Sunday, May 11, 2008

Writing Advice from Workshop Members

From Jessica Stilling:

I would say that if you want to
write in English you should read the bible, the Greek
and Roman Myths, and Shakespeare before doing it.

From Paige Mercer Cummings:

1) Stay true to your voice

2) There is no such thing as "writers block," so keep writing, even if
all you are doing is transcribing the phone book

3) Don't try to break the rules until you have a firm grasp of the

From Barbara Quinn:
Publisher & Managing Editor
The Rose & Thorn Ezine
Click here

1) Begin in the middle of a scene. To do that, cut ruthlessly till you find the
beginning of the action. That means
get rid of almost all back story, and use back story sparingly throughout.

2) Forget starting a chapter with waking up, or hearing an alarm clock, and
think hard before you end a chapter with going to sleep or your reader may

3) Avoid having characters sitting around drinking tea and coffee...that
usually means it's a stagnant scene.

4) Hunt down cliches and qualifiers (words like just and very) and kill them.

And 5) always obey the cardinal rule of writing: Don't be boring!

Judith Peyton Sinclair, PhD:

One of my professors once remarked that I was destined to tell my story, and
that all of the work I did was really a slice of that story. I think my
professor was right. No matter what I write, I find myself and my story in
it. And so, re: Mike's request, my own 5 best pieces of writing advice, here
are my 5:

1. Write what you know.
2. Write what you know.
3. Write what you know.
4. Write what you know.
5. Write what you know.

From Michelle:

The best advice I got, or at least most motivating came in the form of
a question.

What are you waiting for?

After all your not a writer if you don't write.

From SKB:

Style is developed by writing, no other way. The more you write, the
more your style develops. This I heard from a bestselling Science
Fiction Writer at a conference I was at many years ago, I think it
may have been Isaac Asimov who said it, not sure. Anyway, by my own
experience, I have found this to be true. (And like tastes, style can

Keep a copy of Strunk's THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE nearby when writing.
This was recommended by several authors I met at conferences.

Keep those things nearby that help inspire you when you are writing,
pictures of places you'd like to visit, a cup of coffee (or whatever
it is that YOUR drink is). Also keep a place where you like to write
for that purpose only.

Go out, observe the world often. Let it inspire you. (These last 2
come from Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST'S WAY).

Personally, there are places I go to online that inspire me to write.
I go there and the words just come. They are places where your
writing is invited, like Yahoo lists, my MySpace page or and such.

From Jean:
My 5 Best--

1) Write every day.

2) Don't edit as you write.

3) Have another writer proofread your work before submitting it.

4) Keep a notepad or voice recorder handy at all times. You never know when
inspiration will strike.

5) Read every day. Especially read from the genre you enjoy writing.

From Smurfybench:

1) "The professional writer is the amateur who didn't quit." John
McCollister writes: Richard Bach had his classic, Jonathan Livingston
Seagull, rejected not just once, but 16 TIMES! He sent it out one more
time. On this 17th try it was accepted. Ironically, the very moment he
received notice that a publisher wanted it, his car was being towed out
of the driveway for lack of payments. This was the same company that
had rejected the identical manuscript only one year earlier!

2) Language and Diction. Some stories demand different kinds of
writing; what's good for one story may not be good for another. Orson
Scott Card. When fantasists are writing about people of high station
living in heroic times, a more formal, elevated level of diction is
called for. On the other hand, when you're creating low comedy, diction
can range from the mock heroic to the coarse.

3) "A good title is not a label, but a lure." Hayes B. Jacobs. Never
use clichés in your title. This makes it look like you're an amateur
with no imagination. As Orson Scott Card says, 'A good title is
something that can never work against you.'

4) Know your props. Do you write best when you listen to the radio
sportscast turned down real low? Is there a favorite hat you wear for
it? For some writers, they need a mug of coffee or tea by their hand
while they write. What music, props, drinks, pen type, or times are the
most productive for you? Experiment until you get it right! I love my
mini black gel pens for writing. It's hard for me to promptly type on
the computer with no literal writing first. I'm in love with my lap
desk and can't write without it. I need "white noise" when I write.
Whether it's the tv turned to barely audible level, sportscast radio,
or a favorite CD played over and over. And of course--coffee. I have 2
times of day that I write well. Between noon and 4pm and then it wanes
until about 8pm to 1am. Know your writing props to optimize your work!

5) Always double check your references. It doesn't matter if it's
fiction or non-fiction. Even fantasy has some basis in reality. Whether
it's a romance novel that is set in 14th century France, or a
travelogue for Bermuda, no editor or publisher will touch your work if
your references aren't 100% accurate. Take a little extra time to make
sure that all the numbers and names are exactly what they're supposed
to be.

From Todd Macy:

Probably the one that stuck with me most was from a writing book talking about
character emotions/show vs. tell (I'm paraphrasing it, of course):

If your character cries on the page, odds are your reader won't.

From Reverend Laura A. Neff:
Click here

1) Pay attention to what you read, what you write, and what you hear.
The closer the attention, the better the understanding and
interpretation will be. - with thanks from my former bosses, Rex
Rainwater and Howard L. Reeves from The Lamar Democrat, Vernon, AL.

2) Details are everything. - Howard L. Reeves from The Lamar Democrat in
reference to editing and proofreading.

3) It's not what you write, it's how you write it that counts. - Can't
remember who told me this one. Think it might have been my
grandmother, Reverend Martha S. Newman

4) If you can't see, feel, taste, hear, or smell the scene and the
characters in it, it's not done right. - Three people told me this
one, two from this list and one from another.

5) If you aren't having fun, put it away and come back to what you were
working on later. - You told me that, Mike and my friend Vicki Taylor
said the same thing.

From Victor J. Banis:

1) For myself, I have never discussed a novel or any aspect of it at length
with anyone else without losing some of that urge, that inexorable drive, to get
it down on paper.

2) by writing every day, you are saying to that other self - your muse, your
subconscious writer, whatever - "okay, this is when I am home, when I am ready
for you, when you can best get through to me - just in case you would like to
come to call." The muse can be coy, but she'll come around. She can't stand
being ignored. Next thing you know, she'll be cooing in your ear. Trust me.

3) Perhaps the most important thing to learn is to trust your instincts. It
is hard to get used to the idea but even when, on a conscious level, you think
you are entirely at sea, the Writer within knows exactly where your boat is
headed and will get you safely into port if you get out of the way and let him
do his job.

4) The unfortunate reality is that, with the exception of some of the smaller
houses, (today's) publishers aren't interested in good writing. Worse, there
probably aren't a handful of editors in NYC who would know it if it jumped up
and bit them on their backsides. What they know - and want - is whatever is on
the best seller list this week. My advice is still the same: write for yourself,
and the love of writing, and leave the rest of it up to the gods.

5) Shakespeare was neither a Scottish thane nor his wife; but, Macbeth is not
really about a Scottish thane and his wife except superficially. He was writing
about the common human themes of greed and ambition, guilt and remose. Which is
to say his inner view was universal, not specific...I can certainly write a
black character into a novel and make him believable. I can show him struggling
with the issues with which all humans struggle. What I can't do is speak from
his black man's heart. Some writing requires a view from inside looking out, but
that is rare and the province of great literature. A good writer can manage
perfectly well from the outside, looking in. Otherwise, might as well hang up
your Funk and Wagnall's.

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