Friday, 4 March 2011

How To Write. Maybe.

here - have some 'writing advice'
If you're anything like me, then a major amount of time spent in front of the computer screen is not always time spent... well, writing. Like the husband imagines it is. Actually he probably still thinks I'm shoehorning in a bit of on-line dating, which I did a lot of at the time we met (and I spent a lot of 'courting' hours trying to reassure him I'd deleted all my accounts the second our eyes met, but you don't want to know all this).
So, whilst the internet is, indeed, a marvel of modern technology, it also holds way too many distractions that I never considered possible. Procrastination- fixes are so easily and quickly fulfilled when there's a Google in your face (if you told me 25 years ago I'd be writing that sentence I'd have snorted into my Brandy and Babycham!).

Point in case: this post. As I couldn't think of anything entertaining, educational or worthwhile to say, I thought I'd have a sly Google (again, *snort*). I typed in "how to write" and could NOT believe when the search returned 529 million results. That's a heck of a lot of advice I'd say.

And then I started trawling. A lot of it is repetitive, like "Don't Use Adverbs".
Another helpful tip is, of course, to "use adverbs freely".

"Never use a verb other than SAID" seems to be a clear favourite, followed closely by the tip of (yup, you guessed it)  "Never JUST say"...
Which I agree with.  For instance, I'd have warmed a little more to Peter if he'd shrieked "Help!" as he plummeted from the plane rather than simply said "Help!", which for me, makes Peter look a little too blasé for the seriousness of his predicament. Let Peter hit the ground in a mangled mess of bloody limbs if that's his attitude.

There's an author (who I'm fond of) who almost never deviates from the *rule* of not using anything but 'said' - and for me, it kind of flattens a scene. It doesn't stop me reading on because the characters are always so frothy, but a bit of embellishment doesn't hurt, I don't think.
Think of a jam tart, then add cream. Isn't that better? cherry on top? Don't mind if I do, thanks.

Another hint is "Read it back aloud". Why? Do you generally read books aloud - unless they're about ducklings that get lost on the way to the pond or blustery days and rabbits that get stuck in holes? Al....righty then.

Then there's "Read everything you can in your chosen Genre".  Followed closely by (yeah, you're getting good at this) "Read widely outside of your Genre, if you write fiction, read non...". Now, call me old-fashioned but I'm  sure reading a Haynes manual for an Austin Allegro is not going to help me further my endeavours, so I'll stick to books I enjoy; actually want to read and not books somebody else thinks I should be reading thanks all the same.

I get particularly disturbed at the suggestion that I will get precisely nowhere without a degree in Creative Writing or similar.  Or else it will take me ten times longer than someone who does have one.  And whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my education, the thought of having to return to a classroom, constructing and de-constructing sentences, living on bread and water in a draughty garret (see - I don't need a degree to give me creative license) is not my idea of time or borrowed money well spent.

Anyway, after all this Googling (which I read somewhere will almost certainly make me go blind, so it must be true) I arrived at the station marked *Conclusion* and underneath, like a nice little welcome mat, it said "Write.  Just write.  That's all you need to do.".
help yourself - go on!


Charmaine Clancy said...

Thanks for the great advice - I'm taking from this 'occasionally turn your computer off and actually write'.

Imagine all I could have accomplished over the last 12months if my internet was down :)

Gary Baker said...

Dang! Now I'm hungry ... more delays *sigh*

MorningAJ said...

I agree with everything you said except....... the bit about "a Haynes manual for an Austin Allegro". I think I would benefit from reading one of them. Not because I have an Allegro, but because they must be written clearly and concisely or people wouldn't understand them. Or do they just look at the pictures?

Right - off to do some Googling - I mean writing, of course!

Kate said...

Excellent post - there is so much conflicting advice out there. But the more you write the more you can tell what works and what doesn't.

Susannah Rickards said...

LOL Debs, at reading aloud and Peter. I agree. Let him drop if he feels that indifferent. Nothing wrong with a bit of colour and noise in the language.

Patsy said...

I just love searching for advice on the internet. I can always find somebody telling me I really should do whatever it was I wanted to do anyway.

Traxy said...

Yeah, "just write". And also, "just read", but like you say, reading a Haynes manual is probably not going to help you hone your writing craft, so to speak. I do think it's important to read, because that way we learn what we like when it comes to writing, and what we don't like. That's why they say you learn a lot from reading books you don't like ...

With adverbs, I think there's nothing wrong with them as such - they have their legitimate use. It's when they're OVER-used that they become an issue. Same with the said/shrieked thing. You can't have a book where even people falling out of airplanes say "Help!" just as it gets tedious if characters are NEVER allowed to just say something but ALWAYS shriek/whisper/laugh/cry everything, because that becomes boring too. I prefer them (and adverbs) used for emphasis, because that's when they're most effective. For me, anyway. :)

Read a book once that frustrated the hell out of me because the author never let the characters convey any emotion in what they actually said, because it was always "said X concernedly", "said X laughingly" or equally clunky phrases. Would it have killed her to once in a while write "said X with concern" or "laughed X" instead? (The sequel to that book was better written in that respect.) Everything in moderation! :)

Gosh I sound like a right snob and know-it-all. Didn't mean to. :/

Phillipa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phillipa said...

Debs - what a refreshing post. I agree, the advice out there and in writing books (even those considered writing 'bibles') is enough to put you off writing completely. I bought one such self editing manual, then opened the books of three of my favourite ST best selling writers - guess what? They ALL broke every 'rule'.

Caroline Green said...

So so true...I used to attend very course I could get my grubby little hands on and then one day, realised I was hearing a lot of the same advice, or hearing the exact opposite.

Geraldine Ryan said...

Lovely piece of advice this - "Write. Just write."

The one I stand by is "Write 1000 words a day and leave the rest for living." Stuff gets finished that way.

Susan Woodring said...

Funny! And, I agree: just write.

Thank you for this.

Jane Lovering said...

I actually 'have' a Creative Writing degree, but I also work in a cold, draughty garret - do you think these cancel one another out?

Plus...what am I doing leaving comments on your blog when I should be writing?! You temptress, you!

The Virtual Victorian said...

Great post - and all so true - whichever writing advice truth you wish to believe! Basically you just have to get on and write, and hone your craft, and believe.

Lindsay said...

Possibly the best advice is "Never listen to advice." Liked the post very much,(she said, appreciatively!)Something else we are told not to use - exclamation marks!!!