I’m linking up for some virtual coffee with Rachel Anne and the Company Girls!
I’m a writer, but I almost never write about writing* because I’m always trying to learn everything I can about writing from other writers. In other words, I’m no expert.
Fortunately, I have access to people who are experts. That is, I read some of their wonderfully helpful blogs. Recently I read some hints for kick-starting yourself when you are trying to write but instead find yourself awash in writer’s block, self-pity and doughnut crumbs. By now, of course, I can’t find the actual post, but I remember the author saying something like, Make self-imposed deadlines and force yourself to meet them. The discipline actually fosters creativity.
Well, this has been a week of craziness and interruptions, during which I asked what day it is several times. I decided at about 9:00 last night (that was Thursday, wasn’t it?) to set myself a deadline: I would write a blog post before 10:30 PM. I didn’t even have a topic in mind.
First, I finished and sent in two magazine features that needed only final revisions. Then my eye fell on the notes I had taken at the Dallas Area Writers Group meeting this past Tuesday. It was a Critique Night and, though I didn’t bring anything to read, I picked up some tips from the critique panel as they commented on other people’s work. That sounded like a good, helpful topic. Here, then, are five valuable pieces of advice from the DAWG Critique Panel:
1. “Internal dialogue,” where the writer includes a character’s silent thoughts (often in italics) slows the story down too much if you use it during a conversation between characters.
2. When a character is waiting for something or just walking along, you can have him reminisce so the reader can pick up his backstory, or how he got where he is now. But don’t try to give any backstory during an action scene.
3. Sensory details such as sounds and smells add valuable “color” when you are setting a scene.
4. But, if you spend too much time on those details or use too-elegant language, the scene can get bogged down and sound overwritten.
5. When describing a character’s thoughts, keep them at a level of sophistication consistent with his ability. A young child, for example, may feel ambivalence but will not understand it and cannot put it into words.
Now, maybe you noticed that I used the phrase “last night” to refer to my deadline for the post I am still writing. I must admit, I started so late that all I actually got done before 10:30 was to circle the ideas I would use. But I didn’t feel guilty, because I had made good use of that hour-and-a-half, and got two things turned in early. And so my last tip, which I discovered for myself, is:
Self-imposed deadlines can be moved if necessary.
Also, expert writer What’s-Her-Name was right.
* Footnote: Aside from referring to expert writers’ advice or laughing at my own difficulties, I can think of only one exception: A long-winded grammar explanation that I posted in about my fifth week of blogging.
Thanks for reading!