Friday, November 13, 2009

NaNoWriMo: 13 Writing Tips

In honor of Friday the 13th, I wanted to give you 13 writing tips to use, abuse, throw at the wall and see what sticks.

1. Write what you love, not what you know. Unless what you know is sexy and fun, you can often write about what you love and let your research fill in the blanks.

2. Break the glass of the past. Back-story is great for you to know, but your reader doesn’t need to know all of it. So create your great stained glass as Margie Lawson said and then shatter it on the ground. You will need just a sliver at a time.

3. When you start writing a lot of exposition, you’re exposing yourself. Remembering that – exposition – expose – a little goes a loooooooong way.

4. Dialogue tags are great in the first draft, but if you can’t keep up with who’s talking, then you need to look at your descriptors and their choice of vocabulary. You do not want everyone to sound alike.

5. Great dialogue exercise – find your favorite show on television and write down JUST the words your characters say. What makes their word choices unique?

6. Test the boundaries of your genre. Don’t discard an idea because you don’t think it will fit, shoe horn it in and see if it re-shapes itself for you. For example, living parents of heroes are wild – the mom jokes alone are totally worth it.

7. Watch the pop culture references – they can definitely date your writing. However, there’s nothing wrong with using one as a placeholder.

8. Skip scenes. Seriously, if you are stuck on the transition from one scene to the next, skip the transition – that’s why we call it editing.

9. Oh, love your editors. Be sure to thank them – even when you want to yell, scream, and call them unpleasant names. Editors make us better writers.

10. Don’t be afraid to delete. The second hardest thing in the world for a writer to do is hit that delete button on purpose. The hardest is when your hard drive does it for you.

11. Use clich├ęs – but with a twist. Everyone recognizes the medium dry vodka martini, shaken, not stirred. One of my favorite lines from The West Wing is when President Bartlett starts ragging on Bond for his drink – because what he wants is a watered down martini that won’t mess with his aim or his judgment, but everyone thinks it’s sexy because of the way he orders it.

12. Find the funny. Even in the midst of scary stuff and intensity, a moment of levity lets your reader relax, slows down the blood pounding into their brain and entertains them – so find the funny.

13. Finally, when all else fails – embrace a list. Cause you can seriously make a list about anything. Write a list of your characters dos and don’ts, their favorites, the places they’ve visited, the places they want to go. Use what you know about your characters to profile them, psychologically – you may use nothing of the data you collect, but one fact might pop out and you’ll have that light bulb moment (just be sure to use the energy efficient ones please, we don’t want to burn you out before you achieve word count.)

How goes your NaNoWriMo?

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