Posts tagged: On Writing

Does People-Watching Help Character Development?

By , February 27, 2012 12:00 am

 

Are fictional characters drawn directly from life? Obviously not, at least on a one-to-one basis—you’d better not, unless you want to get sued or shot on your way to the mailbox some fine morning.

~Stephen King, On Writing

 

"Indie Shopping" Cartoon by MMRule

Does people-watching help your character development?  Comment and let us know!

How you will know if your book idea is a good one

By , January 9, 2012 12:00 am

 

Remember Me!

 

Owning an iPhone 4S means that I now have the opportunity to write down every idea that comes to me.  And I come up with a lot of creative ideas.  A lot.

 

I indulged in recording every unformed thought and story fragment for the first few weeks, but I could not feel comfortable with myself.  Every time I groped for my phone after an especially vivid dream or dictated to Siri during my commute, I kept hearing Stephen King scold me.

 

“If you can’t remember it, it was a terrible idea,” he said in The Atlantic (April, 2011), and I couldn’t stop myself from wondering if I was sabotaging my future novels with The List.

 

Writing ideas down feels good.  The List is a safety net there to provide some cushion on that theoretical day when I will find myself soulless and creatively bankrupt.  If and when that day comes, though, perhaps it will make more sense to take a break from writing than to dredge through dozens of “this is sure to be a best seller” gems that I thought of on my way from the shower to my toothbrush.

 

Yes, I do have a few weeks of ideas written, but I doubt I will ever look at them again.  The good ideas are already ingrained in me and are evolving on their own.  The best ones are those that return to me every day and are waiting for me to finish my current project and find time to formally craft them.

 

So, while I cuddle with my current WIP while fantasizing about my next, I’ll take my hat off to Stephen King and hope that I’ll overcome my like of idioms by then.

 

Time Management for Indie Writers

By , October 17, 2011 12:00 am

 

"Indie Time Management" by MMRule

 

How do you balance work, family, friends, writing, blogging, social networking, etc.?

Does making a schedule help?  Comment and share your tips!

 

Do You Lie When People Ask You What You Are Reading?

By , October 10, 2011 12:00 am


"Indie Anxiety" by MMRule

"Indie Anxiety" by MMRule

 

What are you reading?

While it may seem innocuous to ask someone what he or she is reading, I struggle to participate in the What are you reading? water cooler banter.

 

It may seem strange for me to say that I dread when people ask me what I’m reading.  As an aspiring author, I treat reading and writing like a second full time job.  But despite the amount of time I spend in front of paragraphs and pages, I find myself often embarrassed to admit what exactly I’m thumbing through in my spare time.

 

Are you an unconventional reader?

Since I’m working on the pacing and opening of my novel, my pleasure reading so far this month has included choice excerpts from On Writing; every scene in Carrie that involves Chris Hargensen; and the first chapter of the Exorcist, 1984, and every Stephen King novel I own.

 

Oh yeah, and I’m reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  At least that is what I told my dentist despite the fact that I haven’t had a chance to pick it up in weeks.

 

Do writers read like everyone else?

I love gulping down commercial novels and savoring literary fiction, but when I’m pressed for time and also trying to write and proofread, what I read is only for research.  I start with what I love and wish to emulate, and then I read and reread key sections with the intent of learning something about the craft of writing.

 

So how does that translate into casual dinner party banter?  Well, it doesn’t.

 

What is the solution?

My solution goes back to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It is important to always know your audience.  Read as you must and always have a good answer in your queue to share with the world.  There’s no need to stun people with the insanity of your writing process when you can just give a benign answer that gives them a smile before they move on with their day.

 

Are you an unconventional reader?

Do you ever stretch the truth or lie when asked what you’re reading?

Comment on this post and tell us about it!

What Aspiring Authors Can Learn From Larry David

By , September 5, 2011 12:00 am

 

It is natural for us aspiring authors to seek advice about writing and publishing from those whom we admire most in the industry.  We turn to the Stephen Kings and the Donald Masses to point us in the right direction.  And though they may vary in their styles and querying tips, they share a core mantra:

 

Read a lot and write a lot.  Turn off that rerun of Frasier, stop dreaming about your novel, and get busy crafting your book.

 

All of this reading and writing and studying the industry then turns us on to new authors and publishers who tell us this same common-sense-yet-we-need-to-be-reminded-anyway drone in their own words.  Which is great except for the fact that we live in a world of entertainment where we also enjoy stories that unfold on the big and small screen and not just on the pages of a novel.

"An Indie Education" by MMRule

"An Indie Education" by MMRule

 

We needn’t feel like we are crippling our literary abilities just because we want to unwind in front of the TV instead of pouring over literary fiction.  Isn’t story telling in a novel similar to writing a script, after all?  Don’t we all slave over characterization, pacing, dialogue, setting, conflict, etc.?

 

Can’t we novelists also learn from the Seth MacFarlanes and Larry Davids of writing?

 

Until now comedian-actor-writer Larry David has not been much more than “that Seinfeld creator” to me.  I was young enough during the nine seasons of Seinfeld that I only really saw the show years later during 11 o’clock network reruns.  I then entered a seven year period when I was vaguely aware that a show called Curb Your Enthusiasm existed but didn’t even have a clue as to what channel aired it.

 

My indifference ended when I caught the Larry David TV Guide promo and then came across a few episodes from the current, eighth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO after my Sunday True Blood fix.  Once I stopped loling, I realized that Larry David is one of the best writing coaches I’ve found.

 

 He Outlines

 Many writers sing ballads of praise regarding the merits of outlining, and they are right to do so.  Outlining before writing helps us understand the beginning, middle, and end of our story and allows us to formulate the major conflicts that propel the action of the story.  Even better, the early organization helps us cut down on our editing time.  But the trick to outlining as we see through Larry David’s example is to use it as the guide it’s meant to be and nothing more.

 

But He Doesn’t Outline to Death

Ever stick to an outline so closely that you stunted the growth of your characters and the development of your plot?  The solution is improvisation!  Larry David clues actors in to the outline of a scene and then sets them forth into the scenario.  They speak how they want and respond to events as they happen.  The result is that the audience sees people in unusual (or unusually comical) scenarios acting as they normally would.  And the end product is successfully devoid of stilted writing and poorly delivered lines.

 

Larry David achieves what we want for our novels–characters that act naturally and believably in a fictional world.  Let your characters do as they please.  Leave your forced, premeditated characterizations of them aside and have them speak for themselves based on the conflicts they encounter and the world they are forced to reconcile.  Have them dictate the pacing of your scenes and talk when they want to talk!  You’ll likely find that they enrich your novel and create new dimensions of conflict that you never could have imagined ahead of time.


He Has Fun

Does Larry David really act?  According to him he doesn’t; he instead behaves like himself.  Next time you are writing, ask yourself if you are putting words down with the intent to write like a bestselling novelist.  If you are, I bet that your book is filled with needless flowery prose and littered with little gems of wisdom that you think sound great but that detract from the action.  Have some fun with your characters.  Ask yourself, “What Would Larry David Do?”  Start letting your characters react and stop trying so damn hard to be great.  You’ll be surprised by how quickly your work develops a pulse of its own.

 

Name your nontraditional writing guide in the comments section.  And let me know if you are also not ashamed to watch TV even if you do love to write!

Advice from Stephen King that Writers Can Live Without

By , August 1, 2011 12:00 am

 

It is a well known fact at The Exception to the Rule that I long ago named Stephen King as my literary idol.  I love him so much in fact, that when I was a teenager, I pooh-poohed reading The Poisonwood Bible because I had just picked up a copy of Cujo.  How I could resist the allure of Oprah’s Book Club sticker is beyond me!  (And yes, that is about as rebellious as I was in high school.)

 

It was also during my high school years that King wrote On Writing.  My Christmas list that year included On Writing, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Bonne Bell lip gloss, and the Backstreet Boys “Black & Blue” album.  My dad dutifully typed the list into his Palm Vx for safe keeping, and I received everything I wanted.

 

"Indie Angst" by MMRule

 

Naturally on Christmas Day, with Bonne Bell on my lips and the Backstreet Boys flowing out of my Discman, I sat down and started reading On Writing by tree light.  I was going to be an author, goshdarnit, and Stephen King was going to tell me how.

 

Now that over a decade has passed since that Christmas, I have a novel+ under my belt and am getting my feet wet in the querying kiddie pool.  I have also realized that I am not Stephen King, and not everything he told me is going to work.

 

2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%

 

King didn’t come up with this equation by himself.  It is advice that an editor wrote on the bottom of a rejection slip during his early days, and it in part helped his writing evolve to legendary status.  But as of today that advice has not helped me, and it likely will also not help you.

 

Why?

 

Super star blogger Nathan Bransford mentions in this post on word count that many aspiring novelists produce staggering drafts that pass 100,000 words and keep going.  I, on the other hand, am not alone in completing a draft at 70,000+, fearing that I didn’t write everything I should have.

 

Subtracting 10% of your draft isn’t going to help your work in progress if you struggle with these length issues, or if you have an appropriate amount of words but wrote 50% action and 50% boring backstory that no one but you cares to read.  I suggest a different approach to the equation.

 

2nd draft =

1st draft – Everything that isn’t Important + Everything Important You Forgot to Include

(Repeat until your draft is an appropriate word count for a debut novel in your genre.)

 

Is this formula too vague for you?  It should be vague!  King’s advice works best for someone who can already tell a damn near perfect story, but who at times includes too much detail.  However, that is not my problem, and it likely isn’t yours.  Part of the work that distinguishes a writer from an author is the ability to self diagnose.  To critically think about a work in progress and keep pushing it until it stands alone.  Being an author means that you write something that has a backbone because you built it from your labor and desire to improve.

 

Stephen King found the editing method that worked for him, and now it is your turn to tear through your work in progress and find what works for you!  Plug those plot holes, evolve your characters, and have the courage to write your own equation for success.

 

Help get the conversation started at The Exception to the Rule by posting your equation for the perfect 2nd draft as a comment for this article.  Happy writing!

 

Panorama Theme by Themocracy