Tag Archives: #Ruth Harris

Writing Tips Revisited–Excerpts from Eagle Peak Quarterly

Writing Tips

Eagle Peak Press published 17 Quarterlies, through May, 2018. An annual is coming late spring 2019, replacing the Quarterly. We’re going to feature some reposts here this year, leading up to the annual. 

For now, try this condensed version of an item from May, 2018. Get the full Writing Tips Revisited article here

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King

Find what you like and what you don’t. Make use of techniques you have learned–in your own writing[I wound up reading 29 books in 2018, from which I got a lot of insights.]

Here’s another take on the importance and value of reading:

Reading is dialogue with oneself; it is self-reflection, which cultivates profound humanity. Reading is therefore essential to our development.  .  .   .

People who can say of a book “this changed my life” truly understand the meaning of happiness. . . .Reading is more than intellectual ornamentation; it is a battle for the establishment of the self, a ceaseless challenge that keeps up young and vigorous. –Daisaku Ikeda

While not directed at writer’s per se, the seriousness of this message is one that you can take to heart in “writing a book that makes a difference.” That’s the title of a book by Philip Gerard. See my review of it here.  Maybe you just want to write escapist fare. Fine, but if you have higher aspirations, consider Gerard’s book.

Some suggest you “write for the market.” But you will never be as successful in a genre that’s not among your favorites. My personal opinion is write what you like and do it better than anyone elsefeel free to differ.

Let’s move on to some helpful tips found on the web from fellow writers and others in the business.

Consider this article, “Why writing rules (usually) don’t work but guidelines do,” by Ruth Harris (a partner in the very helpful blog of writer Anne R. Allen).  My take on rules is this: they’re not only useful but essential when it comes to driving. Not so much for writing. Still, before breaking any, you should know them. By ignoring them, your work may be more readable and appealing.

Here’s what Harris has to say:

Much as we are wary of rules, especially stupid rules, we have learned (the hard way) that certain general writing guidelines apply. Rules (with a few important exceptions) are rigid and come with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. Guidelines, however, have the advantage of being flexible and customizable.

In the linked article on “stupid rules,” you can find such gems as “novels can not contain contractions” and “said is boring—use more energetic tags like exclaimed, growled, etc.” If you haven’t learned yet why these are nonsense, read that article.

As for guidelines, Harris offers MANY links to posts by her partner and other talented authors on topics like the following (and much more): 
  • Pants vs Plot or somewhere in between
  • Begin at the beginning. Or not.
  • That &$%# first draft.

As for me, I take the “in between” option–or as I prefer to call it, the Goldilocks approach when it comes to plot. In this case, not too stringent an outline nor too freewheeling.

Or, as  Harris noted:

One size does not fit all.

Harris notes:

 “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story,” said Stephen King. “It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” Plus a list of 50 best first sentences to inspire you.

 Harris notes:

That &$%# first draft.

Hemingway said, “All first drafts are s**t.” However, you can’t fix, revise, rewrite, edit something that doesn’t exist.

Ever heard of micro-plotting?

David Farland (an award-winning  and bestselling writer of 50 fantasy and sci-fi novels) explains why you may want to use it. Here’s a link.

As I plot out a story nowadays, I might add to my plot chart a note that says, Show Mona in pain or Give her a lofty goal or “Show her gift for talking her way out of a problem. These little plot points I call micro-plots, and I find that in creating sympathy for a character, it isnt enough to have just one.

So what”s the point? Not character development as such, but  supplying motivations affecting decisions and responses at critical momentslike the climax of a story. He cites them as another example of “micro-plotting.” Here’s one more passage from the article:

In any conflict, we have a lot of ways that we can respond, but why does your character act the way that he does? What are his motivations? Does it help if the reader knows that your protagonist is a priest? That hes drunk? That he just robbed a gas station and that he shot the teller?

Do you have a good tagline?

To market your books and connect with readers, you need to be on the web in one way or another. One of the things that helps catch visitor’s attention is a good tagline on your landing page.

What’s a tagline and why use it? Here are three examples from What’s in Your Tagline” by Judith Briles

Joel’s The Book Designer tagline: Practical advice to help build better books. Everything he does in the publishing field circulates around the word “practical” and “build better books.”

Nick Zelinger of NZ Graphics designs book covers and interiors. His website tagline, Where OUTSTANDING DESIGN meets AFFORDABLE PRICING shouts out that he’s reasonable in his costs and his books look great.

Briles’ tagline on TheBookShepherd.com website is Creating Successful Authors with Practical Publishing Guidance. As an author, who doesn’t want to be successful … and would you as a visitor want practical guidance in the process?

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Acknowledgements: See links and attributions throughout more...