Friday, March 20, 2020

Writing: Advice

I was looking through blogs recently when I discovered a site that has lots of good writing advice. The person behind this is Suzannah Windsor Freeman, and as best I can tell, nothing has been posted there for a couple of years. Despite the age of the posts, the writing advice that's given is about the same as we've all received, and it's always good. How about these?

·     Show, don’t tell. Eliminate adverbs. Don’t use clich├ęs. Use "said" as a dialogue tag whenever possible. Avoid long passages of description. Describe things using all your senses.

     These are all good suggestions, but I'd hope that the experienced writer does not look on them as iron-clad "rules."  On too many occasions I've seen someone rewrite a perfectly good sentence to make it conform to one of these suggestions, rather than breaking the "rule." The above are not the keys to publication. They aren't any kind of magic formula.

     This brings me to critique groups. Those groups can be great, so long as one realizes the source of the critique. I'd tend to listen more to someone who has proven good ideas. The best suggestions are those that are couched in terms like, "What about doing it this way?" or "Have you thought about such-and-such?" These are more helpful than the persons who either try to rewrite your story (the editorial-wanna be) or those who say it's wonderful just the way it is (the mother-father-spouse viewpoint). Consider the source, as well as the critique.

     I'd encourage the authors among you (both published and unpublished) to add your comments about "rules" and "suggestions." I'd love to hear them.

Note: If you want to get in on the give-away for a copy of Critical Decision (and read a review while you're there), go to the blog of Carrie Schmidt--but hurry. That contest closes March 24. And check out RelzReviewz for another chance to win my novel.



Priscilla Bettis said...

"Don't open with the weather." I actually like weather descriptions, both reading them and writing them as long as the implied mood carries through, like a scary storm for a spooky story.

p.s. Critical Decision was a fun read!

Richard Mabry said...

Priscilla, glad you had fun reading Critical Decision. Thanks. As for the admonition not to open with the weather, that admonition (which is still around) has been supplanted by using the weather as part of setting the scene or adding to the ambience of the story. Like so many others, it's good advice but not to be followed slavishly.

Patricia Bradley said...

Don't open with a dream or just waking up unless you're Suzanne Collins and can write something like the Hunger Games!

And I really enjoyed Critical Decision, too! By the way, are you finding it hard to concentrate right now?

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks for the compliment about Critical Decision. I think that since all this started I've revised and rewritten my first 2000 words several times--but nothing useful since.