cliches. They can be a useful part of a story and draw the attention of readers, but make sure that there's something massive that is different between your story and the other bad boy stories you've read on the app. Want to write about a bad boy? Why not put him on a colony on the moon or make a story about a bad girl and a nerdy boy instead? Use cliches to your advantage! Turn them on their head! Change up the location from the usual places.

    Here is a list of cliches I have found on the app:
    • A bad boy who treats the MC badly, but she falls in love with him anyway
    • Fantasy stories involving a chosen one who comes from a poor background
    • Fantasy stories involving a prince who falls in love with a commoner
    • A makeover which turns a nerd into a guy magnet (personally I dislike this one because I think it sends out the message that people can't love you unless you look a certain way)
    • Forbidden romance - usually a teacher and a student or step-siblings
    • Teenage pregnancy
    • WEREWOLVES - stories about lone wolves who fall in love with a senior wolf in a pack
    I am not saying that all of the stories that include these things are bad. In fact, there are so many of them because these themes work! There are a LOT of these types of stories now, though. Try something different if you can!

    Make realistic characters
    It doesn't matter how crazy and out there your storyline is, the ONE thing that NEEDS to be realistic is how most of the characters interact with one another. Yes, you can have a dark, evil character who is completely different to how anyone in the world acts (although I LOVE stories that explain why the evil character is so evil), but at least MOST of the characters need to think and act like real people. Yes, particularly in fantasy, they're probably not experiencing the same things as you, but at the end of the day, you need to make sure you ask yourself a few important questions: "How would I act if this happened to me? How would my best friend act if this happened to her? Do I know anyone in the world who would have this reaction if the same thing happened to them?" If the answer to the final question is "no", that's probably because your character is not acting in a realistic way, and then it makes it harder for the reader to care about the character. If you're doing this, make sure it's on purpose.

    As well as this, make sure you read all your dialogue out loud. You don't have to be the best actor in the world, but does it sound okay when you say it? Does it sound weird and unnatural? That's the best way of knowing if your characters are talking in a normal way.



    I hope all these tips helped you! Do you have any of your own? I would love to hear them! I will also be adding to this list if I think of anything else.
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