Author Archives: admin

Do You Think Things Through?

Do you ever in your haste to get things done, give in to a bit of mental laziness and not think things through enough? Or do you make a mental note to fix something and then later forget to do it?

Don’t be hasty.

We all want our writing and our stories to be good, the best we can make them. Powerful writing gets noticed even in a flooded marketplace. But I think, too, we can be tempted–or even succumb to the temptation at times–to conclude that what we have written is good enough and to ignore that quiet, nagging voice that says, “you need to check that” or “that’s not quite right” or “is my writing dull here?”

This is important for all writing.

I’m going to use examples below from fiction writing, but of course the need for careful thought applies to nonfiction writing too.

What about first drafts?

Now just in case you want to say to me at this point: “Yeah, but I like to write by my intuition, my heart, and make it up as I go.”  If you do want to say that, let me add, “I’m with you. When you’re writing that first draft or plowing through your word-count for the Nano contest, go for it. Burn through it. Absolutely. But, as we’ve all heard, good writing is re-written. So I absolutely also recommend careful and thorough thinking-through after that hot piece of writing has cooled down. Even invite your critical left-brain to go for it big-time.”

So what are my points on thinking things through?

1. Thinking-through is vital for depth in writing.

Careful thought can uncover meaning in your story you didn’t see before, themes, symbols, clever twists. Depth can add value and enjoyment for your reader. You might just come up with insights that take your work from good to great.

2.  Thinking-through is vital for plausibility.

Would your character really do that?

Yesterday, I was stuck. I realized that in a key chapter in my novel, I had my protagonist too easily let his 12-year-old daughter, his one and only remaining loved one, go on an obviously dangerous outing. Something no caring parent would do. Yet what happens on that outing is essential to my plot, so I was pushing my luck. I needed to get her on that outing. Then I thought it through and came up with a solution: miscommunication.

Plausibility is super-important whether you’re writing a realistic this-world story or a fantasy with a setting in a strange and alien world. Things still have to make sense to your reader.

3. Does it work all the way through?

Thinking things through is vital to assure that your story or copy works all the way through. Without that careful thought, it’s oh so easy to miss the need for a transition, the need for a brief explanation, or the realization that you have your character acting decidedly out of character–and many other possible problems you need to fix.

And the best thinking-through includes asking the question: how will my reader react to what I have written?

4.  Thinking things through also can open you up to the possibilities.

How about those lovely surprises that tie things together at the end? Surprises that readers love, that make your reader say, for example, “Oh, yeah, now I know why he didn’t propose!” Also, taking the time re-read your chapters and do some hard thinking can remind you to follow-up on those hints (plants) you crafted early-on and forgot about after several thousand more words.

Todd Henry in his excellent book The Accidental Creative writes: “Assumptions can be disastrous to our creative process because they limit how we look at problems” (page 72). We can, if we are not careful, let assumptions artificially limit our options (Page 75).. Don’t assume it all works until you have checked it and you’re sure.

Don’t miss choice opportunities that can make your work move vivid, more alive. Or as Jerry Cleaver wrote in his book Immediate Fiction, while emphasizing the need for constant conflict and suspense, “Can you make it worse?”

Dare I add…

Careful thought for important life-decisions can be a good idea too? Most of our decisions offer more than one option, and decisions can be powerful.

Back to writing.

My experience with getting seriously stuck made me realize that I need to go back and think through my novel–at least at every major point in the plot–and not just when I get stuck.

How about you?

Do you ask yourself hard and uncomfortable questions about your story or your copy? What do you do when you get stuck?

 

How long or how short and how much cutting is a good idea?

Don’t miss an excellent article on the length of sentences and pieces of writing at Write to Done:

Here: http://writetodone.com/2013/06/10/how-miniskirts-will-make-your-prose-sexier-the-golden-rule-of-length/

Sometimes short is good. Sometimes long is good. It depends on how well you write and what you want to say.

Some cutting is nearly always a good idea, but it is all too possible to go to far.

 

Do you copy your favorite authors?

Do you mimic passages from your favorite authors?  Here’s a link to a Write To Done post I heartily agree with and that advocates doing just that.

http://writetodone.com/2013/05…..g-authors/

I think some of us worry too much about originality and a unique voice.Your own recognizable and mature voice comes from a lot of writing–miles of digital paper. That and only that. Write enough and your own unique voice is inevitable.

Meanwhile, learning some stylistic ways and means from your favorite authors and copying the ones you particularly like can provide you with a few potentially-quantum boosts on the learning trail.

It will not– repeat: will not–damage your originality, even if you slavishly copy another’s words, word for word for a time. Even then, with time, your own personalilty will have its way. You’ll wind up writing like you.

It’s a good article, Check it out.

 

Do you write by the rules?

A review of the “Simple Writing, Straight Talk for Smart Writers” blog.  http://simplewriting.org/

Do you want good advice?

Do you feel you need good advice about writing? Would you welcome a skilled editor’s help now and then.  I know I would.

I appreciate the fact that there are available right now excellent books and blogs on writing well. When I started writing years back, there weren’t that many really good books on the subject to be had.

First, I forget most of the rules.

Often I do not write by the rules. That is in my first draft, when I dash it off rather intuitively, when I don’t want to be inhibited by worrying about getting it just right. Not at first. But when it comes to good writing advice, I always welcome it.

Revising is another story.

To me, I need those “rules”–call them guidelines–when I am editing my writing. I can’t go out every other month and hire a pro editor to read my writing and offer advice. So for the most part, I need to know what to look for in my writing that stands in need of careful revision or downright re-writing. Nevertheless, I am in favor of hiring a good editor to checkout any serious writing for publication.

Back to the blog: the Simple Writing blog offers sound and sensible tips and techniques that make for good writing. It is primarily focused on nonfiction writing, although much of the content certainly applies to fiction writing too. I find its balanced and knowledgeable approach practical and pleasing. We all need to know to write well, of course, in whatever niche we target, including nonfiction.

Why bother with another blog on writing?

I have been writing for a while, and if you are reading this blog, you probably have been too. So why bother with a blog that calls itself “Simple Writing”? I can‘t speak for you, but I find that when I am tempted to think I don’t need more writing advice, that’s when I seem to get into the most trouble. Like when I have reached the point with a writing project where I can’t figure out how to improve it more. Hence, I like to read sensible and reliable sources that reinforce essential points re good writing in my memory.

Need to improve your blog writing?

The Simple Writing blog is a fine one for improving your own blog writing too, which is essential to developing a platform, which in turn is essential  to getting published or self-publishing successfully these days.

Here are some of the recent post titles:

  • “25 editing tips for your writer’s toolbox”
  •  “41 Hot Blogs Every New Blogger Should Know”
  •  “Personification: good for writing not weather”
  •  “The only way to get over fear”
  •  “3 great ways to get those creative juices flowing”

About the blog’s author…

The author is Leah McClellan is  a writer and copyeditor who’s mission is to help other writers develop their craft. She offers a free 6-week mini writing course: “The Fast Track to Polished Prose.” I checked it out, and it looks good. In brief, she knows her stuff.

Her course  will be a good refresher for me and could be for several of you, my readers, too. Wink

Highly recommended.

What advice would you offer to a writer young in her craft?

Story Writers: Don’t Miss KM Weiland’s Latest on Sequels

It her most recent post, KM Weiland tackles sequels, their importance and how-tos.

Sequels are rarely explained this well. Too often they are forgotten or neglected or shied away from.

They are vital part of story writing.

Find her post here:

Highly recommended.

I am not a robot, nor do I cut like one.

Have you been harassed by the writing-efficiency taskmasters? Have they told you that you should edit out every redundant word until your writing (in effect) is cut to the bone? Sounds to me like a butcher in a meat market.
 
I always want to point out to them that I am not a robot!
 
 
Let me explain. Language is more than mathematics, just like reality is more than the physical universe alone.
Language is a higher language than the so-called language of math (as beneficial as mathematics can certainly be and has been). It is a mistake to try to apply scientific reasoning to the language we speak, read, write, and think with–at least when it comes to doing such things. Such misapplication can kill language, limit its meaning, make it just about unreadable. 
 
Cut until your writing bleeds?
I’ve heard it said that words such as “really” and “very” and various other imprecise terms and colloquialisms should be edited out of one’s writing (maybe even one’s speech). But, to me, that can be the pathway to impoverishment of communication. But is the word “really” really meaningless and empty? I don’t think so. I’ve read some writing, precise and well-defined, but cut to the bone so much that it is definitely not reader-friendly. In fact (sorry!), it’s a chore to read. Needlessly a chore.
 
Language is not a science.
Nor should we try to confine it in lockstep to logic and reason. It is more than that. It is subjective as well as objective (who among us is ever totally and purely subjective?). It is human.
 
And when writing patterns itself to a degree after the way we talk, with all the expressiveness of being a person, all the quirkiness of being a unique individual, and even includes a word here and there that doesn’t strictly-speaking really need to be there to be precise–it still can communicate very well indeed.
 
I don’t know about you, but in front of my monitor, I for one will not let the sometimes rigid, super-conservative and occasionally cold and unfeeling gods of business–efficiency and profit–kill my writing. I am not a machine to be judged by my efficiency or even by the standard of perfect accuracy. I am not a computer. I am not a robot. Not even an android. Really, I don’t even want to be cloned.
 
Does editing out superfluous wordiness help a piece of writing? Of course it does. In spite of what I wrote above, I advocate careful editing and cutting. But must we students of the writing craft insist on going to extremes in that direction? I don’t think so. 
 
Moderation, my fellow writers. 
 
Moderation. Really.

I have to Confess: I like Reading Nancy Drew

I’m a mature–well, at least older–male who reads Nancy Drew. The original series of 64, that is.
 
Why on earth would I do that? Well, I started reading them to check them out to see if they would be appropriate for my granddaughter to read. They are. But surprise! I found I like them. Why so? They’re good, that’s why. None of them will ever vie for Great-American-Novel status. But the stories are solid, as well as good examples of sound story structure.
 
Granted they’re dated. They’re straight like a boy scout convention (or should I say “girl scout convention”?), kosher and proper in every way–no sex or violence or even occasional profanity. Darn! They’re filled with frequent and sometimes funny coincidences and some improbabilities here and there. They have wonderful. honey-coated endings that at times rival a Disney feature presentation. And Nancy Drew herself, in addition to being pretty and brave and smart, consistently comes across as a saint with strawberry-blond hair.
 
But, these novels, incidentally, have sold zillions of copies. And starting in 1930, they have been translated from English into as many as 25 additional languages and published in an impressive number of European, Scandinavian, Latin American, and Asian countries–and most recently in Estonia. Not too shabby.
 
Want to learn mystery writing? Read Nancy Drew. Now why would I say that to you my savvy readers? Rather cheeky, right? Empty boast? I don’t think so, based upon thoughtful and commendable consideration. But Why? Because their mystery-writing bones are nearly naked for all to see, laid bare certainly to the critical eyes of students of the craft–those of us who know some of the tricks well enough to spot them easily where and when they occur. The books are chuck full of classic mystery and thriller/suspense techniques, twists and surprises.  And come complete with simple, straight-forward examples of those techniques right there on the page to learn from. At least if you’re relatively new to the genre. And for you veterans, some reminders couldn’t hurt.
 
I am often pleasantly amazed at how when reading these stories, I keep getting worried when Nancy or also George and Bess get themselves into dargerous situations. And I keep getting mad when those diabolical bad guys and gals–some of which are downright nasty–devise and pull off such shameful trickery against such a likeable heroine (old fashioned word, I know). And I must also confess that my heart is often warmed by the nifty, all-loose-ends-neatly-tied-up endings, each like a cleverly wrapped Christmas package.
 
Hey, they’re a quick read, and I don’t lose any sleep when I make them my night cap, which lately has been embarrassingly often. 
 
Well, having gotten that off my chest, I’m off to start chapter 1 of The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, #25 in case you’re wondering. That’ll be my reward for some exhausting editing work done earlier today.
 
Stay tuned!
 
P.S. I do read other novels too.
 
P. S. S. Your turn. Be honest now. Have your read Nancy Drew?