Over the holidays, I asked folks in my online network to share one-sentence writing tips. We’ve been looking at them all week, and here’s the Final Five.
Mike Snyder – “Write characters, not caricatures.”
Linda Swink – “There is no one right way to create a story.”
Kristen Wood – “Fall in love with your characters; if you don't, no one else will.”
Mark Terry – “Omit unnecessary words.”
Claudette Walker – “Enjoy your writing or others will not.”
Dixon says: Mike and Kristen rang my bell with their comments, since I write character-driven fiction. I often start out with a flawed character in a challenging situation and then ask, “What if…?” When I see clearly what the first 3-4 chapters will look like, and have a foggy idea of the resolution, then it’s time to start putting ink on some perfectly good paper. To me, a cast of strong yet imperfect characters being forced to make difficult choices creates the plot, not the other way around.
Linda’s comment is spot on – there are many roads that will take you from page first to page last. Taking the easy path often results in writing that feels safe and familiar – and boring. Fight your way through the brambles instead of following the freeway. You’ll probably run into Linda somewhere along the way.
My first drafts are always fat, and then I put Mark’s advice to work, weeding out words and phrases that aren’t absolutely vital. I keep thinking I’ll get to the point where removing one additional word will change the entire story; however, the truth is that I eventually get sick and tired of editing.Claudette’s tip is last for a good reason. Writing should be enjoyable. I recognize that some folks write for therapeutic reasons, to cast out the demons of a toxic upbringing or brutal relationship. All of us have moments when fighting our way through a scene is only slightly easier than battling a battalion of orks. Even so, there is satisfaction in coming up with the right words to describe a key scene, penning a character so readers everywhere will recognize the type, and arriving at long last at those magical words, “The End.”