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So, I was thinking about this after reading the topic about how much support people get for their writing in the day to day.  I guess I've just heard a lot of advice on writing coming from just about everywhere, and sometimes it's things that I don't pay a lot of attention to, and sometimes it's things that really stick with me.  There's a ton of people out there saying a ton of things about what you should or shouldn't do in a book, so I was just wondering, what are some of your favorites?  I've got two that have changed the way I go about things.

1.) I remember reading an article called, "Does My Character Sneeze?"  It went into detail about how some characters are larger than life and would never do a basic human thing like sneeze, but other characters are normal people in a larger than life situation and they would absolutely sneeze from time to time.  This was super interesting to me to look at my characters and decide if they were meant to be an idealized figure in a story, or a relatable person who had a crazy time once.  And, the question, does my character sneeze, it actually helps me wrap my head around thinking about what I want to do with a character.

2.)  A long time ago I was watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie with a friend of mine after work, and he made a very good observation about the movie that's stuck with me.  He said something like, "You know, I really like how there is always a few things happening in the scene."  And it's true (for the first movie at least) that there are always multiple characters who are after different things and a lot of the time they are focused on different parts of what is in the same scene.  Now, I don't do exactly this thing all the time, but I do like to think about my chapters before I write them and think about how more than one thing would be happening in the same chapter.  Where the characters would focus, what's the undercurrent of what's happening, how does this fit into the larger picture, or is there something building into the larger plot?  I really try to keep that in mind ever since my one friend said that one thing one time.

Heh, this may be super long winded, but I mostly just wanted to see what people out there have for the favorite advice they ever got/heard.  Even if it's something like, someone told me to do this thing then I did the exact opposite and it's the best decision I ever made.  Just curious  ;D
 

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Not advice, but what I've learned.

Good grammar and good imagination. Sure, you can get people to edit, but they should only be buffing the story to get rid of tiny flaws. As for how to write and what not to do,  famous writer have ignored this advice and still become successful.
 

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To let myself be okay with just putting [description of thing] in place of actually worldbuilding or researching when I'm writing and don't want to stop. My original style of writing was to be as close to finished as possible during the first draft, so I'd stop and research every little thing as they came up. Terrible for productivity and I always burnt myself out. Just putting something in brackets that vaguely alludes to the thing lets me keep going, and I know that during revision I'll have to search each one and flesh them out finally.

In this situation, "That's a problem for Future Me" is good. Whereas I'd originally write a couple hundred words and then spend an hour researching an obscure detail to finish the last sentence, now I can just spend that entire time writing and leave it for later.
 

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Probably the best advice I've taken to heart (although not intended specifically for me) was where a famous author once said you can't edit a blank page. Meaning, you should give yourself permission to be imperfect and come back and tidy up those mistakes later, instead of over-focusing on them in the first draft. I used to have a terrible time finishing anything I started because I obsessed over perfecting the first 50 pages. Getting over that hump to reach The End was huge, for me. Plus, I usually find in the re-reading that the stuff I almost ruthlessly cut out during first-drafting had nothing wrong with it. It was just my state of mind at the time, making me question every other word, telling me to delete and rewrite everything. I felt differently when I was able to stand back and look at the whole completed piece. Which leads me to...

My second favorite advice is all the general advice about writing fast, including outlining, for those who need it. It's amazing how much clearer a picture you have of a story when you're flying through it in a few weeks, versus when you spend a year crawling through. It's like having a bird's-eye view versus a caterpillar view. You can actually see the way the thing flows and remember the foreshadowing you planted in previous scenes, stuff that's hard to keep straight in your mind when you're plodding slowly with your head down, only seeing one inch at a time. Your enthusiasm is still fresh and you're still in the same emotional place you were when you first got the idea that started it all. The story hasn't had time to morph into something that isn't what you originally intended. You haven't had time to forget your original vision for it. And once you've finished, you look back and are like, "Wow! I actually did that. I could actually do it again! I could do it again dozens of times."
 

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The best writing advice I've ever got was to write fast enough to outrun that voice in my head telling me what I'm doing is garbage. The best publishing advice I ever got was to stop being self indulgent and write books that people actually wanted to read.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
EmberKent said:
To let myself be okay with just putting [description of thing] in place of actually worldbuilding or researching when I'm writing and don't want to stop. My original style of writing was to be as close to finished as possible during the first draft, so I'd stop and research every little thing as they came up. Terrible for productivity and I always burnt myself out. Just putting something in brackets that vaguely alludes to the thing lets me keep going, and I know that during revision I'll have to search each one and flesh them out finally.
I really like this one. In the future I definitely might use [description of thing]
 

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Tell the story! It's easy to get carried away with side-plots or follow a minor character down a rabbit hole. In the process the main story can get lost. So, don't lose focus on the primary plot line.
 

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Carol (was Dara) said:
Probably the best advice I've taken to heart (although not intended specifically for me) was where a famous author once said you can't edit a blank page. Meaning, you should give yourself permission to be imperfect and come back and tidy up those mistakes later, instead of over-focusing on them in the first draft. I used to have a terrible time finishing anything I started because I obsessed over perfecting the first 50 pages. Getting over that hump to reach The End was huge, for me. Plus, I usually find in the re-reading that the stuff I almost ruthlessly cut out during first-drafting had nothing wrong with it. It was just my state of mind at the time, making me question every other word, telling me to delete and rewrite everything. I felt differently when I was able to stand back and look at the whole completed piece. Which leads me to...

My second favorite advice is all the general advice about writing fast, including outlining, for those who need it. It's amazing how much clearer a picture you have of a story when you're flying through it in a few weeks, versus when you spend a year crawling through. It's like having a bird's-eye view versus a caterpillar view. You can actually see the way the thing flows and remember the foreshadowing you planted in previous scenes, stuff that's hard to keep straight in your mind when you're plodding slowly with your head down, only seeing one inch at a time. Your enthusiasm is still fresh and you're still in the same emotional place you were when you first got the idea that started it all. The story hasn't had time to morph into something that isn't what you originally intended. You haven't had time to forget your original vision for it. And once you've finished, you look back and are like, "Wow! I actually did that. I could actually do it again! I could do it again dozens of times."
Great ones there! I totally agree with the not being able to do anything with the blank page. It's such a big problem for soooo many writers.
 

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"Write your face off!"

From Dale McRaven, one of the writers on "The Partridge Family," after 17-year-old me sent him a spec script. The advice itself was sort of secondary to the fact that he took the time to respond to a kid he didn't know, to encourage me to keep writing.
 

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Patty Jansen said:
"You have a whole book to get to know a character (or situation). You don't have to tell it all on the first page."

"Never follow a writing rule off a cliff."
The first one is worth thinking about. i like it.
 

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Just finished Screamcatcher: Sasquatch Most Monstrous, fourth in series. Agent has it.
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It launched my book career 33 years ago--"Non-fiction outsells fiction 3 to 1. Wanna break in, write a non-fiction book." It worked--two best sellers.
 

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Read. Read widely and read a lot. I've definitely learned more about writing from reading 50 or 60 novels a year than I did from my uni writing degree. I've also known a lot of creative writing teachers who despair at the number of their students who openly say they don't read much because they don't want to be "influenced."

More specifically, I also like - I think it was Leonard's rule? - not using any dialogue indicator other than said, or at least using them sparingly. You should be able to tell how a character feels from what they're saying or doing.
 

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Think of a big idea for your story
Write a log line less than 25 words to describe the premise.
Know the genre

Know what your character wants.
Know what or who they will be up against
Know how it starts and finishes.
Write the blurb first to know the story has legs for the genre
Introduce your character first in their ordinary setting
Inciting incident 10% of story.
Know how 3 and 4 act structures wok.

OUTLINE

Then write the story.


 

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NikOK said:
So, I was thinking about this after reading the topic about how much support people get for their writing in the day to day. I guess I've just heard a lot of advice on writing coming from just about everywhere, and sometimes it's things that I don't pay a lot of attention to, and sometimes it's things that really stick with me. There's a ton of people out there saying a ton of things about what you should or shouldn't do in a book, so I was just wondering, what are some of your favorites? I've got two that have changed the way I go about things.

1.) I remember reading an article called, "Does My Character Sneeze?" It went into detail about how some characters are larger than life and would never do a basic human thing like sneeze, but other characters are normal people in a larger than life situation and they would absolutely sneeze from time to time. This was super interesting to me to look at my characters and decide if they were meant to be an idealized figure in a story, or a relatable person who had a crazy time once. And, the question, does my character sneeze, it actually helps me wrap my head around thinking about what I want to do with a character.

2.) A long time ago I was watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie with a friend of mine after work, and he made a very good observation about the movie that's stuck with me. He said something like, "You know, I really like how there is always a few things happening in the scene." And it's true (for the first movie at least) that there are always multiple characters who are after different things and a lot of the time they are focused on different parts of what is in the same scene. Now, I don't do exactly this thing all the time, but I do like to think about my chapters before I write them and think about how more than one thing would be happening in the same chapter. Where the characters would focus, what's the undercurrent of what's happening, how does this fit into the larger picture, or is there something building into the larger plot? I really try to keep that in mind ever since my one friend said that one thing one time.

Heh, this may be super long winded, but I mostly just wanted to see what people out there have for the favorite advice they ever got/heard. Even if it's something like, someone told me to do this thing then I did the exact opposite and it's the best decision I ever made. Just curious ;D
The only advice that really counted was: "Change the ribbon before it gets too faint to be legible."
 

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The best writing advice out there is given by many authors: KEEP ON GOING! Even if you're not publishing at least keep writing. I haven't published new material since April of last year but I have kept writing. Once again, now, I am back in publishing mode (literally just needed a break from publishing). My writing skills have stayed hone because I've kept writing. I can't imagine how much harder this would be if I had taken a year off from writing entirely.
 

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The best writing advice I ever got was from the book Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, wherein she essentially argues that the reason people love stories is not for the plot, but watching how characters change over time. That nugget--and her expounding upon the point--helped me flesh out my characters and make them that much more believable.

It was easier said than done, of course.
 
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