April 22nd, 2007


writing advice

Everyone is a week past the whole writing rules and advice meta, I realize, but I started talking about this in a thread the other day, and finally had time to finish it off, so voila, you get it anyway.

So, about rules: if you are even bothering to read this, chances are that you are past the point where following mechanical rules is going to do you any good. There IS such a point, don't get me wrong, but it is pretty early on in the process of development as a writer. Rules are helpful for someone who is making a lot of the common clunky mistakes that newbies have made from time immemorial, because even just following a bunch of rules blindly will scrape a lot of that ugly barnacle stuff off your stories, hopefully improve your ear, and make it easier for you to get betas and feedback. But that is fairly easily done, and then you've got whatever gains you're going to get from them.

On the other hand, if you are bothering to read this, chances also are that you would still like some kind of concrete advice to follow, rather than just finding what works for you or having fun -- both of which are absolutely the right advice, just not concrete. So, with the caveat that I am only qualified to dispense this advice so far as you (a) like the end product, which is my own work; and (b) believe that I actually understand the process of my own development enough to pick out the important bits of it, which is by no means guaranteed, here you go:

  • Play around.
  • Beta passionately.
  • Write and post a lot.
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I'll also throw in one more general piece of advice: try other kinds of creative work. Make icons or wallpapers, draw or paint, learn how to vid. (Vidding has absolutely made me a better writer -- it has made me think about color and movement and pacing in a completely different medium, and has made me better able to think visually, about the physical composition of scenes. So did designing a computer game and working on software architecture.) Make livejournal layouts or websites. Go research and write wikipedia entries. Play an instrument, make mashups. Learn how to cook or study a new language. Take photos. Write poetry. Dance. \o/

And don't take this advice or any other writing advice if you don't find it fun. I can freely prescribe this particular set, because this is how I get my fun. The feedback for a story afterwards is the fabulous dessert; the writing and betaing is my delicious philly cheesesteak sandwich. *g* Not that a rough beta can't be painful -- but it should be painful like a really thorough workout with a trainer who isn't letting you off easy, where you bitch and moan through the last few sets, but then once the aching has subsided you feel all powerful and smugly proud of yourself. Delayed gratification is fine, but if it's just a tedious chore with no real payoff for you anywhere along the way, then forget about it.

Now I go take my own advice about finishing things. *cough*