by Elle Cyre
Many thoughts on how writing has influenced my life.
|If you look around for writing advice, beware of what you find. Some of it isn't helpful and some of it doesn't work. Maybe I'm just too gulible and believe everything I read but when you find the same advice over and over again, you'd be an idiot not to try it, right?
Think again. Here's some common suggestions that aren't useful: (or maybe it's just I didn't know how to use them? IDK! Judge for yourself.)
#1: said is dead.
Don't use 'Bill said' or 'said Jane in an excited voice'. Replace it with a more descriptive word.
Why is that wrong? Well, technically it isn't. However, you end up with way over-descriptive conversations. Instead of two people chatting you have people whining, crying, gasping, chortling and sighing every two seconds. It ends up distracting from the topic of discussion.
Verdict? The best advice I've ever heard is eliminating 'said' altogether. Space your conversation with bits of descriptive action to identify who is speaking or what their current state of emotion is.
NO: "I'm tired," said Bill with a yawn. "I'm going to bed."
YES: Bill yawned. "I'm going to bed."
NO: "You can't do that!" Jane screamed. "I won't let you."
YES: "You can't do that!" Jane clenched her fists. "I won't let you."
#2: Shorten your sentences during action sequences.
This one might work for some people. I sucked at it; it made my action scenes bits and pieces of random verbs. (Bill jumped; he twisted around. He swung his fist. Bob dodged. He stepped aside. etc, etc, etc) It may get the point across but it doesn't present a very clear picture.
Verdict? This is a more general rule but I think it applies to action sequences as well; use a variety of sentence lengths. Your mind will tire of reading the short, jerky pieces just as fast as it wearies reading the long-winded sentences that go on and on and on and never end and just when you're think it's done they go and add-on a semi-colon to extend the thought even further. If you mix and match it is much better. Throw a few short sentences in there, even three or two word ones. Go ahead; try it. And then don't be afraid to add some long ones as long as there is a continous thought contained in them and they aren't just bad run-on sentences.
#3: eliminate words that end in 'ly'.
AKA adverbs; instead strengthen your verb so you don't have to modify it or help convey your meaning.
Actually, this one is just fine. Unless you're a wordy writer like me who struggles with descriptions and has to throw in more and more adjectives and adverbs to ensure my meaning comes across, it is a simple rule to follow. (Same with eliminating 'very'; use a stronger adjective instead.)
#4: edit the boring parts.
Get rid of all the unnecessary words, dialogue and descriptions that might bore your reader.
Okay, I don't really know if this is a rule or not but I got that advice just the same. I thought I had to edit out any sentence that didn't 'move the story along'. I ended up cutting out a lot of boring descriptions but a lot of character development as well and my story didn't have any depth.
Verdict? I know now what I should have done; instead of erasing the boring parts, I should have been fixing them. Eliminate the bland, unsubstantial descriptions; replace them with key details and textures and smells that bring your reader into the present moment. Don't cut out the sunset with its beautiful red and gold colors but add to it the feel of the evening grass as the dew begins to descend and the hum of the insects and the little pebble that Jane fingers while she watches the sun set.
It took me a long time to figure out how to write and I'm still learning as I go. It is amazing what you can do with words and once you understand how to use them, you can bring your story to life in ways you never imagined. You have absolute power in the tips of your fingers to create whatever sensation, whatever emotion, whatever feeling in your reader's mind that you want. That's my favorite part about writing.
What are some writing tips that have helped you and what are some that hurt you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!