Don’t write linearly: Don’t set out to write something from beginning to end. A story is meant to be read from front to back, but not necessarily created that way. If you have an idea for writing the sixth chapter first, then start there. The epilogue can even be the first thing you put down on paper, then work your way back. Scattered chapters will eventually be filled in, and it will force you to look at the story from different angles, which may present different ideas or new approaches. You’d be surprised how well this works when a whole book starts coming together…
Ask for (and take lots of) punishment: It is well worth finding yourself a professional writer or editor and asking/paying them to look at your work. Tell them to give you highly critical feedback with no sugarcoating. Let them go so far as to be cruel too, just so you really get the point. There is a lot of rejection and criticism involved in the publishing industry. Getting accustomed to it sooner than later is advantageous. If you want to be serious about your writing, then you’ll need to know everything wrong with your writing. Accepting and understanding the harsh realities of your shortcomings is a most important step to getting better.
The first point is very important. Write what you know about what you want to say, then go back and fill in the rest of the story. Editing is part of the craft of writing, so let the story unfold as it comes into your mind, not on some chronological journey.
While Writers in the Grove doesn’t offer the harsh feedback noted in this article, such feedback maybe given one-on-one or in other groups designed for such feedback, focused on publishing. We also recommend the Willamette Writers Conference and their various groups and meetups. They offer a wide range of critique and feedback opportunities.
From Stephen King’s book, On Writing, she references this bit of wisdom for writers.
Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings)…I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: “Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.
From John Grisham, she shares this:
He goes on to say that at first you have to treat writing as a hobby; you write a page a day in your spare time. Grisham explains that he created spare time to write, although he had a full time job. He adds that he always tells young aspiring writers that if they’re not writing a page a day, then nothing is going to happen. But if they make sure to write a page a day it becomes a habit, and before long they have a lot of pages piled up.
For those of us considering writing full time, these are wise words.
During the Writers in the Grove Monday workshop working on objective haiku, one of our members came up with the following haiku, beautiful but too wordy, which led to an amazing lesson in editing and the many variations that maybe found when multiple creative people tackle the same subject.
We’ve decided to share our member’s original work, which she has since edited, as an additional prompt this week to inspire you to work from her original concept and see where it takes you. If you would like to share your version, please share it in the comments below.
Pebbles clatter harshly
Noise provokes my attention toward the outer door
Unnerved to discover what is behind
The goal of the prompt is to edit the above to three lines with the least amount of words to convey the powerful emotion and imagery. How few words can you use? You are welcome to change the words but attempt to keep the intent of the original.
This roundup of writing tips comes from editors – specifically editors screaming to writers to LISTEN AND OBEY!
Editors are the sheriff to our published words, the one who rounds up the misbegotten criminals and victims of our words. We owe it to them to listen to their great words of advice so we become better writers before we hand over our words to them.
5. Avoid weak adjectives and most adverbs. They weaken writing. So instead of walked quickly, write dashed or bolted. Instead of tall man, write about him towering over something.
6. Do a search of “that” when you are done with a piece. Then take out the ones that are unnecessary. It will be lots of them. “He said that he didn’t do it.” Imagine you must pay $5 for every unneeded that.