Daily Writing Tip 73 of 100, Don’t Stop Too Soon

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Don’t Stop Too Soon

Source – The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham

Good stories result from the writer’s taking a few days off to rest, then returning to the fray to take one more cautious and caring look at the “finished” work.

Revise, revise and be ready to revise again. After all the work you’ve done, it would be tragic, wouldn’t it, if you stopped a day or a month away from making those final adjustments which could make all the difference in the product’s acceptability?

Writing isn’t writing – editing is writing. First drafts are just pouring letters onto paper. It’s the revision where the real story – the one hiding in your unconscious mind begins to get teased out.

It is so hard, though.

Daily Writing Tip 72 of 100, Listing the Stories

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Listing the Stories

Source – Writing for Your Life by Deena Metzger

I like to make lists. Once it amused me to keep a journal with a formal title – “The Book of Lists: A Writer’s Journal.” The lists became a catalogue of ways in which I could approach my life, ways to remember experiences by categorizing them. In that book, I kept lists like the following: stories about my body; synchronicities and miracles; visions; childhood friends; mentors;recurrent dream images; stories about my children; gifts received.
….
Recently I added a catergory: lists of lists to be made. Here I included: losses; death stories; memories of nature; stories that help me survive; teaching stories; bird stories; wolf stories. Needless to say, the lists overlap. But when the same story possibility appears on several lists, the story itself is altered by the different perspective of each list.
….
I once heard someone say that the mind is one part of the brain telling a story to the other part. Perhaps the self is the composite of all those stories told.

I like the idea of keeping lists; I like the idea of lists of lists more; I like the idea of a journal of lists the best. I think I’ll start it tonight.

Some lists right off the top of my head: Things I didn’t do that I wish I had; Seductive lies; Books never written that I’d want to read; Secrets I still don’t know; Stuff I don’t have the courage to write down.

Daily Writing Tip 71 of 100, Fairytales and the Existential Predicament

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Fairytales and the Existential Predicament

Source – Dreams and Inward Journeys, A Rhetoric and Reader for Writers by Marjorie Ford and Jon Ford

Chapter 4 excerpt, an essay by Bruno Bettelheim, Fairytales and the Existential Predicament

There is a widespread refusal to let children know that the source of much that goes wrong in life is due to our own very natures – the propensity of all men for acting aggressively, asocially, selfishly, out of anger and anxiety. Instead, we want our children to believe that, inherently, all men are good. But children know that they are not always good; and often, even when they are, they would prefer not to be. This contradicts what they are told by their parents, and therefore makes the child a monster in his own eyes.

This is exactly the message that fairytales get across to the child in manifold form: that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence – but that if one does not shy away, but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious.

Modern stories written for young children mainly avoid these existential problems, although they are crucial issues for all of us. The child needs most particularly to be given suggestions in symbolic form about how he may deal with these issues and grow safely into maturity. “Safe” stories mention neither death or aging, the limits to our existence, nor the wish for eternal life. The fairytale, by contrast, confronts the child squarely with the basic human predicaments.

I am sometimes referred to as “A Terrible Person” because of my penchant for doing bad things, especially killing, the characters in my writing. I defend myself in that “nothing happened, it’s only words.”

And here is a scholarly essay (from a somewhat controversial author) on why it is necessary to do bad things to good people, not only in fairytales, but in all fiction.

Yeah.

Daily Writing Tip 70 of 100, Finding Your Niche(s)

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Finding Your Niche(s)

Source – 1,818 Ways to Write Better & Get Published By Scott Edelstein

One of the best and fastest ways to build a writing career and to sell your work talents and services is to find or create a niche and fill it. Better yet, find and fill several. To find or create your own niches, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What can I do that no one else can?
  2. What do I know or understand that no one else knows?
  3. What have I experienced that few others have?
  4. What ideas do I have that are new or unique?
  5. What perspectives do I have that are special or different? What do I see that do that others do not?
  6. What does the world country state city suburb neighborhood industry etc. need that I can offer?
  7. What seems to be missing that I can provide? But have other writers overlooked?

An intimidating list. It’s hard to imagine that you have something to say that hasn’t been said already.

You are wrong.

Daily Writing Tip 69 of 100, Things That Get Stuck In Our Heads

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Things That Get Stuck In Our Heads

Source – The Mind of Your Story, Discover What Drives Your Fiction By Lisa Lenard-Cook

I use the word “stuck” intentionally because when I visualize what happens when I obsess, I not only see a needle stuck in a groove on a 33 1/3 record, I hear the repetitive oddity such a scratch creates….For those of us who grew up listening to records, carefully picking up the needle and setting it down just past the offending scratch was something we did so often it never occurred to us that it took some skill and finesse

That repetition, that over-and-over with no way out unless someone physically lifts the needle from the groove, is how it is when something gets stuck in a writers head. She’ll start thinking about something she said (or wishes she said), or did, or saw, like that woman with the suitcase in the rain. She starts spinning the thing out, imagining what comes next. But then she gets to a certain point – and it’s always the same point – and she skips right back to the beginning.

These ruts can be maddening, and in fact, if we weren’t writers they likely would drive us insane. But when we write, there are things we can do with them.

I have spent a lot of time writing stuff that I knew wasn’t going to be good – stuff I didn’t really even want to write. But there was something stuck in my head and I knew the only way to get rid of it was to write it out.

That is how it is.

Daily Writing Tip 68 of 100, How Setting Acts As Your Story Backbone

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – How Setting Acts As Your Story Backbone

Source – Setting, How To Create and Sustain A Sharp Sense of Time and Place in Your Fiction by Jack M. Bickham

A common problem in writing a long story, especially something as lengthy as a novel, has to do with story unity or cohesion. “I have six subplots going, and how do I keep a sense of unity in my story was so many?” A writer may ask. Or: “I simply must change viewpoint several times, but what can I do to maintain a sense of coherent, cohesive story line?” Or (scariest of all): “My story seems to be flying all to pieces and I don’t know how to hold all the diverse elements together.”

Expert use of setting can often provide an answer to such questions.

Setting – especially the concrete, physical setting experienced through the senses of the characters or described in an occasional panorama by the author – can provide a constant, stable, reassuringly familiar backdrop against which all manners of diverse plot developments can be played out.

There are so many works of fiction that seem to be completely integrated with their setting (Moby Dick, The Shipping News, Heart of Darkness, anything set in London or New York)- that their setting actually becomes another main character – often the most interesting one.

Daily Writing Tip 67 of 100, Speech in Narration

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Speech in Narration

Source – Dialogue How to get your characters talking to each other in a way that vividly reveals who they are, what they’re doing, and what’s coming next in your story by Lewis Turco

“A tag line is a couple of words or a phrase that tells you who is speaking. The simplest and least obtrusive tag lines are ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ or minor variations like ‘he replied’ or ‘he asked’ as in this conversation between a man named Horace and a woman named Gail”:

“Hello,” he said, “my name’s Horace. What’s yours?” he asked.

“Hi,” she replied, turning in her chair to look at him. “I’m Gail Adams.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Horace said. “I’ve been watching you for about an hour.”

Fred looks thoughtful. “That’s kind of blah it seems to me. Can’t you just set up a bit?”

“Sure,” The Author replies, “but it’s best to keep things simple. Using adjectives, adverbs, and fancy verbs to describe tone of voice or show what’s going on just gets in the way of the action and characterization. This is what can happen”:

“Hello,” he croaked nervously. “My name’s Horace. What’s yours?” he asked with as much aplomb as he could muster.

“Hi,” she squeaked uncertainly, turning in her chair to look at him. “I’m Gail Adams,” she said, blushingly.

“Pleased to meet you,” Horace declared, “I’ve been watching you for about an hour,” he offered with a quaver in his voice.

Author Intrusion

Fred nods. “I see what you mean. The dialogue looks sort of amateurish, too – stilted and forced. What’s the reason for that?”

“It’s called ‘author intrusion.’ The wish of a modern author generally is to create the illusion of reality, to make the reader forget he or she is reading a story rather than a living it. Therefore, an author tries to hide himself, to make the story seem as natural as possible. Adjectives and other sorts of descriptions tend to remind the reader that somebody’s controlling his or her interest.”

It is hard when writing to simply say “he said” or “Nancy said” over and over. Harder still to go over a section of dialog and remove all tag lines that aren’t absolutely necessary (if there is any way the reader can figure out which character is talking through context – take out the tag line) and reducing all the others to ‘she said.’

It looks terribly plain and boring.

But then, pay attention to yourself when you are reading. All the “he said” and “she said” – simple tag lines – completely disappear from your consciousness. They don’t even register – no matter how repetitive and boring they appear to the author that has to type them in over and over.

There are other ways to make dialogue interesting (read the rest of the book).

So, keep those tag lines simple and remove them if they aren’t necessary.

And for God’s sake – get rid of any word ending in “ly.”