Writing Tips

I got a warning from the Blog Police today, reminding me that every writer's website needs a bunch of writing tips on it. Well, speaking as someone whose writing sales are in the tens of dollars, I have to say that they are right. It is my clear duty to impart my great experience to you, the little people. Bask, then, in the light of my wisdom:

  • Pick a genre. Don't pick mine, because it's full up. There's no more seats left, and so I'm hanging onto the strap, wedged in between a girl with her headphones turned up to eleven and this old sweaty guy who just keeps mumbling about Nixon, you get me? Maybe try Westerns. I think they still have some seating.
  • Use letters. Yes, even if your story is set in ancient Egypt, hieroglyphs will not do.
  • Remember that Harry Potter book? That was pretty good. Maybe you should try something like that?
  • Send your manuscript to your boss. If what you have written is so good that you can afford to give up your day job, he or she will let you know in a congratulatory termination email.
  • When writing science fiction, remember that the boiling point of ruthenium is 4150 degrees, not 4250 degrees. So many novice SF writers get this wrong!
  • Set aside some time every day for writing. If you can't do that, then set some time aside for macramé. It's fun, and it's practical!
  • If you're writing erotica, make sure no one is nearby while you're working. You don't want people to hear you giggling every time you write the word 'panties'… tee hee hee! Tee hee! I'm sorry, I… panties! Tee hee
  • Knickers! Ah ha!
  • Sometimes a market will try to tell you how long your story should be. Understand, these are just suggestions. If they say '3000 words, max' then they probably won't mind receiving the first volume of your fantasy epic.
  • If they say '3000 max, no exceptions', you can probably get away with 60, 000 or so words.
  • And if they say '3000 words max -- on our mother's lives, we will shred any story with 3001 words or more, try it and see if we don't', then maybe you should try to cut your story down to novelette length.
  • If you can't think of something to write, try writing a story about someone who can't think of anything to write. I bet no one's thought of that one!
  • When writing detective fiction, you have to decide whether you're writing 'hardboiled' stories about tough-guy gumshoes, 'softboiled' stories about old ladies who solve mysteries in their copious spare time or 'scrambled' stories in which the detective has no clear aim or goal. A newer subgenre is 'make your own omelette bar' stories in which the culprit usually turns out to be a piece of bacon or some finely chopped spring onion.
  • Think to yourself: What political/religious/philosophical view do I most oppose? Once you've figured that out, you should be able to create an exciting stable of obnoxious one-dimensional strawpeople to pad out your stories.
  • There are probably a whole bunch of writers who write stories of a completely different style or genre to your own – or even worse, a slightly different style and genre. These authors must be attacked mercilessly, lest they continue in their folly.
  • When writing historical fiction, remember that the only difference between modern people and people in the past, is that they all had sweet clothes and talked real posh.
  • Make sure you are seated in a comfortable position at your writing desk. Feet should be slightly apart, the seat of your chair positioned so that your legs are bent at a right angle at the knee. Your computer screen should be positioned so that you are looking down at it at 15 degree angle from a distance of about 50 cm. Arms should be relaxed and elbow should slightly bent. Now chew on the end of a pencil as you stare out the window for an hour.
  • When writing fantasy, remember: elves!
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