1. destinationless
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    destinationless Member

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    What was the best writing advice you were ever given?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by destinationless, Sep 27, 2008.

    A thread full of advice will surely be beneficial to us all.

    I'm going to cheat; I don't have a single best piece of advice, but it all comes from the same person, my seventh grade English professor. Something unique about her classes from anyone else's was that we wrote -every day-. Sometimes it was a prompt, sometimes it was freeform, sometimes it was an essay, sometimes it was research.

    Recall that back in seventh grade children are still working on basic sentence structure, so that was a fixation in the class. Each paragraph had to have at least six sentences and had to begin differently than the rest in that paragraph. For instance, one sentence may start with a dependent clause; the next might begin with a prepositional phrase; the third might start with an adverb...
    I obviously do not stick to such rigid structure anymore, and I hated it at the time, but I notice how much of a better writer it has made it. Test it out; write a six sentence paragraph, each sentence following the basic pattern: noun-verb. It gets boring, ne? ;)

    Another thing she taught me was how to use the natural voice I insert in my writing. Typically, my voice comes off as rather satirical when it shouldn't always. She helped me develop my voice and taught me the power of delivery. How do I want the word to be read? Sometimes a synonym, a comma here, an adjective there is all it takes to make a work go from satirical to comical, straightforeward, just plain biting...
    A lot of developing my voice was reviewing the basics of SPAG (Oh, no! :D ) and having a well-developed vocabulary.

    Nothing like getting back to basics, ne?

    In short:
    -Defined vocabulary
    -SPAG-liness is Godliness
    -Setence structure takes you from dull to superb in seconds
    -Write every day. Poem, letter, chapter, short story, essay, research notes. But make sure it's quality work.
    -Find and develop your voice; nothing is of more importance.


    (...Okay, this post has gone on long enough.)

    What has been the best advice you've ever recieved -or perhaps, ever given?

    -D
     
  2. AnonymousWriter
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    AnonymousWriter Contributing Member

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    Just Write. And Read.
     
  3. Wickerman1972
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    Wickerman1972 Member

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    To not try and impress people with a bunch of big words.
     
  4. HookshotManiac
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    HookshotManiac Member

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    "You have to read tons of work. Everything. Every article in magazines. Every word you see. Read it, because it will help improve your word structure."

    I heard that when I was about 14, and it's stuck with me, because nothing has ever been more clear.
     
  5. Beth
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    Beth Member

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    Use unusual names for characters that don't appear often, and common names for the MCs.
     
  6. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    "Keep writing."

    Sometimes that's all the advice someone needs. Everything else falls into place after that.

    That, and

    "Finish what you start."

    I've never been told that, but I know of a ton of wannabe writers who really need to be told it.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    "It ends when it ends." My mom told me that when I told her I was concerned about the length of my stories being hard to publish.
     
  8. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    I think this goes for "writing what you know" -- getting the facts straight of things like settings and professions to better suspend disbelief-- and facts like grammatical rules since a lot of the best writing advice I've heard referred to rearranging parts of grammar. (Eliminate as many "to be" verb forms as possible. Descriptions are clearer with nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs. When it comes to dialogue, lessen said-bookisms and multiple punctuation because strength of the dialogue should come from the words themselves, the mood inferred from the characterization. Things like that.)

    So, knowing the rules before you use or break them. And then there's breaking them. :D I mean, passive voice is grammatically correct, but if that's the only thing going for it, then junk them, and go for sentence fragments (horrors!) if that's what'll bring the story alive. I'd prefer distinct voices that break a few rules, to wooden dialogue that baits no green serrations on MS Word.


    Then there's "reining in" description to the plot.
    My favorite example of this same piece of advice (because, as a reader, reading for vicarious thrills I would like a paragraph about the landscaped garden):
    It sounds like another way of saying "show, don't tell" but it cuts out a lot of unnecessary details that only showing will sometimes give us. This allows the writer, I think, to skip writing the parts that readers will skip reading.

    I liked this other example of why we need to do both showing and telling. Levine's Ella Enchanted begins with exposition (kiss of death? naw...) "That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift. When I cried inconsolably through my first hour of life, my tears were her inspiration."

    Levine re-wrote the scene using only showing to demonstrate how when the narrative gained details like baby Ella was in her mother's arms and Lucinda wore gloves, it lost judgments more impacting to the story like Lucinda's foolishness and that the gift was a curse.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "Simplify."
     
  10. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    Persevere. Be disciplined. Approach it like a business.

    Of course, I've gotten a lot more writing advice than that, but those three are my favorites.

    Here's some other advice I've found useful. Learn to use a computer, even if it's hard at first to let loose of the pen and pad. This saves a tremendous amount of time and effort in that you won't be forced later to type up all your scribbles. Learning to use spellcheck and grammarcheck has also given me a huge boost. It's sad, isn't it, that I don't take the time to use them on forums? ;) Let's see. What else? Um... Know the market. Learn more about promotion. Don't sign on with an agent or publisher until you've done thorough research.

    As for the more creative end of things, cutting out useless (redundant and unnecessary) words is something I've been told I should work on.
     
  11. Sato Ayako
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    Sato Ayako Contributing Member

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    The best bit of advice I ever got? It was from someone in a long-defunct community. We were really getting into it. I was mad at him because he was making fun of my writing. He was mad at me because I made some, erm, comments about the size of a certain appendage of his. In sum, the advice was:

    Stop writing. Why bother anyway?

    It had actually never occurred to me that some people just stop writing. You take a break from it, but stop? And really, why would I bother?

    Because I am a writer.

    That small realization has carried me through years of doubt and strife. It's a small comfort knowing that, whether I'm lost at sea, tumbling through space, or being interred, I am and will always be a writer. Though it lacks specificity, there's something so clear, so true about the statement, it doesn't matter.

    Without this realization, I may have quit writing when it became difficult, or when work and school began to intrude on the time I once had to myself. I may have quit when I realized my work would never be publishable, or that I would never be read. I think it's the very words "stop writing" that give me permission to go on no matter what.

    But I don't expect anyone to understand such insanity.
     
  12. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    -If it doesn't forward the plot, take it out.

    -See the writing as a film, you're a filmmaker in words.

    -Revise.

    -Write everyday.

    -Fail. "You always pass failure on the way to success."

    -"Writing stuff that sucks is part of the process"

    -"Make writing a responsibility. Think of it like a job and show up on time."

    -Write for the reader.
     
  13. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine comes from Cog, though, he never said this to me in particular, he's said it enough times for me to remember it. "If it plagues you, write it." Well, the original word was plagues, but I can't remember the original word, so I put that one in.

    It stuck with me, because I was always concerned about whether or not I should write something.
     
  14. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    *Take the cap off the pen.
    *Give your reader credit for intelligence greater than or equal to your own.
    *If you can take 3 pages of crap, and revise it into 1 page of not total crap, it's a win.
    *Sometimes the most beautiful prose you have ever written will have to be cut if it interferes with pacing, tone or mood. Deal with it.
    *Very few people in the real world really want to know what you are writing.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    can't say i was ever 'given' any, since i seem to have come out of the womb able to write better than most, sort of 'automatically' [a blessing and a curse!], but the best i've ever seen, that i pass on to all i mentor, is the age-old writer's axiom, 'less is more' and its less polite, but just as valid military version, 'K.I.S.S.!'...

    to which i add my own agreement with the basic advice to READ, as no one can become a good writer if not a good and constant reader...

    a bit of my own advice [one of 'maia's greatest lines';)] that i also pass on is, 'Nothing is impossible until you quit and nothing is possible, unless you start!'... which applies to everything in life, as well as writing...
     
  16. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    Write like you mean it.
     
  17. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    Go back and be ruthless.
    But the best piece of advice I was ever given, I've been sharing with you since I go here! ;) It helps me through writer's procrastination... block I realised was an excuse.

    See below...
     
  18. Synoran
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    Synoran Member

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    'Clifhangers are lame, lazy, and overused.' - Seventh grade English teacher.
     
  19. CommonGoods
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    CommonGoods Senior Member

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    "If you are mad, don't play a sane man." (A friend told me this when I was rehearsing a piece from Hamlet... In writing, I use it to remind myself to use words, phrases and actions that make sense to me instead of trying to make them make sense to others; He who wants to be understood, gives no explination (paradox of the actor))

    "Don't read the words, read the story." (A reminder that although words are important, the story is what makes the novel/novelle/book)

    "Don't write a story. Live the story, then write down your life." (A personal guideline; I first live the stories before I write them down. It helps with keeping it logic and getting all the little things right.)

    These are the three rules I use to write anything and everything.

    But remember; I am not completely sane.
     
  20. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never use two words where one will suffice.

    Never use a long word where a short one will work to the same effect.

    Don't overdo it with the language, as it kills the pace.

    Just a few gems of advice from the past.
     
  21. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    Learn all the rules you can on writing, then go and break them.
     
  22. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dad - "Nobody cares about what you have to say, so say it anyway."

    High school english teacher - "You'll never be a writer if you hate Shakespeare."

    My first editor - "Write what you love; the rest will take care of itself."

    Tom Clancy - "You don't have to be a good 'writer', to succeed. You just have to be a good storyteller."
     
  23. misaditas
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    misaditas Member

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    Show don't tell.
    Describe in senses.
    Go where your energy is.
    Just. Keep. Writing.

    :D
     
  24. Lolita
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    Lolita New Member

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    "Just write"

    I've always had a problem finishing stories and finding out what I should write next. I would think so much and my creative writing professor just told that I should write whatever idea that came to my head and write for a specific amount of time as I could always go back and revise my work. She was right. I don't care as much about making things sound eloquent when I sit down and write and I end up coming up with better ideas when I do that.

    "Show don't tell"

    A lot of writers have a problem with trying to give their readers too much information. They use judgments like "she was sad" and my teacher always told me that try to avoid judgments at all cost and instead describe the actions and appearance of a character so that the readers and infer from the descriptions what the character is feeling.
     
  25. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    Read with purpose (good writing in - good writing out).

    RUE - Resist the urge to explain.
     
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