In the last post I complained about the Tony Robbins snake oil salespeople of writing advice.
This time, I want to list completely Clichéd, but absolutely true writing advice and include a few resources for learning the craft of writing.
No Adverbs -- Yes, you should use some, but they must only be absolutely necessary. How do I know if they are absolutely necessary? Delete them when you revise (you will write them no matter how well trained you are) then read starting with the paragraph above the deleted adverb and see if you notice any difference. Ten bucks says you don't.
Don't Modify Dialogue -- Yes, you already know this, but you still do it. We all do it in the first draft because we are human, and yes, even Toni Morrison is human. However, the better you get at crafting dialogue the sneakier these modifiers are. You go from writing, "She said sweetly/angrily/softly/humorously/etc." to "Her words, loud and definite, echoed in the room." The dialogue for both should convey on its own the emotion of the moment.
No Passive Voice -- Search for passive voice--though, in dialogue it may reflect how people truly speak, but don't overdo it--and strike a death blow to it. Go from, "They had been rounded up by the Nazis..." to "The Nazis rounded them up." And don't tell me you don't ever write passive voice. You do, we all do, unintentionally, but we do.
Simple is Better -- Two or more adjectives and/or descriptive words are not better than one. Go from, "The spindly translucent cobweb was irradiated by vernal, indigo moonlight..." to "Indigo moonlight lit the cobweb..." Also, bonus points if you noticed the passive voice in the first sentence.
Find the RIGHT WORD -- Mark Twain, I believe, said the difference between the almost right word and the right word is the same as the difference between a lightning bug and lightning. AMEN! Take the time to seek out and find the right word, even if it takes all day. Also, keeping the advice above in mind, don't throw words at the problem. Do the work and find the right word.
And now, resources that will help you do the above:
- Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com will help you find the right word and be sure it means what you think it means.
- Hemingway Editor will hunt down adverbs and passive voice so you can eliminate them.
- How to Write Dazzling Dialogue sounds like a cheesy title, but it is filled with good advice.
- Storycraft is a book on how to write narrative nonfiction, but it is all true for fiction as well. The first chapter is the best of the bunch and worth reading multiple times.