Writing Week: My Best Tips

There's a lot of advice out there. I think I've read it all at some point or another, and I've found that my mind filters out most of it--it tends to either be too simple (well, obviously, I would read over my manuscript before submitting it) or something that may work for someone, but not for me (it really doesn't help me to read my manuscript aloud, but I know a lot of people like it).

But while I read a lot of writing advice and shake my head, thinking it just won't work, there one thing that I've heard about from others that somehow really stuck with me.

The first came from a sci fi writer. I want to say that it was an article about someone who wrote for Star Trek, but honestly, I can't remember where it came from. When I first read it, I remember thinking, Huh, that's not bad, but not thinking that it was very useful advice. But since that time, it's a bit of advice that I constantly use while writing, something very invaluable and influential on my own writing.

In the article, the writer said: Don't say the door opened. Say the door zipped open.

The point was, the writer was trying to show that the setting was science fiction. You don't need pages of description of everything little thing the characters see. If you make the small things into something that naturally shows the setting, the world will seem more believable from the start.

This is such an innocuous piece of advice that I didn't even note where I first read it--but now, whenever I'm working on a manuscript and start working on setting, I think to myself: "make the door zip open." I try to incorporate the setting in tiny, natural ways rather than just a paragraph of info dump.

There's a lot of advice out there--and you, quite simply, can't use it all. But sometimes you don't know what piece of advice will really effect you! I certainly dismissed this when I first read it....and now I don't write without it!

What's a piece of advice that you didn't think was helpful but ended up being very significant?


Amie Borst said...

i guess that advice is kinda along the lines of show, don't tell, don't you think?

the best advice i've ever heard (and learned the hard way) was only use the feedback that strengthens your story. In other words, don't edit to please everyone else.

K.V. Briar said...

I really like that. I hate to bog readers down with too much description. Great advice :)

I guess the mantra that I most often repeat to myself is "clear the clutter." My english professor used to say this . . . All. The. Time. I thought it was super annoying, but somehow it stuck with me and my writing is so much clearer without the "clutter".

Tere Kirkland said...

Doing an all over style revision of my novel, so I've been considering each word choice and making sure I'm going with the most appropriate one.

Sometimes that means going with a less "powerful" word if it fits better with the mood/tone I'm going for.

"Zip" conveys the motion, but also connotes something more high tech, so I totally understand how that works almost as a mantra or mnemonic device for you. Happy revising!