April 13th, 2009 by Alison Kent
Tidbits of Advice

I love them, those succinct and memorable pieces of writing advice that stick with you. I ran across this one from author Elizabeth Bear back in September, and bookmarked it, and use it as my link to bring up Twitter so I see it almost every day. I’m working on a story right now where the changes to my main protagonist’s life were set in motion before the story opens, but the moment it opens her life is irrevocably changed. Starting any sooner would be giving backstory that can be fed in when the time is right. Starting any later would lessen the impact of this thing that has happened to her. The organic writer in me knows that, and I thought about the opening a lot before writing what I did. But seeing this one sentence over and over has driven home the rightness of my decision.

What about you guys? Any tidbits of advice that have stuck with you, or driven a direction you’ve taken your writing, been responsible for changes you’ve made to your writing habits or a particular story?

(P.S. In the promo department, I’ve got a short interview up with J.A. Konrath today, along with a giveaway.)

(P.P.S. I’m sick as a dog with allergies, had a horrid weekend with the husband working a job that got him home at 2:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This is the all I had in me today, and I apologize!)

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8 comments to “Tidbits of Advice”

  1. Charlene Teglia
     · April 13th, 2009 at 8:05 am · Link

    That’s excellent advice. She also has a fabulous list of things to do when you run out of plot:

    My personal favorite is from Lawrence Block: “Throw another bear in the canoe.” I never go wrong with that one.

  2. Lynn
     · April 13th, 2009 at 10:54 am · Link

    A quotation that pretty much shaped my real and writing lives:

    “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” — Gustave Flaubert

    The military helped, too. :)

  3. nightsmusic
     · April 13th, 2009 at 11:44 am · Link

    Don’t apologize! You made me think. That’s always a good thing. And {{{hugs}}} for the weekend from hell.

    My toughest thing to do was to ‘throw my words away.’ I loved each and every one of them. Problem was, in the first two chapters, most of them didn’t move the story forward fast enough to warrant keeping them. When I finally convinced myself to hit the delete key, the story took off and what a difference it made.

  4. Marissa
     · April 13th, 2009 at 8:22 pm · Link

    “Don’t write what you won’t read.”

  5. Alison Kent
     · April 14th, 2009 at 8:48 am · Link

    I love Bear’s advice!

    Your Lawrence Block one is similar to what my husband says: Put your characters up a tree. Surround the tree with tigers. Get your characters out of the tree.

  6. Alison Kent
     · April 14th, 2009 at 8:49 am · Link

    Violent and original! I like that a LOT!

  7. Alison Kent
     · April 14th, 2009 at 8:50 am · Link

    Oh, I HATE throwing words away. I LOVE my words, LOL! But I’ve been known to do the same thing, especially when I realize I’m trying too hard to be clever, rather than just tell the story!

  8. Alison Kent
     · April 14th, 2009 at 8:51 am · Link

    Marissa – That’s a good one!


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