Never forget this: What you write this month will not be published.

Not never, but certainly not in the form that it comes out on November 30. So with that in mind, go mad! Add in hundreds of characters to that party scene, name each of them and describe what they’re wearing, eating and drinking. And then move on and never look at them again. Or, if your scene lacks drama, snowstorm! (But my story is on a spaceship… Doesn’t matter. I said, SNOWSTORM!) You’re in control for this month. Let your inner child write your story with crayons! It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, or if it’s unnecessary, they are all words and they all count. Every single one.

Or, for those who find it hard to turn off their inner editors… Rewrite. Rewrite the same sentence ten times if you want to. But always start a new line, never delete. And type each word by hand if you want to avoid feeling like you’re cheating. All the words count. You wrote them.

And dream sequences are awesome when you’re stuck. Literally anything can happen without affecting your plot. And look at all the lovely words.

If you really want to publish your story, you will have to draft and redraft anyway, so don’t let the first attempt zap all the fun out of the experience. Don’t be afraid of writing the impossible or the improbable or the downright loony. Have fun.

Really. Do.

  1. Don’t use adverbs unnecessarily
  2. Avoid clichés like the plague.
  3. Try not to beat around the bush by using a shed-load of really long sentences because they just clog up your writing, like a backed up drain, and make your point extremely difficult for your readers to either find, work out or even get to since the chances of them actually hacking their way through your ridiculously verbose and woolly one hundred and seventeen word sentence are unbelievably slim and they are far more likely to have simply given up or abandoned ship when they first saw how it took up four or five lines of the page when they initially opened it in their browser, so just cut to the chase — in other words, be succinct.

Worldbuilding

I’m writing a book about worldbuilding. It’s not the only thing I’m working on, but it’s the one I want to talk about today.

So, here are my three top tips for building your own world:

  1. Show us what the world looks/smells/sounds/feels like.
  2. Make sure you know how this world works.
  3. Make sure you know why things are happening (Why not ten years ago? Why not in the next town over?).

Showing us your world is kind of an obvious step in any story. Whether it’s a fictitious setting or a real one, the very least you want to do is make the reader feel like they’re there. Without a sense of place, it can be hard to connect with a story. Even a story that paints a bleak and isolating setting can be easier to identify with than one that paints nothing at all.

Knowing how the world works is useful for consistency. If you don’t understand the rules of your own world, you won’t know when you’re breaking them. And if you do, you can count on some smart-arse reader like me to pick up on it and stop believing in your world. Of course, you don’t have to write a multi-volume treatise on the government and society of your world. Just a few basic rules is enough.

Most important is the why. Why has this war broken out now? Why is the revolution happening in that country? Why isn’t it happening somewhere else at another time? I think this is the most critical part of building a convincing world. Always ask why events are happening and why your characters believe the things they do or why they behave in a certain way.  It’s also a good way to avoid plot holes, but that’s another matter.

Tip: Writer’s Block

“Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.”
(Neil Gaiman)

Writer’s block will strike us all at some point. It’s annoying and frustrating. Sometimes, it feels like you’ll never get over it. Sometimes, you can’t. But that’s a last resort. Here’s my advice for overcoming that demon before you exorcise it with fire. Continue reading

Tip: Keep it Simple

“The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what–these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank.”
(William Zinsser, On Writing Well. Collins, 2006)

It’s called pompo-verbosity–using an overly pompous word where a simple one will do. If you want an example, the word pompo-verbosity is a good starting point. This is a trap I used to fall into a lot when writing as a teenager. I loved long words! I wanted to use them everywhere–spread the love of long words around. Show off. Ah.

That is the problem with using long words. You’re showing off. No one likes a show off. It’s fine to use the occasional long word if no other word will do–but only if no other words fill the same gap. There’s no point in using words no one else will understand because no one will understand them. You’re telling a story or you’re trying to get a point across. Don’t over-complicate it.

The same goes with sentences. Don’t be overly-poetic where you don’t need to be. Sure, poetry sounds lovely when read aloud, but most people read in their heads. It doesn’t have the same effect. Instead, use imagery to paint the picture in a concrete way. I read a piece recently that described running through long, yellow grass as “running on the back of a lion”. It worked. I can see that. If you describe it as “running through the gold of a sunset as the planet turns and the river of time flows forth”… well… what on earth does that mean? I can’t see that! Lovely words, but no meaning.