“The hatred of adverbs amongst writers, and specifically teachers of creative writing, has become so commonplace, so unquestioned, and so unthinking, that it ranks only with ‘show, don’t tell’ as the most ubiquitous cliché in writing advice.” Colin Dickey
The thing about clichés is that many of them are accurate. It’s how they become clichés. “Show, don’t tell” is essential writing advice. It is how “He went here, he went there, he did this, he did that” becomes “The crowded train to the edge of the city was oppressive but the only alternative was to take the bus since what he was heading to was the mechanic’s workshop holding his car hostage until he paid the enormous repair bill. And the only thing he hated more than mechanics was buses.”
But the ongoing campaign against the use of all adverbs isn’t helpful at all. So whenever anyone says that writers shouldn’t use them, I want to scream, “Stop telling me what to do!” No adverbs in that sentence so they shouldn’t be too offended unless the screaming puts them off. But oops! One has snuck in. (Don’t see it? It’s the “too”.) Does that little modifier render everything I’ve written here unreadable? I don’t think so. Apparently some do. Uh oh, there’s another! (“Apparently.”)Continue reading
Five years ago, as a favour, I did a manuscript assessment for a young, first-time writer, someone I had known all his life. I didn’t charge for it and reading it back now I wonder if I went a little harder than I would have had he been a paying customer. Perhaps it was just that I was still in my brutally honest phase. (That’s assuming I’m not still in it – the jury’s out.)
But for any young writers willing to take advice on board, there were a lot of really good ideas on how he could become a better writer. If you’re a young writer or even just a beginner, maybe there’s something in there for you. Hopefully, there’s something in there for all of us.Continue reading
I know how lucky I am. By choice, I’ve had a year out of permanent work, spending that time writing, doing some more writing, writing a little more, publishing a book I wrote, and being choosy about which freelance roles I accepted.
But now that I’m looking to return to full-time work, I’ve had a number of interesting pieces of advice on how I can do that more easily. Some of them are interesting. Some of them are downright terrible. Some might seem unethical. But if everybody else is doing them, am I just losing out by not doing them, too?Continue reading
I was reading the writing tips of a published author recently and amongst rather a lot of them was the advice that almost all dialogue attribution should use “said”. If the dialogue is a question, then “asked” is acceptable and if someone is responding, then “answered” is also okay. But nothing else. And even better, don’t use dialogue attribution at all.
Leaving aside questions of verb tense, I can’t tell you how much I disagree with this advice. Because while it tells me that a character was speaking, it gives no indication of how the character said the words. And often the words themselves just aren’t enough for me to know.Continue reading
There are probably a number of writers out there who think (and hope) it’s only a matter of time (and getting your writing in front of the right person) before the transition will begin from aspiring author to actual auteur. They might be right or they might be a long way off.
Once an author has achieved a level of success, it’s often too late to give any advice, especially if that success has gone straight to their head. So here’s a few important things to remember aimed at the almost famous author to help avoid becoming an asshole (as famous people so often do).Continue reading