There’s lots of writing lists I see (on tumblr, wordpress, lots of places) and I’ve divided them into two categories.
- Really useful
- Really degrading
Really useful: These lists are the really good lists. The lists that describe how to go about creating a world and the things you need in the story and the things you don’t need in the story (like background information that might be needed at some point, but it’s not important to know right away). How to write people, which is the best group of lists. Even descriptions of people’s race, like avoiding describing someone using food. Like chocolate. Chocolate reminds me of food, not a person. Writing accents is also really useful to know, or if someone has a speech impediment (pro tip: don’t write out a full lisp, it’s a pain in the ass to the reader, it’s a mistake I made, and I try not to do that now, just write “so and so has a lisp” readers are smart enough to fill in the blanks).
Really degrading: Degrading is a misleading term. I think a better one might be that these kinds of lists treat people like a four year old. Writers aren’t stupid either, and telling them something that involves common sense, such as checking spelling and then have someone else check it over. I read one list that said “you have to pay to get things spell checked”. No you don’t. First, you use your spell checker, scrutinizing each word. There may be words that are a city or a town, but make sure they are all spelled the same. And yeah, you could pay someone who’s professional to do the spell checking and editing, but ya know what? The people who are going to read books are the ones who don’t work as editors. If you’re a first time author, you probably have a friend or two that can read over your stuff (get two, because one person will pick up on something the other didn’t). Readers know what they like and they know what makes sense. As I said before, readers are not stupid.
It’s also very insulting to tell a writer “delete your first three chapters, always, because that’s just filler crap anyway”. Really? It is. That depends on who’s doing the reading. Some people enjoy that “background filler crap”. What a first time writer needs to do is prepare to delete a lot, but also write more. There will be certain areas of a book where the less is more concept, so pairing down your description is a good idea. You may reread a scene later and find it just a bit clunky. Don’t stress over the fact that it may need a rewrite. There may also be scenes that you need to expand upon, to convey emotion, to explain a feeling, or describe a room that’s important.
This concept of always making your characters charming also rubs me the wrong way. What I see as charming and someone else sees as charming are two completely different things. Someone may find a character charming while I find them to be a complete douchebag.
First person: I though you said this book was good.
Second person: It is. The main character is so charming.
First person: Really? I found him to be an overbearing, useless douchecanoe.
In the end, the only one who’s going to tell your story is you. You have to write it, so go write it. And when you’re done, read it. And read it again. And edit stuff you feel doesn’t make sense or feels clunky. Because here’s the really neat thing. You’re writing, but you also happen to be a reader. And readers are smart. Get a close friend to read it, because there are people out there that you know that are willing to read it (just make sure that if and when you finish the edits and publish the book you get that friend a copy of your book, preferably signed ’cause people tend to like that).
Ah, I just thought of a better term. Instead of degrading, it would probably be better to say condescending. But in the long run the only one who is going to be able to get your story written and into the hands of readers is you. The way you write is completely different from the way I write, which is completely different from the way a best selling author writes. Push aside all of this stuff that holds dreams of being a best selling author and just write. Write something new and different, because people always want something new and different. No matter what bullshit market research tries to spin.