Friday, 22 May 2015

Things to do in writing

Following on from the last post about stuff to avoid in writing, here’s some stuff to do.

Copy Julius Caesar. As we all know, Hannibal was a far greater soldier than Julius Caesar, but the Roman chap was praised by Cicero for his use of vocabulary. Essentially, Caesar used words that almost everyone knew but which they didn’t use all the time. This meant people could understand what he wrote (just as well, as the dictionary wouldn’t be invented for over one and a half thousand years) but the words he used still had some novelty value.

Enjoy yourself. The more you enjoy the work, the happier you’ll be and the easier/better the writing will be. If you’re not enjoying what you’re writing, consider what would make it better and whether a reader would like to read it.

Proofread. Proofreading is the leg day of writing. But friends don’t let friends miss leg day. Even if it’s hateful and belongs in the ninth circle of hell. The odd typo in 100,000 words or so can be forgiven, and they do crop up with even the best of writers. But if someone downloads a sample or buys your book (especially if self-published) and the first page is alphabet spaghetti, the first impression you’re making is not a good one. If you absolutely despise it and aren’t good at it, you can hire someone for this. Personally, despite loathing it, I prefer to do it myself (I’d be livid if I paid someone and there was so much as a comma out of place).

Start and finish strongly. The start can dictate whether the book is bought. The end will have a very large impact on how the book’s received (it’ll be the last impression the reader has of that story). Primacy and recency are well-known psychological factors which mean people tend to remember the first and last things more than stuff that happens in the middle. Start and finish strongly.

Cut, cut and cut again. Generally, writers have a lot of fat to slice off their work. It increases pace, reduces tedium, allows more story-stuff to happen [in relative terms] and improves the writing in just about every way. There are exceptions [I usually have to add stuff, but I’ve only encountered one other writer who has this unusual approach], but by and large chopping off bits here and there is the way to go.

Avoid over-working. I mean this in terms of both never taking a break and having too many projects on the go at once [you’ll discover for yourself what you can manage with full-scale books, novellas, short stories, beta reading and so on]. When writing a first draft, I often take one day off (at least from that work-in-progress) after finishing a chapter. Striking the balance between a strong work ethic and avoiding a ridiculous amount of projects/deadlines is important.

Coming next: some early thoughts on The Witcher 3.


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