About Me, The Writer's Life, Writing tips

True Stories

They tell you to tell the truth and this sounds reasonable but you’re not quite sure how to do it. They also tell you to do other things. Kill your adverbs. Kill your semi-colons. Kill your darlings. Kill your prologues. Oh, you say, those I can do. So you set the truth aside and head to the killing fields. You reach for your metaphoric fountain pen, dip it in metaphoric red ink, and prepare to earn another metaphoric belt in the ancient art of Strike-Thru. At first you move cautiously, uncertain, fearing that you might condemn words just because of the…

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My Thoughts, Writing tips

Good Advice/Bad Advice

Most people will tell you there are two kinds of writing advice: Good Advice and Bad Advice. I’m here to tell you they’re the same thing. Allow me to explain. Let’s start with that ol’ “Kill Your Adverbs” chestnut. This is Good Advice. Adverbs, more often than not, are redundant. You don’t need to tell me the monkey screamed loudly. Screaming is, by its very nature, loud. Just let the monkey scream. We’ll cover our ears. Adverbs also tend to be evidence of lazy writing. If your context doesn’t reveal the protagonist’s anxiety, simply stating that he’s “pacing anxiously” because…

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My Thoughts, The Writer's Life, Writing tips

A Word, Please

Think of a word you don’t like – one that makes you squirm. Sure, it could be a common word like “moist” or “chalky,” but choose something edgier – something you almost never say in real life. Got it? Okay, have a seat. Your word would like to have a word with you. Word: Hey. You: Um…hey? Word: Do you know why you’re here? You: Not exactly. Word: We need to talk about me. You: I don’t think we do. Word: Oh, right. This is where you tell me you don’t need me; that you never need me. You: Um…yeah.…

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Self-editing Tips, Top Posts, Writing tips

How to Write Good Dialogue

Well-written dialogue doesn’t draw attention to itself. Instead, it quietly goes about its business, revealing truth and ferrying the plot toward its conclusion. Bad dialogue, on the other hand, stands out like a man wearing a clown costume to a funeral. (Unless it’s a clown funeral. Then it’s like a man not wearing a clown costume to a funeral.) But for all its invisibility, good dialogue does a lot of heavy lifting. Besides giving voice to your characters, dialogue frequently puts legs on that “show, don’t tell” axiom. For a rare few writers, writing dialogue is as natural as breathing. It’s…

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Self-editing Tips, Writing tips

The Editor’s Hat – 11 Tips for Your Second Draft

Your first draft is done. Wait, it’s not? Then go away and don’t come back until it is. This is not the post you’re looking for. The rest of you can stay, but only if you promise not to make fun of the people who aren’t finished with their first drafts yet. Because you were like them once. And I still am. Okay. [I know. There’s no need for “Okay” here. It’s superfluous. I should just get right to the 11 tips. But I’m keeping it. “Okay” is an intentionally overused aspect of my subtly ironic faux-conversational style. What, you…

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Self-editing Tips, Writing tips

How to Increase Your Novel’s Word Count

Word count is the devil you have to love, or at the very least, respect. This is a true statement if your goal is to be published (through traditional methods) someday. Those of you who don’t care about traditional publishing can leave the room now. Go play cricket or bake a souffle or save the whales. Then write about it. Use as many words as you like. The rest of you, please select an abacus from the abacus cabinet and have a seat. Unless you’ve already had significant publishing success or your last name is Rowling or King, you’re going…

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