Zellie’s Writing Tips

***Shut up and Write***
#1 and the only real rule of writing.

You can’t be a writer if you don’t write! Don’t be afraid to write crap, EVERYONE’S first draft is crap. Most fifth drafts are crap too. IT’S OKAY! Allow yourself to be okay with sucking because once written, you can always go back and edit.

Everything can be deleted
Don’t marry yourself to anything in the story, let it flow, let yourself think through all the options..you may find something even better. Still, be aware of what makes the heart of your story.

Gracefully seek out criticism
You can write in a box, but you’ll write better if you get out into the world and keep your mind open no matter how much someone else may hate your precious baby šŸ˜‰ A ‘throwaway’ comment from even the most inexperienced editor can spark a realization that makes me rewrite 50,000 words. Sometimes I need to sleep on a critique but I always carefully consider what I’m told. Don’t dismiss something just because you don’t immediately agree with it.

Trust Yourself
…take that criticism with a grain of salt. Don’t be a yes-man and integrate every critique you get. Some are going to be subjective and some are just plain going to be wrong for you. Don’t give up on the heart of your story.

One Step at a Time
Give yourself manageable goals. I don’t think ‘okay I’m going to write a 180,000 word novel,’ I think, this is the story I want to tell and I can write roughly 1,000 words a day now that I have an outline and notes.

It’s Okay to be Cliche
Some stuff is cliche because, well, it WORKS! Don’t do the opposite just because you’re worried about it being cliche. Everything is cliche. Everything has been done. It’s HOW you do it that wins the game šŸ˜€

Play
Write alternate endings, vary up character relationships, test the waters and see what happens rather than forcing the story, don’t be afraid to write something you think you’ll delete later…the very exercise of writing in the world you’ve created can help you flesh out what you do keep

Read Actively
Figure out things that work, especially if you want to sell your writing–read bestsellers. Look into things that don’t work too.

Know your audience T_T
If you intend to publish your work make sure you know what publishers are looking for. Right now, given the market, a 200,000 word vampire epic is going to be difficult to sell (or may be the golden ticket šŸ˜‰ )

Watch Actively
Sometimes even more important than reading. TV and movies have a lot less time to work with and a shorter audience attention span. This is a good way to find out what works to hook your audience and keep them involved through pacing. Don’t allow your book to have flaccid parts just because you have the spare word count, keep the audience involved at every turn. Make every word count

Suspense is more effective than Surprise
I read this in a comic scripting book and I love it. While surprises are fun, knowing your adversary gives you a constant feeling of dread that will drive the pace of the book

Show Don’t Tell
It’s more interesting to be in the action than hearing a recounting of the action in summary form. Describe your characters through their dialog and their actions. “He was mad” vs. “He grit his teeth and punched the wall” A beta recently told me to ‘show don’t tell’ rain. I was like….what? But, it’s rain! How do you show that? She suggested describing it through the character’s experience. Mentioning the feel of the rain, the limp hair and clinging clothing is more vivid than just saying ‘It’s raining’

Balance
I pay attention to this a lot in reference to visuals. Weave the visuals into the story, don’t infodump them on us! It’s more interesting to read a little about a character’s eyes as they speak, their clothes as they burn, etc than to have three paragraphs devoted to describing a character. Not only that, but readers like me have a short attention span. If you mention something once in an infodump I’ll probably forget it. If you sprinkle references to violet eyes it’s something I’ll remember.

I stick to one or two lines of description unless it’s a big entrance or the character whose perspective you’re in has an established vested interest in the other character’s physical appearance.

Know your Weaknesses
Writing is masochistic. The more you know your most painful faults, the more you can work around them or turn them into strengths. And if you really just suck at writing romance maybe you shouldn’t be writing romance šŸ˜‰ (note to self…)

Know your Strengths
Play to your strengths, why not? A challenge is all well and good but if you rock at romance, write thee some MUSH!

Don’t underestimate the power of an outline
Writing an outline for my second novel saved me RIDICULOUS AMOUNTS OF REWRITES. I really, really respect outlines now. Nothing it in is set in stone but it gives me a guide, gives me an idea how long the book will be, where I need Events, and helps me write some foreshadowing and build tension, etc

Respect the rules and break them
I don’t believe in ultimatums. Do what works best for you šŸ˜€

HAVE FUN!
Writing is not easy. Writing kicks my ass on a daily basis. And I love it.

An established writer told me that once you’re a career writer writing becomes the last thing you want to do. If I come to the point of writing being torture then I need to be doing something else with my time because there is way too much blood, sweat and tears going into it to waste on something I don’t enjoy.

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2 Responses to Zellie’s Writing Tips

  1. Very nicely done. You’ve done a great job putting forward the critical things to keep in mind while writing. For myself, most of these ideas are used for copy writing, both on my web site and in mailings. In marketing, stories sell better than just words.

  2. Zellie says:

    Thanks for stopping by! I agree on marketing–Geico uses the tactic brilliantly with their vivid characters and storyarcs that build with each new commercial. It frustrates me though when reading news sources. I know a good story sells but I don’t want a story in my news, I want the dry bone facts. Making a story out of news is walking a fine line between reality and fiction. It’s too easy to twist facts to make a story that garners more readers.

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