Recommended Strategies for the NEXT Milestone Issue!
Greetings! It is the 550th Issue of the Neopian Times, and you may be among a crowd reading this article with a curious look on your face, thinking to yourself: "What's so good about this piece of writing?" Perhaps you're an avatar collector, wanting that shiny Neopian Times Writer Avatar and despairing since it will be another 50 weeks before you can try again. Or maybe you're a gallery collector, wanting to add the newest 550th Issue prize to your gallery of Weewoo and NT related things. Or maybe you're a fellow writer, wanting to improve your writing... Or maybe you're just reading for the sheer enjoyment of it!
Regardless of why you're reading this, maybe some of you might one day like to be among the published writers, able to reap whatever incentive or benefit that you seek. Today, I will reveal some thus far "secret" writing tips that will equip you for the 600th Issue. If you're that avatar collector, view me today as though you would a game guide. Take my advice (which I promise goes beyond "work hard!" and "practice writing a lot!") and you might find that the chances of yourself with an avatar next year will have greatly increased. From one writer to another, I will give you some ways that I personally thought improved my writing, and might help you in yours. There is no guarantee of publication in these methods, but they are tools that you can utilize to advance yourself as a budding writer.
But before we officially start, let me outline just WHAT I plan to tell you. First off, I'll give you some Notes. These are just a few things I realized will streamline the submission process. Second, I'll explain Tactics. These are real strategies that NT writers in specific use. Third, and the bulk of this article, are 10 Solid Writing Tips.
Note 1: First: Sometimes, even when you are a great writer, you will face disappointment at the hands of the dreaded "TMGE" neomail. In other words, after working long and hard on your entry, you may receive a rejection letter that says there were "too many good entries, try again next week." Don't be discouraged. Take the chance to make your entry better and resubmit.
Note 2: Second, it should be important to know the actual timing of submitting your work. You cannot wait for the 449th (or rather, the 599th) Issue to turn in your work! It will simply be too late. It is advisable to submit your masterpiece FOUR weeks before the golden Issue. So mark your calendars, everyone! When Issue 596 rolls around, start submitting. To be clear that you want your work to be in the 550th Issue, type into the "comments" section: "Intended for Issue 600, please." Submitting early is important because if you get that TMGE or a rejection, you can always fix it and resubmit with time to spare.
Ahh, here are the tactics. These are strategies that do not deal with the quality of your writing, but instead with the WAYS your writing can win. I've noticed several trends in the past and put them all down here.
Tactic One: The "Run" Through
Write/draw a series! I would suggest writing at least 3 parts/chapters, but do not write extra fluff just for the length or your writing's quality will suffer.
This method is based on the fact that you aim to be published in Issue 598 or earlier depending on how many parts you have. This means that you submit even earlier, around 594/595. Once you are published, you can relax, because your series will "run though" the magic 600. Each part of your series counts as one whole entry.
The more parts you have, the earlier you can submit, and thus, (and this is important if you feel you are a weaker writer) there will be less "intense" competition and more time for you to fix your mistakes and resubmit. Again, around milestone time, the competition gets fierce.
Testimony of Success:
I just so happened to have submitted my 10 part series around 440. It was published on 444. It ran through 450 and finished on 453. That's when this tactic hit me.
Tactic Two: What Fourth Wall?
Break the 4th wall! In other words, somehow acknowledge the 600th Issue or a White Weewoo in your entry. It's a fairly popular theme on these Issues.
Example: Be it... "600 Ways to Bathe your Weewoo" or "GASP! The Mysterious Disappearance of the 600th Issue!" or whatever else, your entry should honor the White Weewoo, the Neopian Times, or the Milestone Issue.
This happens because we want to celebrate the White Weewoo mascot as well as formally realize just how far we've come since last year. It's an emotional time of tears, happiness, and bittersweet nostalgia... Getting swept up in this feeling will help.
Testimony of Success:
The article you're reading right now blatantly utilizes this tactic.
Tactic Three: Be Epic
These are the people who have written entries that do not fit in any of the above categories. These are wondrous short stories and articles and comics that make you cry and laugh anytime. Not everyone can be epic, but YOU might just be the one! The question is how to be epic? Being epic is directly related to your writing. And how does one write well? Here is the magic of this article. Head on over to Writing Tips!!! I've included some fun statistics, not to be taken seriously!
Tip One: Character Growth/Turning Point
You are the architect of a whole new, fictional world when you write. You have an unlimited imagination to populate that world with Neopets, but I would suggest populating it with 2 or 3 main characters, no more. The reason for this is so you can better focus on the growth of your character. By the end of your story, your character should have changed somehow. They are no longer the exact same Neopet. Their experience has made them wiser, kinder, something-er. That makes a story meaningful. So before you even settle down to write your story, think about what you want to happen. Try to think of a "moral of the story" if you have to, what "lesson" they learned. Alternatively, think of a "before" and "after" personality for your character.
As the story progresses, make sure there is a turning point. If you're story is completely linear, it makes for an awfully boring story. Anticipate your own plot twists and try to avoid "bed to bed" (linear) stories. Example of Bed to Bed: I woke up, brushed my teeth, and wore a yellow dress, cowboy boots and a red leather jacket. I ate a breakfast of noodles and fries. I then jumped into my wagon and went to Neoschool. I learned how to get into the NT; I had lunch, argued with my friend over literary elements. Later that day after I did my homework I ate dinner (fish) and then brushed my teeth and went to sleep... Skip all that! Scenes can seamlessly shift from important bit to important bit without being the least bit choppy.
If you do this, your chance of success should increase by 32%.
Tip Two: Picture the Ending before you start the Beginning
This is to prevent the terrible thing known as writer's block. Some people are fabulous writers... they just can't seem to finish a story. If that is the only thing standing between you and your future NT acceptance, really think about the ending first. It's easy to dream up a lovely character and what she likes and where she lives and who the villain will be. Starting a story is simple. Finishing it is hard. I'm sure you are familiar with the general idea of "begin with a goal in mind." It is no different in writing. And to prevent yourself from writing aimlessly, you must have a resolution.
To spur your mind into finding good resolutions, think: How will she defeat the villain? How will she overcome the obstacle in her life? If it's a "final battle" ending, think up a strategy that can change the tides of battle. Maybe the "good army" is being outnumbered by the "evil one", but the heroine can find a way to cause dissent among the other army or break the evil overlord's hypnotizing hold. If it's overcoming a friendship problem, what words should she say? "I'm sorry" doesn't make much of a story. If it's about an adventure/quest, make a pre-writing "map" of all the places and items she sees. You can even draw it out if it helps you! Plan out your story like you would your vacation!
If you do this, your chance of success should increase by 97.5%.
Tip Three: Realistic/Other Characters
Whenever you can, use preexisting characters and places. Kanrik, Hanso, Shenkuu, Meridell... there is a wealth of people and places that you can draw upon to make complete your world and make it rich. This connects better with an audience because you have less to introduce/explain. They are comfortable and familiar characters. Some of the most well-known stories are about Jeran, Sloth, Space Faerie, Fyora, etc. To make your character realistic, ask yourself the following questions:
Does my character have flaws?
Who are my character's friends? What role in society does he/she hold?
What does he/she believe in? Is she a Xandra supporter? (Something I strangely ask myself)
Why/How does my character get sucked into a conflict?
What is his/her goal in life? Does it change? (Does he/she want to make a difference or just have a good time?)
Is he/she going to be a hero?
Really spend some time on those questions. If you do this, your chance of success should increase by 27%
Tip Four: Beauty is Pain. Beautiful Writing is Concise. Concise is Pain.
I know that I personally have a tendency to fall in love with my writing. I'll write a sentence, and to me, it's perfect and beautiful, even though it... kind of doesn't make sense. It almost pains me to have to delete it. Well, TOO BAD, I deleted it. When it happens to you, it is best to delete ruthlessly. Flowery language softens the "punch" effect of concise writing. Strive to be "quote-able," and you can't be quote-able if you're flowery. You got to have your audience hanging on your every word! Trust me; it's good to be concise.
If you do this, your chance of success should increase by 71%.
Tip Five: Utilize the Stream of Consciousness
When you brainstorm, close your eyes and just feel yourself let go... then, with your eyes still closed... type. Type like mad. Type whatever comes into your mind. Type anything and everything. Flashes of inspirations should hit you. Don't let yourself get bogged down with editing or fixing your spelling. Just pour out your brain's musings onto your document, and you'll be surprised with what you have to work with later.
This is an exercise that kind of "tugs" at your creativity. Your brain can only focus on so much at once. If you put aside fretting over small issues like grammar for a time, you can really focus on plot and ideas. You never want to jump straight into a perfectly punctuated story. Start with drafts and ideas; it will be much less frustrating this way. It also increases flexibility of changing scenes. If you wrote several chapters but then realized that some logic doesn't add up or there are gaping plot holes, you should be able to go back and fix it without destroying something you already spent hours nitpicking over. If you try to immediately spew out perfect chapters, you will be greatly discouraged from revising.
If you do this, your chance of success should increase by 15%.
Tip Six: Obvious Stuff/Random Grammar Stuff
I don't really like to spend a lot of time detailing this stuff because it's incredibly tedious and I'm not a great expert on grammar/punctuation/spelling myself. There are a couple quick things that I would advise keeping in mind:
Follow NT rules over what subject matter is appropriate. (Can I get a duh from the audience?)
Use strong words. Avoid "said", "things", "very", ambiguous pronouns, etc.
Use active voice. This is BIG. It can transform your writing into a compelling piece instead of something that lulls someone to sleep.
Show, don't tell. Blah blah, we've all heard that before, right?
If you do this, your chance of success should increase by 0.012% (Let's face it, which one of you is going to look up grammar rules?!)
Tip Seven: Be Insane
I know what you're thinking: YOU'RE insane. But as always there's a method to my madness. Scientists say that "talking to yourself" is the first sign of insanity. If that's the case, all writers must have a healthy dose of insanity to be successful.
When you write dialogue, you should actually say what you're making your character say. Did that sentence sound unnatural? Did he sound like a stuffy history text instead of a Neopet? Would I have used the word "acrimonious" in real life? The most important question is: Does that sentence sound like something MY CHARACTER will say? A trap that a lot of new writers fall into is making all their characters sound the same... sound like the author. You must distance yourself from a character AND distinguish between them. In other words, if you cover up who says what, you should be able to still guess who said that.
Example: _____ said: "blahblahblah."
Through the personality shining through "blahblahblah," you should be able to know that _____ is actually Hanso. Not only that, but if you say it out loud the way you think it should sound, you can better pinpoint what word to replace "said" with. A shriek, yell, scream, or holler? Sadly, angrily, or quietly? It is easier to describe something you heard yourself than to pull it out of pure imagination. To make it sound even more human, read it out loud and search for any natural pauses, drawing out of syllables, or other natural "grunt noises" like umm, err, meh, etc.
Example: Instead of "Let me think about it. I'll get back to you." You can say: "Hmmm... Let me think about it. I'll, err, get back to you later?" Too much is bad, of course, but some tastefully used humanity adds charm to your writing.
This works best with dialogue. For essays, articles, and other narration, it is best to keep silent. Your brain will provide you with more sophisticated words that way. (People don't use big words in daily conversation, but in an article, you may want to come across as scholarly.)
I KNOW this works because all my friends tell me I'm a bit loopy in the head.
If you do this, your chance of success should increase by OVER 9000!
Tip Eight: The Look of "Effort"
What does effort look like? How do people know how long you spent on your writing? To be honest, this matters more than brilliant writing skills. You are rewarded far more for your creativity, new ideas, and the sheer amount of heart you put into your writing. Effort is striking out where no author has gone before, not sticking to the well-beaten paths of clichés and predictability. Effort... is the amount of thought. How much did they THINK for their story? Did they just plop down and start writing without thinking? Effort is very easy to recognize. Anyone can sit down and bang on the keyboard until words form, but effort does not happen by accident or randomly. Effort is shown when you are able to feel the earnestness of the writer and it engages your emotions. I'm not saying predictably sad or happy endings are bad, I'm saying your story should not the very similar to someone else's, just with different characters. ANYONE can have the look of effort!
If you do this, your chance of success should increase by 500%.
Tip Nine: Do NOT give up
Okay, so I promised myself I wouldn't give you guys trite inspirational one-liners like "Keep your chin up, boy/girl!", but this one is so true. If you start these methods and then stop, you won't get in. If you read this and feel inspired only for a moment, you won't get in. You have to be ready to roll up your sleeves and TYPE.
If you do this, your chance of success should increase by 550%.
Bonus Tip Ten:
The last bit of advice I can give you is to be honest with yourself in terms of weakness in writing. If someone tells you that your writing could be better, don't take it offensively. Instead, strive to exceed their expectations.
I hope this helps all you writers! Some of my statistics are just for fun. Just know the % is positive and not negative. Happy 550th and here's to more!
Written By: Swans the Egotistical Ghost Krawk Authoress.
Submitted By: Zee the Powerless Puppet of Doom.