Writing Advice From The Pros
Personal Reflections Before We Begin
Where are you on the writing talent scale?
Are you a great writer? Are you average? Are you struggling just to approach average? We are our own worse judges you know. We rarely give ourselves a break. No matter how many people tell me that I am a good writer, I will always believe I can be so much better, and perhaps that is a healthy approach to this craft that bewitches and beguiles, bedraggles and leaves us bemoaning. After all, we all want to improve, right? We all want to be the best that we can be, right?
From time to time I try to leave you with some tips which I hope you find helpful. They are little odds and ends I have picked up over the years, as a student, as a teacher and as a writer. I did not invent them. I claim no ownership over them. They are simply lessons I learned from others. If you are looking for original thoughts on writing then you are in for a long wait my friends.
Still, even though the tips I give you are not original, they are written in my original voice, and perhaps that rearranging of verbs and nouns, adjectives and adverbs, will strike a bell with you and give flight to your writer’s heart.
Today I borrow again. Each section of this missive will begin with a quote about writing from one of the Masters. I will then toss in a few thoughts of my own. In other words, you get the best of all worlds here today, a virtual classroom for all who wish to attend. Grab a seat and get comfortable. The class begins right now!
CUT THE CRAP
Thank you Mr. Twain and I am in agreement with you.
I read once, and I don’t have a clue who said it, that adverbs are the lazy tool of a weak mind.
Adverbs are used to modify a verb. Plain and simple. They provide use only if they add to the sentence. If they do not, get rid of them. Take, for example, the phrase “he walked quickly.” Is it really necessary to add the adverb “quickly” to tell your tale? If a writer has done their job prior to that phrase, and described a sense of urgency, then there really is no need for “quickly” to appear in that sentence. The reader will already know that the protagonist is in one hell of a hurry.
She said happily…..he laughed loudly…..they played carelessly…..they made love recklessly….yep, they sound great, but are they really necessary?
And please note I wrote this entire section without an adverb other than the ones used as examples. It is possible to do. J
ARE YOU EASY TO READ?
“Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it's right, it's easy. It's the other way round, too. If it's slovenly written, then it's hard to read. It doesn't give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.”
This is such a profound statement. Writing something that is an easy read is so, so difficult. I have read books that were like trudging through quicksand. I have read books that were so simplistic and simple-minded as to seem like a personal insult.
The books I have loved, however, read like a good friend. They wore like my favorite old jeans. They wrapped their words around me and reminded me of a lover on a cold night. To accomplish that is not an easy task at all my friends. It takes hard work. It takes dedication to your craft. It takes a willingness to improve.
YOU GOTTA BLEED
This is one of my favorite quotes about writing, followed closely (yes, I just used an adverb) by Hemmingway’s similar thoughts:
Why are they my favorites? Because this is what writing is all about for me.
Listen, I get it. We have to make money in order to pay the bills. We have to eat and pay travel expenses and get some new clothes for the kids, so we need money. We work for content mills or we churn out 400 characters to dazzle those on Bubblews and we make the money we need….but….at some point, our passion for writing needs a vehicle. At some point we need to open our hearts and pour it out, baby. Three days a week I write articles about how to write. Two days a week I write articles that provide nourishment for my soul. Those two days are my favorites by far.
LET IT ALL HANG OUT
I have been doing more and more of this free verse lately and I have to tell you, I love it. “Let’s let Mikey try it; he’ll eat anything.” Well, this Mikey has tried free verse and he is gorging himself at the banquet table.
Sit down and just write. Don’t worry about grammar. Don’t worry about a beginning or an end. Just pick a topic and start firing words like some journalistic machine gun. Or to put it a different way, I remember from my baseball days something an old Major League player once said: “Baseball ain’t that difficult. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.”
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KICK SELF-DOUBT TO THE CURB
“I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.”
The saddest three words I have heard since I began writing are “I give up.” I have received notes from other writers with those three words included and they make me want to scream in frustration.
If you have a passion for writing then you need to write. To hell with those who would tell you that you are no good. To hell with those who belittle you or who cannot be bothered to encourage you.
I firmly believe that the world has never needed the Arts as badly as it needs them now. If you are a writer then you are needed. You have the power in your hands and mind to bring beauty to this world. You have the power to transform reality and provide needed escape for others. You have the power to uplift and raise awareness.
If you have the passion then never, never, never give up!
THE INNER MUSIC
The inner music…..if you are a writer you will understand that phrase. Writing is an art form, just like painting, just like photography and yes, just like music. We do with words what musicians do with instruments or singers do with their voices.
Good writing flows with the notes. Great writing transforms the notes into a heavenly performance by the angels.
And what a high it is when we achieve that!
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”