15 Alternative Steps to Better Writing

Writing_starOften writing advice comes at a price. You don’t always know what works and what doesn’t unless you actually put it into practice and get results.

I’m here to say that every situation is different. So understand that as a writer, it’s up to you to find out what works.

Below, I’ve presented 15 alternative ways to approach your writing. Despite many of them going against what other professionals may preach, I think you’ll find some wisdom in each step.

1. Always write when you feel like it.

Many writers may suggest that “writer’s write.” Well, anyone who writes anything can be a writer then. Why torture yourself everyday by not putting out your best material? Write when you feel like it, even if it’s five minutes a day. I would even suggest that posting on Facebook or Twitter could count as your five minutes. By networking and discussing your day, you are doing important preparation for your fiction.

2. Probably no need to read anyone else’s work.

Another common bit of advice is to “read, read, read.” Why? Reading other people’s work not only muddies your vision, but wastes precious time you could spend writing. I never understood this bit of advice. The only inspiration you need is what you get from your muse. Plus, you can always use TV or movies to get any extra inspiration you need.

3. Re-invent and experiment.

Oftentimes the worry may come up, “My writing isn’t original enough.” In that case, go experimental. Write your novel in your own made-up language. Perhaps don’t even write it, just make a book out of nothing put pictures. You can do anything you want. It’s your novel. Genre conventions are meant to be broken. So go all out!

4. Intelligent discussions about writing.

This is sort of self-explanatory. Talk about writing as much as you like. You are a writer after all! Even if you’re spending more time talking about it than actually writing, you’re reminding yourself constantly that you should be writing. Talking about something is the best way to show you’re interested in it, after all.

5. Literally describe everything.

Dealing with fantasy, your audience isn’t always going to know what’s going on unless you’re describing every character, every new race, every city, and every piece of clothing. If you really want to immerse your readers in a fantastic world, you have to give them as much description as possible. Need to describe what a minor nobleman is wearing? Do it! It’s your novel, so if you need to spend multiple pages describing everything, by all means do so.

6. Forget “show, don’t tell.” “Tell, don’t show.”

Another bit of advice I’ve never understood is “show, don’t tell.” Why not “tell, don’t show?” It is story-telling after all, not story-showing. If a character is angry, don’t waste time with subtle hints or gestures. Just say “He is angry.” It saves your reader a lot of time trying to figure things out. If more writers employed this technique, reading would be a lot easier, faster and thus more rewarding.

7. Overemphasis on grammar and spelling are overrated.

That’s what editors are for, right? Don’t worry about your grammar and spelling so much. Spell-check covers most of that for you, so there’s no need to spend so much time worrying about your sentence structure. Most readers won’t notice anyway.

8. Old fonts can be boring.

I’ve often seen guidelines say, “Use Times New Roman or Arial.” Then what is the point of having all these other great fonts? My advice: use a new font and make it your own. It can be your “calling card” so to speak.

9. Longer is better.

Novels are getting bigger and bigger nowadays. If other writers are putting out 300,000 word novels, then you need to trump them by putting out 500,000 words. It’s a competitive market and the more words you have, the more “bang for your buck” you’re giving your readers. They will appreciate the longer book because it requires them to spend less money on other books.

While on the subject of the need for longer books, why not have a longer prologue? Prologues are very popular in fantasy novels and are your first introduction to the world. Some writers may say that making a prologue too long may detract from the meat of the book, but I think the more information the reader can get about the world you’re introducing them to, the better. I’d even suggest making the prologue longer than any of your other chapters.

10. Super-awesome magic and characters.

The more awesome and crazy, the better. Fantasy readers love magic, but don’t care so much about how it works. Wizard can pull fire from the sun? Works for me. Magic is derived from ancient glaciers? OK! There’s no need to explain magic or have it make absolute sense. Magic is awesome because it’s mysterious. So making the mechanics of how it works relevant is to me, irrelevant. Save that for hard science fiction.

Also, make your characters as awesome as you can. Near invincible characters prove for interesting stories.

11. Deus ex machina.

Why are these three Latin words so contentious? It exists because it used to be a perfectly acceptable way to end a story for the Greek dramatists. What makes writers today better than Greek dramatists? Use whatever device you need to end the story. Especially if you’re on a deadline. Having Zeus or Gandalf’s eagles or whatever come down and clean-up everything is a fine ending in my view. “It was all a dream” is also doable.

12. Ample info-dumps.

Often critics may say “Oh no, the dreaded info-dump.” But why? Info-dumps are after all, when broken down, “dumps of information.” Don’t readers need information to understand what’s happening? My belief is that if you want to stop the plot to give plenty of information to the reader, then it’s your choice as a writer. To me, plot and character development aren’t as important as knowing what’s going on. A good dump of information now and again can help clear things up.

13. Your characters can do nothing sometimes.

Realism in fantasy is becoming more and more popular. What is more realistic than sitting around and doing nothing? It’s what most normal people do a large percentage of their day. Have your character sit on the porch for six pages or take a nap for two. It’s important to get into the characters’ heads as much as possible. Having them think about daily chores, sharpening their blades, walking their dog, or whatever will make them appear more realistic to the reader.

14. Look at the first letter of each numbered step above.

15. Spell it out.

Tell your friends to read this article and it’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard.

Do you have any “alternative” advice to dispense? Leave some in the comments below.

You can find Phil’s blog about Japan, writing, pro wrestling, and weird stuff at philipoverby1.blogspot.com.

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efpierce
efpierce
8 years ago

This post is way out of the box, I think it will help a lot of us budding writers!

jdmaxon
jdmaxon
8 years ago

Haha, funny. I almost unsubscribed after reading that :-p

Michael Writer
Michael Writer
8 years ago

I don’t agree with at least eleven steps of this guide. Is somebody trying to “dumb it down” for the next generation? If so I am not rollin with it.

Shari Marshall
Shari Marshall
8 years ago

Lol had me really going there!

Jason Toney
Jason Toney
8 years ago

Was this really a joke? I’m asking because I actually managed to get a writing idea from it.

Kelly Cook
Kelly Cook
8 years ago

LOL.

Terri Nixon
Terri Nixon
8 years ago

Bloody hell, I was just starting to get really cross until I realised!

BrianDeLeonard
BrianDeLeonard
8 years ago

How DARE you claim this EXCELLENT advise is just a joke?!  Any good writer will follow at least seven or eight of these points.  And telling is a wonderful way to influence readers – I just told you, so now of course you believe me.  🙂
Great job, Phil!

Person
Person
8 years ago

Damn Phil, you’d gotten my hopes up there for a moment. Good one!

The_Drill99
The_Drill99
8 years ago

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I’ll post my real thoughts on what I wrote above:
1.  You should probably write more than 5 minutes a day if you plan to get anything written in the next twenty years or so.
2.  You should read.  A lot.
3.  I do think people should experiment, but should know the rules before they break them.  
4.  Mythic Scribes is a good place to have intelligent discussions about writing.  However, the time spent talking about writing is best served being exponentially lower than the time spent writing.
5.  I like description in moderation.  There are some wonderfully descriptive writers out there.  
6.  I’m not a firm believer in always showing and never telling.  But showing tends to be a much stronger way of conveying stories.  If there is an example cited of a story that tells more than shows and is universally praised, please let me know.
7.  Writers probably need help editing and revising.  Relying solely on other people or spell-check may not always be the best option.  I recommend polishing your writing as much as possible before giving it to someone else, editor, reader, or otherwise.
8.  The fonts that publishers ask for are typically easier for the human eye to read.  So yeah…
9  I also like many long books.  However, if a book is 400,000 words it better be pretty mind-blowingly awesome for me. 

10.  High-powered magic and characters are cool, but are best served in small doses.  Also, any magic system that “just is” may be a problem with faulty world-building.
11. Not a big fan of this.  But at the end of the day, if you think it’s cool, do what you want.  Readers may throw things at you though.
12.  Spreading out your world-building throughout your story is commonly the best approach instead of just dumping everything in the prologue.  Again, if there is a novel with tons of info-dumping that is awesome, let me know.

13.  Most readers want to read about characters in action.  Having someone take a nap all day is not very active.  If you can make a napping character great though, go for it.
14.  Yes, April Fool’s Day!  Woo hoo!
15.  Thanks for sharing and reading everyone.

Stuart Koehl
Stuart Koehl
8 years ago

1. Is nice, if you can ignore deadlines.
2. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
3. How can you reinvent, if you haven’t read anything?
4. Never bothered much with this one, mainly because finding an intelligent writer is harder than you think.
5. Always leave a lot to the reader’s imagination.
6. Awful advice.
7. Throw away your Strunk & White, to be sure. But before you can write, you really do need to master English. Once that’s done, break the rules with impunity.
8. F**k fonts! Do you think I (or any literate reader) cares how much time you wasted on the font? Use something easy on the eyes–I’m not going to read ANYTHING that gives me a headache just from looking at it.
9. The first half of Dune was the best SF novel ever written. The second half was OK. Each subsequent novel was longer and worse than its predecessor, mainly because no editor ever took a sharp blue pencil to Frank Herbert’s MS.
10. Fantastic for its own sake is stupid. The secret of successful fantasy is making it as close to “normal” as possible, so that the fantastic elements are more believable when they do appear. Moreover, every imaginary world must have its own iron-bound laws of nature, which the author cannot violate.
11. The Eagles can only rescue Frodo and Sam ONCE! Regularly scheduled flights result from laziness and poor plot construction.
12. Keep it simple, stupid. There’s a reason nobody reads the historical exposition in War and Peace, to say nothing of Les Miserables.
13. First good advice so far. But make sure you know how to make “nothing” interesting. “Waiting for Godot” is overrated.
14. Shit! He got me!
15. Good one. Except that I’ve seen stuff too close to this for comfort. Good parody becomes harder and harder these days.

The_Drill99
The_Drill99
Reply to  Stuart Koehl
8 years ago

Stuart Koehl I wish I could write a response in a fancy font, but alas, I’ve used up my five minutes of writing today.  Time to go watch TV!

N R Williams
8 years ago

LOL
Nancy

oldcodger70
oldcodger70
8 years ago

“JadeKerrion: 15 Alternative Steps to Better Writing http://t.co/ZXM3rwf1C4 via mythicscribes” April Fools

LarryHogue
LarryHogue
8 years ago

ThePoetPyronius mythicscribes LOL!

kherezae
kherezae
8 years ago

Jerk >_>; Lol
Nice one.

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