Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Advice for Beginning Writers Part 3

Flying by the seat of your pants is old aviation slang for flying by instinct, by how it feels rather than using your (at the time rudimentary) tech instruments. In the writing world, starting your book with no plot pre-planning, just putting pen to paper and seeing where you go, is called pantsing. The opposite of this is called plotting, where you plan out your entire story. This can be as simple as a five page summary or as intricate as a 50 page, seventh-level alphanumeric outline.

Plotting vs. Pantsing is a favorite hobbyhorse amongst craft books. Some people swear by one method, some by the other. Some are adamant that one method is better than the other, which can even escalate to the other being labelled "wrong."

I prefer to view it as a spectrum, with total plotting at one end and total pantsing at the other.

I also believe that the method you use to create is innate. If you're a born pantser, trying to make yourself into a plotter will only kill your creativity. So find where you are on the spectrum and go with it.

Ignore anyone who says you ought to write in a different manner. Do whatever puts words on paper for you.

Everyone says they want to write a book. Some do begin. Comparatively few actually finish.

Getting the story down is the biggest hurdle you'll face. This is because putting words on paper is a lot harder than most people realize. So do what gets your idea out of your head and into tangible form.

Now I will say, if you're writing something with multiple sub-plots in addition to your main story, you probably should find a way to keep track of them so all loose ends are tied up at the end of the book. Whether that's an outline or a checklist or whatever is up to you. But if you mistakenly leave something hanging, you can bet an angry reader will mention it on Goodreads. And Amazon. And everywhere else.

So the answer to the question - do you need to know your entire plot before you start writing? - is no. Not if you're a pantser.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Historical Cat and Dog Cuddling

I love the stuff one can find when researching in old newspapers. I also love that humans have been fascinated by cats and dogs cuddling for centuries. This would have been on I Can Has Cheezburger if it took place today.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Advice for Beginning Writers Part 2

So now you know how you're going to write. You've got your pen or your keyboard. What now?

Most Craft-Of-Writing books are full of useless advice.

Don't put in excess information (info dump). Yeah, obviously. But if you're a beginner, how do you recognize what's excess and what's not?

Don't begin with a description of the weather.  Okay, that's only because of Bulwer Lytton's "It was a dark and stormy night" and that is only considered bad writing these days because it GOES ON
That's all one sentence.

Weather is not the problem. If the weather is intrinsic to your opening, begin with it. You can make it work.

There are many synonyms for the word 'said'.  Yes. Yes there are. Don't use them. Really.

When one is reading, 'said' tends to disappear, unless you tack it on every single line. Words like 'responded', 'announced', 'remarked', 'verbalized' - the eye will begin to catch them, and then the reader will start noting how extensive your thesaurus is and not paying attention to the dialogue. So save those synonyms for when portraying how a sentence is muttered, recited, or declared really matters.

Where would I say to go for craft advice?

If you're like me, if you go looking for a book on how to grind coffee, you want a step by step description of how coffee is ground. Practical advice. Not a description of how great coffee is and where it comes from and the history of coffee grinders.

I don't actually know if grinding coffee is that involved. I use a Keurig.

Anyhow. The point is, if you're looking for an actual How To book that describes the nuts & bolts of building a story, then I recommend without hesitation Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.

If you have an idea for a book, this will get you going on how to set it up and write it.