The best writing advice of 20179 min read
January: Bloody new year
“How often have you read a crime novel where the character gets shot and then two chapters later they’re engaged in physical activity like chasing a perpetrator down a back alley and climbing over a chain-link fence? Make sure that the injury and the damage it causes is reflected in the character’s actions for the rest of the manuscript.”
In a great start to the writing year, Lit Reactor posted the first of a series in Writing the Crime Scene. Together they cover all the intricacies you could dream of affecting your murder mystery: autopsies, arson, guns… and even adds a great list of extra resources for more details.
February: Game on
“Once pre-production is finished, writers will settle into a more regular routine. We’ll assign them dialogues and text, plus deadlines they need to hit. We try to make sure that each writer can “own” a chunk of the game. It’s usually better if one writer handles all the writing for a particular level or zone. They feel more ownership, and the tone for that area of the game will be more consistent.”
For video game writers, this bumper Forbes interview with George Ziets spanned 4 parts: the day-to-day expectations of a video game writer’s job, how to handle the collaborative writing that you will inevitably face in any game, engaging your players and the process of game writing itself. A great resource for anyone thinking about entering the industry.
March: The Last Word
“A first line should open up your rib cage. It should reach in and twist your heart backward. It should suggest that the world will never be the same again.”
Creative writing professor Colum McCann drew together an excellent compilation of his best writing advice in this March piece for The Guardian, from first lines to last.
April: Gods and grandeur
“When you pursue this dream, you are the ultimate creator. In Hollywood or the publishing industry, despite what anyone says, it all starts with you — the word. You have the freedom of creating any character and any situation that you would like. Even when you’re under assignment or trying to write a marketable screenplay to break through, you are the one bringing any given concept, character, or story to life.”
Fancy playing at God? Then writing is the way to go! Back in April, Huffpost compiled a list of the most extreme, fun and inspiring reasons to become a screenwriter: becoming God, changing lives, working magic, or how about free therapy? A great read if you need to remember why you started writing in the first place.
May: Beauty in the beast
“In other words, you need to anthropomorphise your character to one extent or another. Perhaps only a little, perhaps a lot, but to some extent, you need to give your non-human character certain human traits to make them relatable. At the very least, they will probably need to be able to think like humans in order to work through their goals, conflicts, epiphanies, etc. and possibly will need to speak like humans too.”
In May, Penstricken released a bumper pack of articles on non-human characters and how best to incorporate them into your fiction, covering Animals, Aliens, Robots and Mythical Creatures. It’s a fascinating series on a topic that isn’t discussed enough in terms of writing advice, and may inspire you to adopt a robot or two into your own story!
June: A madeleine of memory
“If padding your novel with historical research doesn’t work, how do you create a sense of the past? How do you conjure the snows of yesteryear in an effective and economical manner? Me, I borrow some inspiration from Proust and twist it to suit my needs. Proust described experiencing a rush of nostalgia and memory upon tasting the madeleine dipped in tea. “Un plaisir délicieux.””
I adored this article from the Lit Hub back in June on borrowing inspiration from Proust to evoke memory in your fiction. Proust used the memory of medeleines dipped in tea to stir nostalgia in his readers; James Ziskin lists some of his own favourite versions of madeleines to pull his audience back into the past.
July: Angry Female Heroes
“We need so many more female heroes that breathe fire and anger at what the world has offered them. We need so many more Amazing Amys from Gone Girl who break down societal expectations for women with venomous “cool-girl” monologues, who go after what they want not with grit and pluck like the pint-sized feminists the world seems to love but underhandedly, who succeed not with sticktoitiveness but instead with sneakiness and deceit.”
For me Electric Lit’s standout post this year was Elizabeth Skoski’s musing on female characters and depression, and how we should now look beyond Plath and Woolf for our fictional role models to take on this affliction with some fire in their hearts.
August: Show me the money
““In real world economics, some products are simply hard to come by. In a land of treachery, magic, and overt intrigue this scarcity will only be exaggerated. No matter the nature of the resource in question, for it to add meaning the cast needs to fall over themselves to obtain it. This will skyrocket the stakes for your readers.”
The world revolves around money, and your fictional world should be no different! In August, Re:Fiction considered how to make your fantasy economy work and takes you down a checklist of all to be considered, including currency, taxes, debt and most importantly: keeping it believable.
September: Quiet Moments
““One of the most pleasant things about reading as a hobby is that it’s quiet time. You’re not actively taking part in the story, as you do when you game. You don’t actually hear the explosions going on in the story, as you do when you watch films. The whole experience happens inside your head. Quietly. The world is hectic. Noise is coming at you all the time. So give your reader a little silence.”
Do you like to recuperate alongside your characters? In her September blog, Plotist’s Jenny discusses her love of Virago Modern Classics and their introvert protagonists, and looks into how we can replicate these quiet moments in our own writing, providing quiet and solace for both your characters and your readers.
October: The oubliette
“Just as one’s writing evolves over time, so too does the advice one might give around that process — and I thought what might be an interesting thing would be to offer a look at some more unconventional pieces of advice. Things you may not hear too often, some slightly more controversial chestnuts of wisdom — or, perhaps anti-chestnuts, which taste a great deal like the grief of a hungover party clown.”
Chuck Wendig tries his hand at the ultimate anti-writing tips blog post, throwing some far more unusual and unconvential advice your way. Beware: if you don’t care for strong words, there’s a possibility that Wendig will set fire to you!
November: A NaNo peptalk
““I did write every single day on the novel, for hours at a time, and made that the one rule I would stick to. I regularly read what I wrote and revised. After more than six months of staring at a page, I finally started making progress and the word count crawled into the five figures. I learned that when you break 100,000 words you can no longer see the word count in the toolbar at the bottom of the Word window, and then I learned just how often I stare at that word count because when it wasn’t there I thought I might lose my mind. I needed that visual reminder that progress was being made.”
2017’s NaNo peptalk star was Roxane Gay, whose honest account of how she battled the logistics and trials and fatigue of writing a first novel is an encouraging read for any first time writer.
December: Holiday muse
“It’s okay if you have to cut back on writing. You can’t do everything and be everywhere. Sacrifices may have to be made in order to meet holiday obligations, but it’s important not to cut writing time out entirely. And while you may need to reallocate some of your writing time to holiday activities, I would suggest you be SUPER protective of the writing time you do put aside for yourself.”
Finally, this fun and festive advice from A Well Told Story on how to keep writing during the holidays is full of practical tips on how to get through the season with your muse still at your side.
Create awesome stories
We give you the tools to manage your story so you can focus on what really matters: writing!