Throughout your writing journey, you’ve probably heard or read more than a few famous author quotes, but what do they really mean? Let’s break them down so that we can use the advice in a practical manner.
1. "The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."
We might not think of the founding fathers as masters of brevity; however, Thomas Jefferson makes an excellent point here about concision. Choosing the best word for the phrase, the most precise word, is often better than a string of adjectives. Most commercial writers, in fact, should partially forget their extensive vocabulary lessons as the average reader of popular fiction can get frustrated by complex or latinate words. If you’re writing commercial fiction, you want to drive the action — that is what readers care most about. Clear, precise active language is more effective than flowery prose that goes on and on for paragraphs -- or worse, pages.
2. "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative."
-- Elmore Leonard
People don’t speak, or think, like page 37 of an Edith Wharton novel. (More’s the pity.) Contemporary English is full of grammatical and mechanical mishaps. Is “champing at the bit” or “chomping at the bit” the correct expression? Of course, it’s the former, but most modern Americans say “chomping at the bit.” Even our grocery stores get it wrong: 10 items or less? Makes me want to scream 10 items or FEWER each time. But what Leonard says here is that sometimes we have to forget that we are highly educated people, and, when it fits the character, we must abandon (within reason) the rules.
3. "Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good."
Nora Roberts, a hugely successful bestselling author, famously says you can fix a bad page but you can’t fix a blank page. This is in the spirit of Faulkner. Your first drafts will be terrible. And if they aren’t, you’ve either been writing forever, have made a deal with the devil, or are lying to yourself. Playing it safe never helped any writer — and staring at a blinking cursor hasn’t either. If it’s bad, you can fix it. And you just might wipe all that dirt off a diamond and find something really special. But you'll never know if you don't lay down a layer of charcoal first.
4. "If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing, and the sum will be all the richer."
It might be romantic to think of the writer living in isolation to create the great American novel. But in reality, most of us can’t get away to a cabin in the woods and ignore the world around us to create our novels. And, even if we did, it’s our life experiences that make our characters and prose more appealing, more real. Even if you write alien romance novels set forty thousand years in the future, your readers are alive here and now. Your everyday experiences inform your work. Without them, Brin suggests, your writing will be bland and unfulfilling.
5. "Half my life is an act of revision."
We are all liars. We all have 20/20 vision in hindsight. We all create stories about ourselves and the world around us, both consciously throughout our days and unconsciously in dreams. As a writer, half of your job is revision too. Getting the draft done is great, but revising and polishing it is even better. And while it might not even out at a perfect half and half, because we all have different writing processes and every book is different, revision is paramount to good writing.
6. "Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer."
Your core story is why readers love your books. What you have to say — that nobody else can say — is what keeps them adding your books to their TBR piles, telling their friends about them, and leaving good reviews. If you write to trend, you’re already behind it. If your joy is writing epic 17th-century British spy novels but you have a critique partner or an agent who says, “you know, if this was set in space, you’d really have something,” and you switch everything up to please them, the heart of your story can bleed dry. Writing what you love seems cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason.
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The First Five Drafts: Prevent Over-Editing and Get Your Novel Done Faster with the Five Draft Method (SC Writing Book 1) Kindle Edition
This is the no-fluff, serious writer's guide to getting your novel started, edited and finished.
The five draft method is designed to help you reduce your chances of over-editing, which can stall your writing process and cause you to either never deem your novel finished or ruin it in any number of ways, including inputting too many slow sections, taking out all the interesting details and doing too much ‘showing’ versus ‘telling’.
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Draft 4: The Analytical Draft
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Write Your Novel Notebook (SC Writing)
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Add notes and other information at the end of each chapter
Pages to add additional notes at the end of this notebook
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This notebook starts by allowing you to write down the date you started and the date you finished your manuscript, the title of your work in progress, the subtitle and your name. Next, answer a few basic questions, including:Why are you writing this novel?Why will this novel appeal to readers?What genre is this novel?What is your estimate of the finished word count?Add any additional notes!!!