Last year, I asked various Haitian literary masters for some tips about writing.
Now I’m sharing their secrets with you.
KEEP A NOTEBOOK
The absolute best writing practice for me is to keep a notebook at all times. Writing does not end when I turn off my computer. Plotting, character development, and dialogue—all happen throughout the course of the day… and night. So when I get an idea I immediately write it down, which in turn motivates me to write. This has really helped me overcome writer’s block.
Ibi Aanu Zoboi
I like journaling whether early in the morning or in the evening.
When you’re down or burdened and struggle to find inspiration, try writing something down; anything that comes to mind.
LISTEN AND EAVESDROP
Most of my ideas come from conversations or stories I hear around me. Not only do they inspire me, but I feel my writing is more authentic in plot, language, and setting.
Fabienne Sylvia Josaphat
I often write what people are saying as I eavesdrop on conversations in coffee shops, libraries, airports, even if for a few minutes. It gives me fresh material, which helps when you’re stuck. Always have a little notebook and pen on you for quick notes.
WRITE EVERY DAY
I try to write, if not every single day, then as often as I possibly can. Practice may not always make perfect but it gets me a little bit closer to my ideal.
Consistency builds the habit, kind of like knowing when your mail person comes by.
I find it imperative to have daily, doable goals, such as sketching out a character or creating a timeline. If you are a mother who can’t find time, tie your children to your back or the desk if you have to, but get down and write. Your children won’t be ruined; besides, the rhythm of each key stroke might send them right to sleep.
I read as much as I can with two small children. I read for enjoyment. I read for pointers. I read to learn. I read to figure out how my favorite writers manage to keep doing what they do.
Blur your vision of the world around you; light a candle in your mind; pray yourself into an attentive daydream; wait for the coming of the sentence that is the key for that day; it is an angel of sorts—you will recognize it because it will refuse to go away and once you write it down, it unlocks all the others; they come like troops happy to answer the call.
Start thinking of your story even before putting it on paper. Make your characters alive in your imagination.
Know who you are.
Your dialogue should be authentic. Avoid what’s unnecessary and do not try to impress your readers with complicated and complex words. Simplicity is the key.
KEEP READERS WONDERING
Be innovative and challenging. Keep readers wondering and surprise them at the end.
BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU DO
Write because you love to write and because you believe you have something to share. Publishing and making a living from writing should always be secondary to this. Once you let the latter overcome the former, you’ve started telling the wrong story.