1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    20 Tips for Fiction Writers

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Steerpike, Jun 23, 2016.

    Came across these 20 tips (note: not rules) via a post on social media:

    http://www.iuniverse.com/expertadvice/20writingtipsfrom12fictionauthors.aspx

    What do you all think? Here are my thoughts:

    Tip 1: Agree. I think reading extensively in and out of one's genre is a huge plus.

    Tip 2: Agree, to the extent it means find a space to be alone while you are writing.

    Tip 3: Agree generally, though I wouldn't go so far as to say every work has to adhere to this.

    Tip 4: Disagree. This is work-specific, in my view. Sometimes I know the ending before I write a single word, sometimes it develops organically.

    Tip 5: Agree. This is a great idea. These days, you can use note features on a phone.

    Tip 6: Agree generally, to the extent they simply mean internet connections are a distraction. I sometimes use a distraction-free text editor that won't let you open another window while it is open, so no surfing.

    Tip 7: This seems like a somewhat obtuse, "aren't I a serious writer" statement meant to sound deeper than it is. That's about all I can say about it.

    Tip 8: Agree.

    Tip 9: Qualified agreement. Sometimes, you want to tell, but speaking in broad terms I'll go with Chekhov here.

    Tip 10: Agree. If you aren't going to listen to them, it's pointless to have them. Note that listen doesn't necessarily mean adopt their suggestions.

    Tip 11: Disagree. More high-brow drivel from Franzen, which doesn't astound me.

    Tip 12: Agree that one should not panic. I keep on my desk a pair of Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses to don if looking at my work starts to panic me.

    Tip 13: Agree in part. That's not the entirety of your existence, but the act of writing is solitary. These days, things like internet forums make it a less solitary life.

    Tip 14: Agree. But don't be your only editor/critic. Other people will see what you don't.

    Tip 15: OK, Franzen, I'm willing to go along with that one.

    Tip 16: I think Leonard is being a bit tongue-in-cheek here in terms of an absolute count, but I agree with the sentiment. Manuscripts littered with exclamation marks become comical and lose urgency because of it.

    Tip 17: Agreed. This is an important thing for people to learn when it comes to beta readers and critiquers.

    Tip 18: Disagree. This is specific to the individual. You can't make a generalization to all writers.

    Tip 19: Agree completely.

    Tip 20: Nothing to really agree or disagree with here, but I like the sentiments of the Post-It.
     
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  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    1. Totally agree - this is how you can bring freshness to a genre. Grabbing an idea from somewhere else.
    2. Not always possible. Writer's need to roll with the punches.
    3. I probably do this more unconsciously than consciously.
    4. I always have an ending in mind but it's always up for change - I think it has to be discovered more than earned.
    5. agree - I always have a notebook in my purse.
    6. I don't have internet at home but again it's a choice you make like watching TV - don't do it and it won't be a problem.
    7. Don't agree. Context is everything. You can't just write off an interesting verb.
    8. true
    9. Always loved this quote.
    10. Key word - trusted readers.
    11. Don't really get this - Tolkien only went to middle earth in his imagination. Ditto Baum and Oz. Do those count? Does he mean something in ones personal life or something personal to the writer? Cause I think it's more important to share something you enjoy or something that scares you or puzzles you rather than just personal experiences.
    12. Yes prayer. And pushing through - agree.
    13. agree
    14. For the final draft yup. There's a point when you've got to stop the beta reads and the advice and just work it out on your own.
    15. Agree
    16. Agree.
    17. Don't agree. I've had people give me exact fixers and I've used them and loved them. As long as you know how to read critiques and advice you can separate the good from the bad. I'd never tell anyone not to tell him how to fix something because you never know when they could have the exact right solution. Why limit yourself? But this might be good advice for the beginner who doesn't know how to sort advice.
    18. Actually it's a good lesson to tone it down.
    19. So Write Boldly - I've heard that before - agreed
    20. Easier said than done for a daydreamer.
     
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  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Argh. I shouldn't have clicked the link. I find myself getting annoyed with pretty much every advice article out there now, especially when good advice is warped into ridiculous soundbites.

    Tip1:
    Reading is important. I don't think you have to read outside your genre. I don't think you have to read exclusively in your genre. In fact, I wrote a romance book before I read one.

    But I don't believe someone who doesn't read can write.

    Tip 2: Might be beneficial but not crucial. I can write in a room full of other people. I don't believe in writing to a schedule.

    Tip 3: I hate structure advice that's so... structured. You don't need to divide a book into thirds that way.

    Tip 4: Nonsense.

    Tip 5: Good tip for people who get ideas. Would be a useless paperweight in my bag.

    Tip 6: Or be an adult and learn self-discipline?

    Tip 7: Nonsense.

    Tip 8: Agree that reading aloud is very useful but not just for 'rhythm'. It's great for picking up typos, missing words, awkward phrasing, and repetitions.

    Tip 9: No. Sometimes you just need to say the moon is shining. Show and tell both have their place.

    Tip 10: Listen to feedback? Yes, but from everyone.

    Tip 11: Ridiculous soundbite that means nothing.

    Tip 12: True for me. I always have moments of doubt when I wonder if the novel is worth finishing.

    Tip 13: Another stupid soundbite.

    Tip 14: Yes, as long as you don't make the mistake of thinking you don't need other critics and editors.

    Tip 15: FUCKING SOUNDBITES. Agree with the sentiment though.

    Tip 16: So... use as many exclamation marks as works. Duh.

    Tip 17: "Always" goes too far but I agree with the point.

    Tip 18: I'm starting to dislike Will Self.

    Tip 19: Well of course we're "allowed" to write what we want. But if you want to sell books you might want to consider your readers as well.

    Tip 20: Probably the best tip on the list.
     
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  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Tenderiser

    And so my evil plan begins to take shape in my mind. I'll post innumerable links to lists of tips and rules each and every day (or write a script to do it), and you'll be so busy clicking them and responding that you won't have time to write. The resultant lack in competition will lead, according to my calculations, to an approximately 0.000000178% (rounded up) increase in my own book sales per decade.

    Wuahahahahahahaahahah!
     
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  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    "I like Will Self more than you," she said sniffily.
     
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  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    What do I do now? he temporized in a slightly dazedly, uncharacteristically undecided fashion.
     
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  7. SadStories
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    Tip 1 - Yes!!!!!! Honestly I don't trust writers who say they don't read a lot, and even if they are successful - it's probably not the kind of books I want to read.
    Tip 2 - Meh, I'm pretty sure I could write a good paragraph in the front row of a circus performance, and if I didn't - it would be for other reasons.
    Tip 3 - Well, yeah, that is one common way to write a novel? Of many, many others???
    Tip 4 - But the ending is the first thing that I plan, it's the whole point of everything else I'm doing??????
    Tip 5 - Nooo. The Stephen King thing that if it's a good idea you're not going to forget it rings really true for me. Every time I've tried to use a notebook or something, it has felt like an affectation - like I'm going, "Oh, look at me, what a real writer I am!" and that, more than anything, makes me feel like not a writer, lol.
    Tip 6 - Just not true, see tip 2.
    Tip 7 - True. I know some would disagree, but if you're reconsidering words and trying out different phrasings, I'm probably going to find your prose obnoxious.
    Tip 8 - Probably helpful, but it's not "the only way". I'm sure many writers don't do this.
    Tip 9 - Yes!!!!!
    Tip 10 - Meh, if you have "trusted" first readers, I guess.
    Tip 11 - YESSS.
    Tip 12 - Sarah Waters. :love: :love:
    Tip 13 - Will Self seems really pretentious, lol.
    Tip 14 - Yes!!!!
    Tip 15 - YES!!
    Tip 16 - You can say this about anything, lol. "Keep it balanced, unless you know how to do cool things by not keeping it balanced."
    Tip 17 - I'm sure one is prone to making big mistakes, especially technical, right in front of one's nose that a second pair of eyes can easily and specifically help you correct. When it comes to creative decisions, like what a character should be like or what should happen, this seems to me to be on the spot.
    Tip 18 - Oh, just shut up already, Will Self.
    Tip 19 - Very true.
    Tip 20 - Nice!

    Now I'm going to read everyone else's responses and find out what a douchebag I am.
     
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  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    @SadStories do you want to join my Will Self Anti-Fan Club?
     
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  9. SadStories
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    SadStories Member

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    Totally!! I'll start handing out fliers.
     
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  10. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I felt pretty inclined to agree with everything on the list. It basically sums up to be harsh but kind toward yourself and a "you do you, homie" attitude.

    #1 :D
    #2 :D
    #3 :D
    #4 :mad:
    #5 :mad:
    #6 :D
    #7 :D
    #8 :D
    #9 :D
    #10 :D
    #11 :D
    #12 :D
    #13 :D
    #14 :D
    #15 :mad:
    #16 :D
    #17 :D
    #18 :D
    #19 :D
    #20 :D
     
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  11. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    1) Reading outside the genre I write in. Meh. It's probably a good place to find fresh ideas but I write and read within more than one genre. The ones I don't read it's usually because I have no interest in the subject and would be bored reading them.

    2) I can't concentrate on my writing with other people around. But that's me.

    3) Seems like a decent guideline. I'm not sure I always stick to it but for the most part, yes.

    4) Most of my story ideas come from what I vision of an outcome. I never have everything planned out but I know where I want things to go.

    5) I use an app on my phone for random thoughts. It has helped preserve a few ideas.

    6) This a crazy idea to me. I switch over to websites all through my day for research or just to pull up a thesaurus. Seems like an outdated concept to me.

    7) Don't use xxxxxx. Yuck. Absolutes are bullshit.

    8) I've found reading a passage out loud has alerted me to various problems.

    9) Gotta agree with @Tenderiser on this one. Tell has a place in a story if you don't take it too far.

    10) I always listen to what people say about my writing. I don't always agree but I'm willing to pay attention and make changes when more than one person brings up the same issue.

    11) I'm not sure what the point of this one is.

    12) There's always going to be doubt in your mind.

    13) No idea. Solitary is the way I do it. Doesn't mean it has to be that way.

    14) Yeah, sure. Seems a bit obvious. I'd still like an outside editor to run through it.

    15) The reader is not your adversary I can agree with. A spectator? Seems like that's exactly what they are to me. They've come to watch a story.

    16) Not sure I agree with the ratio but keeping exclamation points under control is a great idea!!!!!!!

    17) Maybe. Again, I hate absolutes.

    18) Is this a tip?

    19) Pointless statement.

    20) Go go encouragement. Again, is this really a tip?
     
  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I really hope 17 is true...
     
  13. Sifunkle
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    I just realised why people talk about writers being full of Self-hate.

    Thank you! I'll show myself out.
     
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  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My problem with #5 is that I can't remember where I left my keys, let alone a notebook.
     
  15. IlaridaArch
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    Dad, is that you?
     
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  16. Carly Berg
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    Carly Berg Contributing Member

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    Great post, Steerpike. Lots to think about here. Here's my two thousand cents. Oh well, it was more fun than getting my boring chores done:

    1) Yes, I think writers should generally be readers. But I think they'd do better reading within their genre rather than outside of it since time is limited.

    As a rare exception, for example, someone with a third grade education and hardscrabble life in the boonies might write very unique and refreshing stories from their unusual perspective.

    2) Defining a writing time and space is important for concentration, I think. But I wouldn't state it as strongly because if my family really needs the space or my time, they've got it.

    3) Yes, aside from deliberate exceptions, the story set up should be complete by the first third of a novel, play out in the middle, with the ending resolving all the story threads. If the main character dies halfway through the book, I'll stop reading.

    4) I do best with a loose outline rather than no plan at all or one that can't change if the story evolves differently.

    5) Notebook, yes, definitely. Too bad I frequently forget.

    6) The internet can be great. You can quickly look up anything you need. It's also a nice motivator to write a few pages, then stop by your favorite forum. However...

    7) Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting (and interesting adverbs are even less interesting). Really, I think it's just fine tuning of skills to know what to draw attention to and what to use a more "invisible" word for. Is "how" she travelled to the kitchen important? If the point is what she finds once she's there, then don't take the focus away from that by explaining that she galloped or crab-walked to the kitchen. If the point is to have us discover that someone broke her legs, then use a more "interesting" verb than she "went" or she "walked."

    8) Read it out loud- definitely, always. I can't count the times my ears caught what my eyes missed.

    9) Yes, show don't tell. Unless it's a minor but necessary detail or summary or other reason not to put focus on an "on stage" portrayal.

    10) I'd say only use the suggested changes that you agree with, and don't be surprised if that's only 10% of them. Maybe you'll later realize you were wrong but if you take your own judgment out of the equation and make all changes suggested, you will end up with a mess. If you don't understand it, don't do it.

    11) I guess we all have to find our own balance of aiming for money or self-satisfaction. Of course most of us want both.

    12) I think if it's a regular thing that your family will be out on the streets if whatever you're writing doesn't make immediate money then you're probably being self-indulgent and need to get a job with a reliable income.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2016
  17. Carly Berg
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    13) Writing is solitary but calling it "solitary confinement," a prison term, strikes me as drama. When people get to do what they want to do, they should be grateful, not play the masochist. I like working alone and socializing with others and I do both.

    14) Yes. Kill your darlings!

    15) No, I don't consider the reader a friend. A friend looks out for you, which is not a reader's job.

    16) Keep your exclamation marks under control, yes. And I just got gigged for forgetting that. :(

    17) "Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong." — Neil Gaiman

    Can I just say I really hate that? I have never found it to be true in the slightest. It seems to have become twisted by newbies/fans to mean that critiquers should only tell them what doesn't work for them, with zero suggestions of how it might work better. Which, of course, would only result in them having no idea what you're talking about or not as much as they would if they'd drop that silly little alleged new writing "rule."

    If someone has an idea of how to fix something that they don't think works, it would be stupid not to consider what they have to say.

    It depends 100% on what they actually say. Damn.

    18) No, I don't get overwhelmed by horrible feelings of inadequacy. I feel like creative writing is overrun with what sounds like deep, stark truths that are really just self-important drama. I think my writing is usually at least competent. And even if it wasn't, it's not like I've got anyone on the operating table or anything so I'm pretty sure everything will be fine. Of course I have my moments of insecurity now and then but who doesn't.

    19) No, I don't think confidence and assurance means none of the usual so-called "rules" of good writing apply. Believing that would just make that person good at posing. I'd judge writing by completely different criteria than how great the writer thinks they are.

    20) Shut up and get on with it, yes. But when I don't do that, it's not necessarily from self-doubt. I'm most likely just being lazy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2016
  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Only if you've grown filthy rich and have decided that you owe it to your dear old dad to share some with him.
     
  19. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    1. No. I'm one of those evil 'writers that don't read.' Do read a little, maybe one book a year, but I find it too slow and laborious. I'm just not that interested in other people's stories. I'm interested in mine. However, I am reading more non-fiction travelogues now than I used to when traveling, thanks to kindle.
    2. No. Life gives you ammo to write. Go out and enjoy it, and then milk it.
    3. Yes. I guess. Isn't that just basic three act writing?
    4. Fuck off. Sometimes you need the ending first so you know how to get there. That's idiotic advice. 'All that goes before it' often serves the ending.
    5. Meh. I tried that. But if you can't remember it, maybe it wasn't so memorable.
    6. Yes. In this modern age it can be a bit too distracting if you don't have discipline.
    7. Seldom isn't always, so it's a mute point.
    8. Yes. Not enough people do this and write clunky, annoying and hard to read text.
    9. Fuck off Chekhov. There are a million successful books by amazing writers that simple say 'the moon was bright' and then get on with it. Sometimes a bland description also perfectly suits the character's view. Maybe the moon was bright but he didn't give a fuck? It didn't inspire the character, so why inspire the reader? It's not all poetry and purple on purpose.
    10. 'Spose. You need to pick and choose what's relevant to you.
    11. Yes, but money is a nice thing to have lots of. And lots of money means you're writing what wants to be read.
    12. Urgh. This isn't worthy of a comment.
    13. Bullcrap. Yes, writing in essence is done alone, but writing isn't just typing, it's expression, and expression needs time, thought and input, often from other people. The typing is the application of everything else.
    14. Yes, but it's a double edged sword and many people are not capable.
    15. No. The reader is a consumer of art and completely separate. They will have their own separate experience to the writer. The writer is the parent, that raises the story and puts it out in the world, and the reader is one the who dates it for a while and likes it or not.
    16. Yes! They are rarely needed! If ever!
    17. Yes, their opinion can't be wrong. It's their opinion, but doesn't mean anything should be done to fix it.
    18. yes.
    19. To a degree. Doesn't mean people will want to read it.
    20. I don't get it. As in, shut up and get on with writing, or in the writing shut up about the details and get on with the story? Or both?
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2016
  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That's "moot" point.

    (sorry, couldn't help myself)
     
  21. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I wish I could blame auto correct, but I'll just have to admit being a dumbass. :p But thanks for reading the list. :)
     
  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    When typing, fingers sometimes do go on auto-pilot.
     

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