Tuesday, February 19, 2013

100 (More) Things Every Beginning Writer Should Know (Version 1.5)

A few weeks back, I posted a list of 100 things every beginning writer should know.  For once I completely abstained from making references (yes, that post is lacking in even the most obscure reference...this is a rarity around here), posting GIFs, and being generally sarcastic or quirky or whatever tends to happen when I sit down to write a blog post. 

Looking back on that post, I'm happy with it.  You know, wise sage advice and all that.  But there's another side to writing that wasn't covered.  A messier side.  And so, here are 100 more things every beginning writer should know.
  1. Sometimes you just have to disable your internet connection.
  2. Solitaire doesn't actually get your writing done.  Neither does Minesweeper.
  3. There will be bad books published while your lovely book sits at home and does nothing.
  4. You will read said bad books and wonder, "Who is the idiot that published this?"
  5. You will realize that there is no answer to this question.
  6. Bribe yourself with chocolate. 
  7. Your characters will sometimes take over your story.  When this happens, sit back and relax, because there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
  8. It's perfectly normal to have picked out actors to play your characters in the movie adaptation of your novel even if you haven't started it yet.
  9. If you think you'll be able to slip your political agenda into your novel without us noticing, you're wrong.*
  10. Don't name your character "Bella".
  11. Don't give your characters stupid names.  Seriously.  Don't name your character "Dank" or "Canada".  (One of these names is something I've seen in a blurb.  The other is a play on another name from a book I know of but have never read.)
  12. More on names:  If you think your name is a cool, trendy combination of overused names, you are wrong.  "Bethanastasiakate" is not going to win any awards.
  13. If you are going to include a thinly veiled reference to another book/movie/show, you had better write a good novel.  If your book is good and I catch your reference, I'll think you are twice as awesome.  But I don't like your book and catch the reference, I will be mad because, you know, how dare this unskilled author like the same things I like!
  14. You will write dumb things. 
  15. You will look back on said dumb things and think "Why would I have ever written 'The flames blazed brighter than Denethor falling to his death.'?"
  16. In some cases, you might be so amused by said dumb things that you'll be tempted to leave them in the novel.  Resist this temptation.
  17. It's probably best not to plan your Nobel literature prize acceptance speech until you actually win the Nobel prize.
  18. If it makes you feel better, write that flashback!  Even if flashbacks are generally pointless and you'll end up deleting it later.  But hey, movie fans like deleted scenes, so why not novel readers?
  19. If a pronunciation guide is needed, you either A) need to rethink your character/place names or B) are named Christopher Paolini.
  20. Same thing again: If you feel that your trilogy is getting out of control, you need to A) get it under control or B) are named Christopher Paolini and can use this as an excuse to make even more money.**
  21. There's a fine line between killing someone off to further the plot, making your readers hate you, and being George R. R. Marting and doing both.
  22. Pacing.  Learn to use it.
  23. The Microsoft Word paperclip probably won't help you overcome writer's block.
  24. Don't say you're going to write a retelling of Romeo and Juliet unless you actually know how R&J ends.
  25. Plot bunnies tend to multiply like, well, bunnies.
  26. They're going to their house because Logan Lerman is there.  It's not rocket science.
  27. Every time you use the word "very", a baby sloth cries.
  28. You are not Shakespeare, and can't go around making up your own words.**
  29. Don't use the cheap mirror trick.  Quoth the raven, "Nevermore".
  30. Unnecessary prologues are, well, unnecessary.  Ain't nobody got time for that.
  31. Don't plagiarize.  Changing the names of characters in your fanfiction does not count as being original. *coughELJamescough*
  32. Thou shall not combine thy marks of questioning with thy points of exclamation, yo. 
  33. Don't add "yo" to the end of every super-serious line.  Even if it's funny for awhile.  And even if I just did it.
  34. If you start your novel without knowing your ending, you're going to have a bad time.
  35. Rather than trying to spell out a character's accent in each piece of dialogue, write "he had an accent" and leave it there.
  36. Italics are actually super annoying when you use them for a long time.  Yeah, that flashback sequence that you wrote in all italics?  That probably isn't going to work out.
  37. Don't assume that you can write a ripoff of The Giver without anyone noticing.
  38. If you write something along the lines of "The magical door was locked, and she couldn't break it down.  Then she remembered that she was indeed a member of the line of Alkasjdla, descended from a woman whom a nymph had endowed with special door-opening powers.", stop it.  That's too convenient.  Make it hard.
  39. Your readers are, in fact, not stupid.
  40. That being said, I wouldn't recommend going out and taking an IQ test of your readers.
  41. Don't stop writing every time you think you have a better idea.  The new idea isn't as good as you think it is.
  42. Don't kill off a random character because "well, Sean Bean might play this guy in my novel's movie!".
  43. There's no need to describe every detail of your character's outfit every time he/she walks into a room, unless your name is Cassandra Clare and you somehow make the big bucks despite doing this all the time.
  44. The best villains are the ones that make sense in a twisted, disturbing way.  It's easy to write a cookie-cutter I-hate-everything, but the scariest ones are the ones that have a reason to hate everything and hate everything in a way that, again, makes disturbing sense. 
  45. If you reread a scene of yours and are thinking "Something doesn't feel right about this", you're absolutely correct.  All the time.  If something feels off to you, there's definitely something off.
  46. If you are writing something that's historical in any way, shape, or form, do your research.  If you don't, this might happen:
  47. "Shoutout to my Winterfell bros!  #iphonenegative6iscoming #YOFATWA (you only freeze at the Wall always)"
  48. If you are writing about a nonpopular, geekish guy who is desperately in love with a popular cheerleader who is way out of his league, stop what you're doing right this minute.
  49. DON'T TYPE THINGS IN ALL CAPS FOR EMPHASIS.  IT'S NOT PROFESSIONAL AND IT'S ACTUALLY KIND OF INTIMIDATING WHEN YOU KEEP IT UP LONG ENOUGH.  ARE YOU AFRAID YET?  BECAUSE I KIND OF AM AND I'M THE ONE WHO WROTE IT.
  50. If I can learn to spell it, you can learn to spell it.  Pull yourself together and you'll pull through it.  Now I really feel like someone new!  You can learn to spell it too!  (If you don't know what song that is, shame on you.)
  51. If your characters use the phrase "as you already know" in dialogue, you are trying to cleverly sneak in your infodump.  Don't do it.
  52. While we're talking about infodump, don't do it at all.  Ever.
  53. If you use "legit", "cray-cray", or "YOLO" in narration and you're being serious, I will personally track you down and knock some sense into you.
  54. Just because you are pinning to a Pinterest board about your book doesn't mean you're getting anything done.
  55. If someone asks "Can I be in your book?", gently remind them that you're writing a war novel in which 75% of the characters die.
  56. Don't drop too many new terms at once, or your readers will be like:
  57. Haters gonna hate, but they might also have some good criticism for you.  If everyone is saying your plot is too slow, they're right.
  58. Back up your files in eight different places.  If a zombie apocalypse comes, you might not have food, but your novel will be safe!
  59. Never get involved in a land war in Asia.
  60. Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.
  61. Everything is funnier when you're avoiding writing.  Even things that have no reason to be funny.  So don't avoid writing. 
  62. If anyone in your novel lifts a "heavy sword", you might as well just wave a giant Perkins-size flag that says "I am ignorant."
  63. So far, the literature world generally does not accept the use of gifs in novels.
  64. That being said, there is always hope....
  65. If someone reads your novel and their reaction to it includes the phrase "THE FEELS!", you win at writing.
  66. Your characters should never be "average".  Average is a stupid idea that society presents to try to cover the fact that nobody is average.
  67. The moment when you finish your first draft is the best and worst moment of your entire life.
  68. Random cameos from other random fandoms have no place in your novel. 
    No, this is Patrick.
  69. If you're an adult writing a young adult novel and think you know all about teenagers because you were one a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, you should stop and talk to some actual teenagers and rethink everything you think you know about YA novels.
  70. Always walk around with something to write with.  Even if it is a hot pink highlighter that you'll never be able to read later.
  71. You WILL be able to finish your book.  That is, of course, if you actually sit down and write it.
  72. People will ask you what your book is about.  It's okay to tell them "It's not done yet" if you'd rather not explain.  Like if you're writing some kind of experimental steampunk futuristic high fantasy retelling of Greek mythology.  I can understand not wanting to explain that.
  73. Nobody actually cares what color your characters' eyes are.
  74. When you're stuck on a scene, either wait it out or better yet, backtrack.  Yes, it means deleting words.  You can do it.
  75. Creepy insta-lust does not constitute romance.
  76. Adverbs are like olives on pizza.  They're tolerable if they have to be there in the first place and aren't overabundant, but put them everywhere and they're gross and annoying.
  77. There comes a point when you've written so much in one day that you can't even words.  Your characters' usually-witty comebacks will have turned into stuff like "dishonor on your cow!"
  78. Falling action is just...no.
  79. If your characters aren't suffering, you have not done your job.  To quote Leo Valdez, "Suffering?  I love suffering!  Let's do this!"
  80. The word "really" is really, really pointless.
  81. The double exclamation point is like jumping into a giant vat of pudding.  At first it seems like fun, but it turns out to be a bad idea and kind of scary.
  82. As of right now, the entire world is forbidden to use the phrase "mere slip of a girl".  By the power vested in me by myself, I now pronounce literature and this phrase DIVORCED.  You may now write something more original and sensible.
  83. Doing a Meyers-Briggs type analysis on your character is, surprisingly, not a waste of time.  Neither are things like the character alignment categories (lawful good, chaotic evil, true neutral, etc.).
  84. Make the good guys lose sometimes.  Nobody likes a Mary Sue.
  85. If any of your characters cries out "Tell me!" in a dramatic fashion, you're going to set all the Tumblr fangirls crying again. 
  86. Did you know?  Dramatic exits are all the rage.
  87. Take the fantasy novelist's exam (Google it), and make sure you pass.
  88. Edit your work.  Please.  It's not that hard.
  89. Okay, yes it is.  But do it anyway.
  90. Watch out for lines that could be awkward if taken out of context.
  91. If you want to calculate how long it will take to write your book, use this formula: estimate time it will take to finish book.  Multiply this number by 6.02 x 10^23.
  92. If none of your characters ever mess up, you're going to have a boring book.
  93. Physical descriptions of characters are only 24% as important as you think it is.
  94. Many people (including yours truly) love a well-written anti-hero.
  95. Never say something like "somehow, he managed to stand".  Well, he managed it.  And he had to do it in some logical way, so therefore there has to be a reason.  If you happened, you have to know how it happened.
  96. Don't forget that your characters have noses and can actually smell things.
  97. "I love extended dream sequences," said no one ever.  Except maybe Leonardo DiCaprio.
  98. Revision is...haha, I'm not even going to go there right now.
  99. One does not simply write a novel.

    And there you have it!  Authorness in all its glory.  I would have posted this about a week ago, but Blogger ate half the list items and I had to rewrite them.  The irony of this has not been missed.

    What else do you think beginning writers should know?

    *"I'm sorry, Nick, what were you lying?"  Tony Stark, everyone.
    **For the record, I love his books.
    ***Not that I don't do that in my blog posts...

    post signature

    6 comments:

    1. Haha, this was an awesome post!

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    2. THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER. I LOVE YOU. THANK YOU.

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    3. So great! I just wanted to tell you thank you for making these!! I found your blog last night and got really glued to it, haha. These tips, and also the first installment have truly helped me SO much, I can't even begin to say how much! Thank you again for putting these things out there for fellow writers to read!! I'm writing a book that I hope will be published one day, and a lot of these tips really helped me to seriously better my writing skills. For example, I have a super bad habit of, when I write something, and if I read it back and it doesn't sound perfect, I have to revise it until it's just right! A little revising while actually writing is good, but making it sound just how you want it can wait until the end. I just need to write down the rough draft, first! Also, the 'longer isn't better' one. Lately I've been trying to make the story longer, because compared to everything I've read that I love, it's a lot longer than what I have so far... but what I ended up doing, I realized, was I was just putting in filler and I really didn't like that. I want everything that happens to be meaningful, you know?

      On a somewhat side note, my book is mostly just the two main characters alone, on their journey to save the world. It's a teen boy and girl, and they're just friends. (Eventually, it does turn into love, though. It's very slow developing, but it's super sweet when it gets there.) Because it's just them alone in the woods, purposely trying to avoid people for safety reasons, I'm having some trouble on what they say to each other. I've got the basics of course, like "hey, how are you today?," stuff like that, and if something happens how they react to it, but other than that they really don't say much. They run into each other while in the woods, and the boy tags along on the girl's quest, so they explain to each other why they are where they are. But I want them to talk more, I just don't know what they should say. Casual conversation, I guess, is what I'm trying to get to. I mean, yeah, they ask each other what they like and dislike, getting to know each other, that's casual, and they are casual with each other, but just, really other than that, I can't think of anything else for them to say. Do you have this problem sometimes too, and do you have any suggestions?

      Once again, thank you so much for all these tips!! They really do help, so much :)
      (sorry this is so long, by the way. :3)

      ReplyDelete
    4. Thanks for the comment! (And don't worry, I love long comments!) I'm glad you're finding the blog helpful--that means a lot to me. I agree getting the first draft out before doing any revision is the best way to go. I'm always an advocate for planning things out beforehand, which hopefully reduces the need for structural revision. As for line edits...yeah, those should always wait until the end. And you're also right that longer doesn't equal better. No one wants to read filler, so the best way to go is usually to work on adding subplots. Or to just leave it alone, because the story naturally ends where it wants to end.

      It's hard for me to give advice on what your characters would say to each other without knowing their personalities or anything. I would actually advise against using too much casual conversation/likes and dislikes for your characters to get to know one another. The danger here is that it'll be full of telling instead of showing, and showing is so much more effective. We don't want to be told that your character is, say, afraid of fire--we want to see her freeze up in terror at the flames. The best way for your characters to get to know each other is simply to let them run the course of the plot, and if you've got a good plot, the conflict and emotions should bring out their personalities on their own. What would real people say to each other while on a quest in the woods? The conversation wouldn't need to be forced--it would happen naturally, and we'd learn about them through their words and actions. If you're having trouble at the basic level of them not knowing what to say to each other, you might want to work on your plot instead of your characters. Give them something to fight for, something to long for, someone to fight against, a past they may or may not want to talk about, and so on. Even pit them against each other to see what they do. Let them get to know each other through the natural progression of the story.

      Does that make sense? Hopefully it helps. And thanks again for the comment!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. You're welcome! :)

        I agree with everything.

        I do actually have those plot details, the fighting for, against, and past I mean.
        But actually, I did the other day think of another twist that could happen with Lory (the nomad hero.) I'm gonna try to fit it in and see if the story still flows the same. :)

        Also, I think I'm slowly starting to find things for them to say, so, yay! lol. But the actions showing character, that's definitely more of a focus now.

        Thanks so much for replying, you're such a help. :) and yes it does make sense, totally. Once again you're welcome too :)

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