Is this the time to make excuses? No, I didn’t think so. Instead of trying to write up a post, I’m going to give you a potpourri of tips and tricks from other, well-known, writers.
At the end, I’ll give mine.
Anton Chekhov – Six Principles of a good story:
- Absence of lengthy verbiage of a political-social-economic nature
- Total objectivity
- Truthful descriptions of persons and objects
- Extreme brevity
- Audacity and originality: flee the stereotype
Annie Proulx – Five rules for writing fiction:
1 Proceed slowly and take care.
2 To ensure that you proceed slowly, write by hand.
3 Write slowly and by hand only about subjects that interest you.
4 Develop craftsmanship through years of wide reading.
5 Rewrite and edit until you achieve the most felicitous phrase/sentence/paragraph/page/story/chapter.
John Steinbeck – 6 Writing Tips
1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
3. Forget your generalised audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theatre, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person – a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
4. If a scene or section gets the better of you and you still think you want it – bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.
5. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
6. If you are using dialogue – say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.
And his disclaimer:
“If there is magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”
Jonathan Franzen – Ten Rules for Writing Fiction
- The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
- Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.
- Never use the word “then” as a conjunction – we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page.
- Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.
- When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
- The most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more autobiographical story than “The Metamorphosis”.
- You see more sitting still than chasing after.
- It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.
- Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
- You have to love before you can be relentless.
And now for mine:
1. All I/you have to do it finish it.
It’s written on sticky notes, on the whiteboard, on the kitchen message board, on the back door, on the back of the toilet door (no wonder I don’t like to close the door!), on the doover that protects cards in wallets … everywhere.
All I have to do is finish it. And here I am, in the middle of a rewrite (about number four or five, I think) of a novella that has the input from a persnickety (and now retired) editor – and it almost sings! However, it is the half-way mark, and despite my best intentions, my need to hurry up to get to the next Wee in Pee, I’m going to enjoy the ride. It will be done when it is done to the satisfaction of Madam Persnickety (or I die, one or the other).
And I’ll talk to the cover creator today!