Thursday, March 7, 2013

Writing Advice Greatest Hits Volume One

I had one of those great teacher moments today. A former student took time out of his day to seek my help on a piece he's writing just because he wants to. As the deluge of testing-induced excrement begins to fall in the next few weeks, I'm clinging to this moment with both hands.

I’m in the middle of searching for an agent this month, so there’s little to report on the career front. This entry is all about good writing advice I’ve received over the years. I thought, why not share? This is my paraphrasing of advice I’ve received, with credit given to the people who’ve influenced me. These are not quotes.

-Give the present tense a try. It gives a sense of immediate vitality to a story. –Jeff Mann

-The plot has to challenge the character. The minute they’re safe and cozy, we’re bored. – John Adamus.

-Before you send in a book for submission, ask yourself if someone bought it at an airport and read it on their flight, would they leave it behind? If the answer is yes, you still have revision to do. That kind of writing is disposable (I’m looking at you, twilight), it isn’t even worth the time to open a suitcase to tuck it in. Great writing haunts the reader. They would never hesitate to take it with them. –Rosalind Buckenberry, twilight bashing by me.

-You don’t have to go out of your way to invent poignant situations for your characters. Your own life is already full of heavy, cinematic moments. Just use what’s already happened to you and repurpose it for your character. –Richard Weems

-Don’t over-tell. Let the characters speak. Give me action and interaction. Let the character play on the page. –Roberta Clipper

-Use one verb. –John Adamus

And one of my all time favs…

-There’s nothing much to writing. You just have to stand at the typewriter and bleed.
–from Ernest Hemingway, it didn’t so end well for him, but his books were downright spiffy

I haven’t broken through as a writer just yet, but this advice has taken me this far. I’ve finished two novels and one short story collection and I have five published short stories. These are the pieces of advice that have gotten me this far. I hope they can help any writer greener than me to progress.

-James Russell

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