Tuesday, January 8, 2008

More Tips, Hooray!!

Maven Carrie RyanThis week, with a big thanks to B.E. Sanderson and the Roar for Powerful Words Award, we're blogging about writing tips -- three to be exact. How cool is it to be recognized by such cool people?! Thanks y'all (Maveneers, maybe?)! And this is an awesome meme -- I've been thinking all day about writing tips and trying to whittle them down to only three (we all know I like to give advice and we also all know what I think is *most* important changes at whim). Erica's tips from yesterday rocked and I can't wait to see what the other Mavens come up with this week!

Carrie's tip #1 (stolen from Jenny Crusie, I think): Skip the boring parts.

I know that sounds funny, but how many of us have been writing a scene and realize we're describing everything? How many of us write the character leaving the house, locking the door, walking to the driveway, getting in the car, starting the car, adjusting the mirrors, buckling the seat belts, putting the car in reverse, twisting in the seat to look out the back window only to realize it is blurred by condensation, etc etc etc. For those of us who *see* the book in our head, we see all of this. Because we just finished writing a scene at Point A and now we need to write a scene at Point B and so we have to get the character from A to B.

The thing is, unless something really important happens in that car, the reader doesn't care. No one cares. It's boring. Cut it. Stop writing it. Hit the delete key. Every time you sit down to write a scene and think "I really want to write this awesome fight scene, but first I have to lay the groundwork for all this motivation and to do that I need lots of backstory..." stop and think: is this the boring stuff?

Yes, every scene needs set-up and fights need foundations, etc. But at the same time, you want to keep the reader interested (plus, you want to be excited about what you're writing) and so skip the boring. Then, if you need to, go back and layer in everything else.

Carrie's tip #2: Write.

Yes, I know you all think I'm joking - haha. But seriously, how many of us talk about writing? Think about writing? Daydream about writing? Create plot boards, draw diagrams, interview our characters, go to conferences, write blogs and post on other blogs and belong to Yahoo groups.

And yet never write.

All of those things are important and many make us better writers. Many of those things we need. But at the end of the day, if we're not writing, we're not getting anywhere -- we're not reaching our goals. If we want to be writers, we need to actually write.

Again, sounds like such basic advice, but so easy to forget.

Carrie's tip #3: Remember why you write.

Perhaps there's a theme going on here... but my third tip is to remember why you write. Remember that you love it, that it captures you. Remember the writer's high -- that feeling you get when it all goes right and the words pour from your fingers and when you read it weeks and months and years later it still speaks to you (and you think "damn, I'm a writer after all!").

So often, I find myself saying "Garrr, I have to write today," or "Why am I not writing?" or just generally whining about not wanting to write. Finally, I realized one day what I was saying, I listened to these words and the effect they were having on my attitude. I wondered: why am I not coming home excited about the story and saying "Yay! I get to write now! I get to play in this world and wreak havoc on my characters' lives!"

I remember Suzanne Brockman talking a while back about how your thinking impacts your writing and your attitude. She's has tons of great ideas about this stuff, but one of the stories that stuck out to me was that she'd been getting into fights a lot with her teen-age daughter. Every time they were around each other they bickered and fought. And then, one day her daughter walked into the room and before anyone said anything, Suzanne felt this anger towards her daughter rush over her. She realized that by fighting so much, she'd actually trained herself to expect a fight!

Now, think about all the times we say we don't want to write, we say we *have* to write (in a "I don't wanna" way) and think about the impact that has on our attitude. We train ourselves to not want to write!

So remember that you love to write, remember what your goals are and what you need to do to reach them and try to remember that you love writing, you look forward to writing, and writing is a pretty cool/fun/awesome/amazing thing to be doing.

How do you reconcile Tip #2 and Tip #3? Well... that's what we're all trying to figure out :)

More from the interwebs:

Just like it was nearly impossible for me to limit myself to three tips (yes, I could have prattled on forever), I had a terrible time only listing one writer who rocks. But I think for me it has to be Diana Peterfreund -- her blog is an awesome mix of industry knowledge, writing tips, and just the life of a writer. It's the first blog I read regularly after taking up writing again and I don't think think I'd be where I am today without it. I also recommend her archives -- tons of great stuff in there (and inspiring!).

AND, I'm going to steal Erica's sign-off because it's appropriate here :)

YOUR TURN: What are your favorite writing tips? What are your favorite writing sites? Did you vote for us over at the Preditors & Editors' Readers Choice poll? (Oops, how did that shameless self-promo get in there?!)


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Carrie! :)

I will write with joy later today, once I've rested a bit (I'm home sick).


Bill Clark said...

Yay Carrie for using Erica's shameless self-promo! And yay Mavens for being in third place today!!

Everybody who hasn't already voted for the Mavens, click on that link and VOTE!!

Today the Preditors and Editors, tomorrow the world! :-)

Jackie Barbosa said...

I laughed at tip #1, because of course I used to write every excruciating detail as if anyone actually *cared*, lol.

Tips 2 and 3 are great too, of course. Yay for writing! Yay for joy!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Awesome tips, Carrie, and I think you're absolutely right about the whole thinking about writing rather than writing thing. I did it for years. I thought about writing a book, but never sat down to do it. Once I did, I never felt better about myself. (And now I'm working on editing #5, so I guess I'm a writer.)

Love the shameless self-promotion. I already voted for you guys. What's keeping everyone else? ;o)

Vicki said...

Great post Carrie! #2 used to be a big one for me. I could go weeks without writing a single word. Now, I have to write almost everyday. Sometimes it is hard to sit down and those are the days (few) that I don't write. I edit.

Except right now I'm in total edit mode. :D Which brings in #2, cutting out what is not needed. I working on it, really I am.

lacey kaye said...

#3 is my favorite today. I've started to hate the smell of my office. Time to get a new plug-in. Walking in there just makes me break out in sweat, thinking about having to sit there for two hours.

Small things, sometimes?

lacey kaye said...

Which is to say that I hate the smell of my plug in. You got that, right? My office doesn't smell like armpit or something. Of course not.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog you have here!

A friend of mine is a published author and editor. She has some good advanced fiction writing tips on her website, such as: Cinematic Writing, Suspension of Disbelief, and Setting a Scene.


Jennifer Linforth said...

To get through a block:

Rewrite a scene from a different character's POV. This has not only unlocked writer's block for me but also created plot points.

Or if you are blocked--jump all over the place--write a love scene or the ending or an odd ball scene with your character not connected to anything in your book.

Save every last drabble and snippet your write. They may turn into books later on!

Darcy Burke said...

Excellent points all, Carrie. I'm always amazed at how great I feel after a particularly great writing session. And really, how lame is it that I'm surprised?

Jennifer, great tip. I've done that in my current WIP and it really helped!

Tessa Dare said...

Great tips, Carrie. it took me years to get past #2, myself. And #1 was something it took me way too long to figure out, too. I still catch myself at it sometimes...

Erica Ridley said...

All fabulous tips, Carrie!

My first (unfinished) attempts suffered from a complete ignorance of tip #1, LOL.

And I try every day to keep #2 and #3 firmly in mind!

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