Monday, September 16, 2013

You Said It: Advice I'm Following

I have reached the point of turning in my first draft of my writing project for feedback from my supervisor. This draft consists of the story I've written thus far along with a dot-point outline for continuing as well as any issues I plan to address while writing the next draft. I have not allowed anyone besides my supervisor to actually read my story so far because I fear having too many opinions at the start. I know what I want my character to do and say, so I don't want anyone other than my professional supervisor to give me advice at this point. I think Stephen King said something along the lines of "Write with the door closed. Edit with the door open."

I have been following a few other key pieces of advice while writing and establishing my own style and writing habits. Here are just a few:

  • Do not use adverbs to modify when someone is speaking. This advice comes from Elmore Leonard's 10 rules of writing. He says never use anything other than "said" to carry dialogue. I have found this to be an effective piece of advice. It leaves the dialogue free to sound like it should. Saying things like "Sally mused quietly" just doesn't work because it seems to force the reader to see that this is the way Sally said something. Well, when I read something, I want to imagine how the speaker says something. Don't tell me what to imagine. Simplicity can be golden. I also sometimes leave out the "saids" completely when I can. The flow is much nicer when reading, and the words do not distract from the dialogue. You can read the full 10 rules of writing by Elmore Leonard here.
  • Keep a regular writing routine. I know this advice is said over and over, but it is no joke. If I miss a day of writing, it can be difficult for me to trudge back into it regularly. Even if you just jot a few words down in a notebook; on a napkin; or on the back of your hand, write something every day. 
  • Try hand writing your story. This advice might not work for everyone, but I find writing by hand to be freeing. If I make a mistake, I scribble and move on. If I am typing on the computer and make a mistake, I will backspace until I get the word just right. That action is distracting and takes up valuable time. Hand writing creates a natural first draft situation that can be tweaked as it is typed. Here is an article by a writer who says writing by hand actually helps her write faster to meet deadlines.
  • Only show your draft to a select few trusted readers. I have read in several advice columns that authors sometimes make the mistake of showing their unfinished and unedited work to too many people. Readers are different. Every person is going to visualize your main character in a different way. That is the point isn't it? Imagination carries you through the narrative. Well, what if you have conflicting imaginations giving you advice? It can blur the idea you have for your story. There should be more than one reader for your story, but perhaps limiting the number of readers can actually be beneficial at first. 

I am just growing into my writing style and chosen genre, so hopefully I can continue this growth as my project progresses by continuing to follow the advice of my supervisor and other successful writers.


Copyright (c) Emily D. Wood
Photo via Favim

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