Julie Pitzel has been a receptionist, radio DJ, bill collector, telemarketer, administrative assistant, community college instructor, and an expediter (aka professional nag). She’s been involved in the Houston writing community for many years including two years as President of a local Romance Writers of America Chapter. She writes paranormal fiction from a geodesic dome south of Houston, where she lives with her husband and a pair of cats. This is her second appearance in Heart’s Kiss.
WHAT WRITING MEMES TO YOU
by Julie Pitzel
We've all seen the memes on Facebook and Twitter with writing advice from various famous authors. Most of these bits of wisdom are common sense or quotes we've heard many times.
The problem with these pieces of advice is that they don't come with the caveat “This is what works for me.” A newer writer may pick up a recommendation and think it applies to every writer, to every story, to every scene across the board.
It doesn't. It won't. It shouldn't.
We all write differently. Some multi-published, New York Times Bestselling authors will insist on certain rules. Yet there are other multi-published, New York Times Bestselling authors who will argue for the exact opposite. These are just a few recommendations.
A “real” writer writes every day. I applaud the people who are able to write daily, but do not make me feel guilty or like less of a writer if I don't. I have a full time job. If I make any plans after work, I'm tired by the time I get home. Writing a hundred words shouldn't be difficult, but I've literally fallen asleep between words. Sometimes those short writing stints produce a great introduction to a scene and other times they are the wrong tone, the wrong POV, the wrong...something and need to be deleted. Some of my strongest scenes have been written after I've worked the scene in my head for a day. Not the whole scene, I need to be surprised, but a key piece of dialogue or description that provides direction or characterization. I don't write every day. Sometimes I don't write for several days. I'm still a writer.
Finish the first draft, then edit. I can understand this piece of advice, editing as you write can stifle the story. Trying to make a scene perfect can strip it of voice and all of the interesting bits that sparked it. And polishing one chapter can stop you from going on to the next. But I read through the previous scene before writing the current one, which often leads to tweaks. I tend to write lean and have to flesh out details and add head thoughts and emotions. My characters, settings, and plots are fuzzy blobs until I get a few chapters in and discover what's going on. Then I have to revisit earlier chapters and scenes to “fix” things. Like outlining versus pantsing (writing at the seat of your pants), some writers have to complete a draft before making changes and some revise as we write. It falls under the category of do what works.
Leave out the part that readers tend to skip. This is an excellent piece of advice. The problem is figuring what information people want to skip. A detailed description of a ladies ball gown doesn't belong in a hard-boiled detective story, but is expected in a Regency. Avoid backstory but give the reader enough information to connect to the characters. Don't drown the action with description, but don't leave the characters in a white void. We always know so much more about our characters and setting than we ever reveal to the readers. Some of that information should be dribbled out in words and occasional sentences, some hinted at by the choices our characters make, and some of that information should never make it to the page. We walk a fine line between boring and confusing the reader. Unfortunately there isn't an algorithm.
I get frustrated reading some of the “advice” given to writers. Writing is an art and we all have a toolbox full of nouns and verbs, outlines, and techniques. Some of us write large, sweeping stories full of dense detail. Some of us write short, humorous pieces with spare language. Some of us write at night and some of us write at Starbucks. We all have different methods, different reasons, and different outcomes. What's important is that it works for you.
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