Sorry I’m running a little late today, real life and Facebook got in the way. So rather than trying to be a coherent post, here are some quick hits from me and from my critique panel last weekend at Atomacon with Alexandra Christian, Misty and Emily.
1) Write descriptions for all five senses. This is a constant problem for me, as I tend to write in a white box in my first drafts. So if you’re a plot and dialogue guy in the first draft, be sure that one thing you do in the later drafts is to plug in descriptions using all the senses. Smell is one of the most important things to add to scenes to really flesh them out, and a lot of us (especially me) tend to scrimp on it.
2) You can break any rule you like, once you’ve proven an understanding of the rules and have built up some equity with your audience. Once you’ve really developed your descriptive skill, you can use the occasional adverb or bit of passive voice. But don’t try to be the exception that proves the rule when you’re just starting out in your career. Write the way editors want to see things, then once you’ve developed a following you can stand things on their heads a little bit.
3) Be Elmore Leonard. By that I mean – “Figure out the parts people skip when they’re reading, and don’t write those parts.” Don’t outsmart yourself, don’t over-flower it. Tell the tale, speak the speech, I pray thee, as I pronounced it to you, etc. etc. In other words, keep it simple. Plot, Character, Conflict – get those right and you’ll have a good story.
4) Voice is worth more than anything, and the only way to find yours is to write. A lot. There’s a concept floating around that it takes 10,000 hours of concerted practice to get good at something. There’s another one that says that you have a million crappy words in you and you must get them out of the way before you start writing good ones. I wrote about half a million words on poker before I ever started writing fiction, and that took care of a bunch of my crappy words, but every once in a while I still find myself writing junk. Go ahead and write the junk, just don’t send it out.
5) NaNoWriMo is great for people writing their first novel. It’s awesome to finally finish something huge, like a book. But don’t think your book is done once NaNo is over. There’s a reason people call December National Terrible Novel Submission Month. Please don’t send out your NaNo novel until you’ve put it away for a while, let it percolate, and then come back and edited the hell out of it.
That’s a few quick hits from me for this week. Give me your favorite quick tip in the comments and share with the rest of the class.