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 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 63 of 100, Don’t Make Excuses

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 Make Excuses

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

If you are serious about the craft of fiction, you must never make excuses for yourself. You simply cannot allow yourself to:

  • Say you’re too tired.
  • Postpone work until “later.”
  • Fail to work because you’re too busy right now.
  • Wait for inspiration
  • Plan to get right at it “tomorrow.”
  • Give up because (editors) (agents) (readers) (critics) are unfair. (Fill in as many as you want.)
  • Tell yourself you’re too old (or too young) to start.
  • Blame others in your family for your lack of free time.
  • Say your job is too demanding to allow you any other activity.
  • Tell yourself that your story idea isn’t good enough.

Or any of a host of other excuses you may dream up for yourself.

No. Let’s get this straight right away: Writers write; everyone else makes excuses.

Jeebus… I think I’ve used all of these excuses in a single day.

Daily Writing Tip 47 of 100, Thoughts to Help You Press On

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 – Thoughts to Help You Press On

Source –Writing the Short Story, by Jack M Bickham

I’ve said it before, but it should be remembered always: Good stories aren’t written; they’re rewritten. No matter how bad you may feel about the pages you produce today, they’re better than no pages at all. You can always fix them later. Your job at the moment is to produce something concrete, which you can revise later.

False starts, messy transitions, recalcitrant characters, and all manner of other disasters befall every writer during first draft. Pros don’t let this discourage or frighten them.

Most excuses for not writing are not good enough.

I wish I could take this to heart better than I do. I know I’ve written (in my useless head) more excuses for not writing than I have produced actual pages.

Daily Writing Tip 40 of 100, Testing and Deepening Your Characters

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 – Testing and Deepening Your Characters

Source – Writing the Short Story, A Hands-On Program, by Jack M. Bickham

Readers often ask whether writers start with plot or with character in developing stories. It’s the kind of question most writers can’t begin to answer because plot ideas tend to spring forth with characters already in them and characters usually spring out of the imagination with some of their plot problems already nagging them.

To put it another way: Good plots involve vivid characters, and good characters are always involved in a plot that tests their mettle.

This makes a lot of sense. Over the years I have had folks talk about making cards with ideas on them – plot cards, character cards, theme cards, setting cards…. The plot and character cards were the hardest. I think the mistake is to separate them like that.

So maybe I need to think about plot/character hybrid cards? Or one step further – plot/character/conflict cards.

Yeah… that might be the ticket.

Daily Writing Tip 36 of 100, Don’t Warm Up Your Engines

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 Warm Up Your Engines

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

Such static or backward-looking approaches to fiction are probably lethal in a novel, and are certainly fatal in a modern short story. Readers today – and that of course includes editors who will buy or reject your work – are more impatient than ever before. They will not abide a story that begins with the author warming up his engines. If a setting needs to be described, it can be described later, after you have gotten the story started. If background must be given the reader, it can be given later, after you have intrigued him with the present action of the story.

Back in the day, classic literature didn’t have to do that. You remember the tomes you read in school that would spend page after page on backstory and description before anything remotely interesting would happen.

I used to pride myself on getting through this. It was true that the payoff at the end was usually worth the work up front.

But now I’m getting too old. I don’t have enough time left for all this. I used to always finish every book I started. Now, though, if I’m not into it within the first few pages – that’s all she wrote.