Is the advice right for you?
Tips for writers.
Yanicke, Gabrielle & Fiona have given some great writing tips this month. I too, think that Stephen King’s, On Writing should be on every writer’s recommended reading list, as well as The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. Other resources I’ve found invaluable, and use frequently are The Emotion Thesaurus, The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi.
We are lucky being writers at this present time in life as we have so much advice readily accessible online. You can key in a search and find information on almost any subject written by writers, authors and publishers. As an eternal seeker of knowledge, I believe you should never stop learning, researching and developing your craft.
Invaluable information available for writers for free online
However, there can be drawbacks with having so much information at your fingertips and one is when you come across conflicting advice. I have run into that stumbling block on more than one occasion during my writing career. I’m not referring to writing basics, like grammar, sentence structure, character development, plot structure, showing verses telling, that type of thing. There are certain fundamentals that as a writer you break at your own peril.
I’m talking about an area outside of that, where your creativity as an artist is allowed to come into play. After all, who wants to read a cookie-cutter novel? Some of the best-selling novels that stick in our mind the longest are the ones that were unique in some way. Perhaps it was the intriguing way the plot was written or maybe the different way the characters themselves were portrayed. Whatever it is, I believe that when you get that flame of excitement inside you, the calling that inspires you to take out your notebook and pen, then that is the time you should follow your own instinct. The worst thing that can happen is you decide it wasn’t such a great idea after all and move on!
Like any subject, from diet and exercise, to medical advice, there is conflicting advice. So what do you do then? To whom should you listen to? How can you tell?
Who is right?
People share what has worked for them. You can learn so much from someone’s experience, but are they ‘rules’? And can (or should) they be broken? If there is one thing I would encourage a writer, it would be to find out what works for you. Ask the questions, why? And, is that true for me?
For example, I submitted a section of my first novel for critique. I received some great advice which I was grateful for, but was then told that suspense should not be written in first person and to rewrite it in third. I was crushed. And what was more devastating was that no matter how long I looked at my manuscript, I couldn’t imagine it being written any other way. So, I ploughed on, finished it the way I’d started, then sent it off for submission. Within four weeks, my romantic suspense had received interest from three separate publishers and I’d received two firm offers of contract.
What I took away from this experience was that the feedback I was given was ‘advice’ and not a ‘rule’. Typically, suspense works better when written in third person because you can add in the perspective of the villain. I can see the value in this, and to date all my other suspense novels have been written in third. But it wasn’t true for me on that occasion. Sometimes you just have to trust yourself and go for it!
Another writing tip that is true for me is to cut anything that doesn’t drive the plot forward. Stephen King famously advised, “Kill your darlings”. I find this particularly important to me because if I don’t, my editor will!
Because I write suspense/thrillers, being too descriptive slows the pace. I need to cut everything that doesn’t drive the plot forward no matter how awesome (I think) my descriptions are. Many times I’ve had to kill what, in my opinion was the most brilliant description of a location ever! But describing the room/scene with those flowery comparisons is taking away from the fact my heroine is on the run for her life!
Drive the plot forward.
Anything not directly involved in driving the plot forward, goes. The reader is getting the picture with the action, and this keeps the story fast-paced. Of course, this is more important to me because I am a suspense writer.
If you are writing in a different genre, you may find that you can, and should, use more detailed descriptions. For me, my challenge was to find ways of describing the setting in one or two sentences and stick to the show not tell rule as though my life depended on it.
And lastly, I advise to network. Connect with and follow authors and publishers to keep up to date with what is happening within the industry. Create a professional author platform and begin establishing your presence as an author even before you have published your first novel. Believe in yourself. If you are truly a writer, you will always be writing. Personally, every day I discover something new, even if it is simply a new way of using a word. Writing is like a muscle, it strengthens the more you use it.
If you have a passion, allow it to inspire you into action. Write that book and finish it. If you have already written a book, start another. Believe in yourself first, and others will follow.