Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Links and a bit of Rambling

What I'm Listening To: Aimee Mann - Pavlov's Bell

What I'm Doing: Reading To Green Angel Tower Pt 1 by Tad Williams, and preparing to start working on M&M.

Yesterday I found something I'd saved to my computer called 'writing hacks', and thought it was immensely helpful, so I decided to go through my favourites and share all of the writing tools and websites I've discovered over the last few months.

How to Write a Good Fiction Book. - exactly what it says. The barest of the bare bones on writing, but a good outline of what to expect when you're writing.
(It was suggested that that article be merged with one called 'how to write a fiction book' so I hopped on over and took a look at that one. EGADS. DON'T READ THAT ONE. Or if you do, remember that number 8 is the bane of all authors. "When your book is finished, send it to a publisher." NO. NO NO NO. GODS NO. When your book is finished, you edit. And then you revise. And then you read it again. And then you find your happy little butt an AGENT, who will then find you a publisher. BUT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S GOOD DON'T SEND YOUR UNEDITED MS TO ANYONE.)

How to write a book - the short honest truth. - Found this blog a while back, and it's got some useful information in it. It's not as encouraging as some things, but it's true, and it's something to remember when your spirits are flagging.

Warm Up Activities - This is more of a teachers-for-little-kids thing, but it's just as useful for burgeoning authors. I'll dig up another set of warm-ups in the next link.

Warming up: Ten Exercises for Fiction Writers - The opening paragraphs to these are almost as helpful as the warmups themselves.

Writing Hacks (hacks for writing) - Extremely useful. And entertaining. For those of you who are wondering, somewhere on his blog (can't find it now) he wrote that writing hacks are like computer hacks - a way in.

How to survive creative burnout - Mostly aimed at officeworkers or webdesigers and other people who have an actual job, but can be just as useful when applied to writing.

How to write a novel: the snowflake method - This wasn't particularly helpful to me, but it did put some good ideas in my head. Maybe you'll find better use of it.

Ally Carter's Tips and Hints for Writers - Probably the single most helpful collection of writing links I've found to date. Ally Carter is the author of a most interesting series of YA books, I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, and her newest, Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover about a girl who goes to a school for spies, and falls in love with a 'normal boy' and has to deal with the intricacies of leading what amounts to a double life. As she's gone through the process so many aspiring authors are hoping for already, she's just shy of expert when it comes to giving good advice on the writing process. Even if you've ignored the rest of these links up until this point, go check out her tips for writers. You won't be disappointed.


And if you want to know the importance of editing and revision; I just reread my opening paragraph before the links, and discovered something I'd done by accident, but hadn't caught the first time: I'd written "Yesterday I found something I'd saved to my computer called 'writing hacks' and found it again,

Department of redundancy department, much? And while reading Ally Carter's tips for writers (which is the last link, and is something you ought to be reading/have read at this point) she was talking about 'show don't tell' - something I've heard a great deal about since I started my foray into writing with the end goal of publication, and not just for myself or faceless internet fans.

It made no sense to me. (I believe I may have covered this already, but I'm feeling particularly lazy about my blog, and don't care to reread the whole thing just to see if I've talked about one little thing before. ... Maybe I haven't written about it in the blog yet, and have just spoken to people on it. At any rate, here it is again.) "Show, Don't Tell" they say. It just puzzles me. If you're writing words down, you're telling people a story. Movies show things; books tell them. And so I realised it was very good advice, but I could see no way to make it in any way useful to myself.

That was when I found Ally Carter's 'For Writers' section while wandering about her website.

I won't rehash that here (because you should have already read it.) but I'll say that it helped immensely with understanding that little phrase.

If I were to write, "'Bethany, your mother is dead.' She couldn't believe the words. 'What?' she said, horrified. 'Dead?' But she was alive yesterday! She began crying sadly, and turned her face away from her father."

and then

"The words dropped with leaden certainty into Bethany's stomach. They arched through her mind, ripping open old wounds that had just started to heal, and threw themselves in front of her as though they'd been written on a banner. The sudden and unexpected loss of her mother, someone she'd always expected to be there for her, left her with nothing but a hollow feeling. Her eyes shimmered with unshed tears, and her hands closed into fists. Unable to take the pity shining in her father's eyes, she turned away."

I realised just how difficult it is to actively write badly while thinking this exercise up. I automatically go for the most descriptive way of writing (and that second paragraph could probably be whittled down a bit, but it's not intended to be a perfect specimen.) But the point of it was, the first paragraph tells us exactly what's going on, exactly what she's been told, with no guesswork involved. It just hands us the information. The second paragraph starts off in such a way that you're left wondering what Bethany was just told, that they're hurting her so much? And then you find out; she's just been told her mother has died.

Now, granted, I am not the greatest at my craft. Even as I was writing this followup to those two paragraphs, I was going back and rewriting them, and rearranging the words. The paragraphs you see are not the paragraphs that were originally written down, which is as it should be in your writing.

So there are two points to be made: You don't need to spoonfeed your reader by saying "Bethany's mother is dead," instead you want to skirt over it, hint at it, make your reader figure out that Bethany's lost someone important to her before you reveal the facts.

And editing is your friend. Your first draft will never be your final draft (and woe to those I discover attempting to make it so.)

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