Tips for Writing Well

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The Grumpy Guide to Wattpad   -- written by TheOrangutan

 

 

So often times I get asked for advice on how to write well.  Granted I am no authority, but I do feel as though I have something to offer to the writing community.  So here are my general tips for writing well, and I will add more as they come to me.

Proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation

I'm not going to spend too much time on this one, but at least make a decent effort to make your writing readable.  If you are unsure,  google is your best friend.  I will say that I see this error a lot when it comes to dialogue.  There are many pages on the internet that will show you how to write dialogue correctly.

Spoon feeding information to the reader

Often times I see, especially at the beginning, where a writer is pretty much cramming a whole lot of information down the reader's throat.  Here is an example:

The world ended in 2023.  That is for most of us.  The scientist, the few that remained, hid in their bunkers, trying desperately to come up with a solution.  Meanwhile the world was overrun by zombies.  It started out in one town, a simple sneeze, that soon had everybody infected.  The scientists decided that only a robotic army of artificial intelligence could defeat them. So I was born. etc. etc. etc.

As you can see, while the above example makes for a fairly decent premise, it makes for poor reading.  Information should be  sprinkled lightly throughout your story, like powdered sugar.  Your reader should be begging for more, anxiously flipping pages to discover the "why" of your story.

Telling, not showing

Here is another one that is easy to mess up on.  Nobody wants to be told a story, they want to see it for themselves.  An example:

Mary was a bully at school.

In the above example the writer is pretty much telling us the information.  We never fully see it for ourselves.  Compare that to the following example:

When Mary walked down the halls of school, the other children either ran, or tried to hide their lunch money.  There wasn't a kid that hadn't been bruised by her random beatings. Even the teachers eyed her with suspiscion and gave her a wide berth.

How much description to use

I was recently asked how much description to use when writing.  There is a lovely response below in the comments sections that makes some good points.  You should also check that out.  I will summarize of what the author said and add some of my own points.

Everybody's writing style is different.  Part of writing is finding your style, or voice, as some would call it.  Some authors use a lot of description, others like myself, are minimalists.  When writing down descriptions, I end up asking myself a couple of questions.  

Does this help further the plot?  Does this help to set the scene?  Does this help establish the character?  

Ask yourself if what you have written is truly necessary.  Writing a full paragraph about the vase in corner of the room might be pointless.  Unless of course the vase itself was part of the plot, or revealed something about the character.  Try this on for size:

Joe slumped down in his office chair and snatched up the picture in front of him.  It was horrendously ugly. Nothing more than maccaroni pasted around the  edges of the frame mixed with large globs of now dried glue.  At the bottom, in a child's handwriting, were the words "I love you daddy" written in crayon.  

Here we see a description of just a mediocre thing, but it reveals so much about the character.  He is a father, with a loving family.  And something is happening to make him think of his family.  

My other advice on description, is to use metaphor and simile.  I know those are big words, and often times it makes people think of poetry, so I will simplify it.  Nouns.  Use nouns.  Of all the descriptive words, nouns are by far the most effective.  For instance:  

His voice was deep and hoarse.  (Sounds boring doesn't it?)

His voice was gravel. (Sounds much better right?  And by using a noun- congratulations, you have actually made a metaphor!)

Remember, when it comes to description, one rightly chosen perfect word can do better than a thousand mediocre ones.

 

 

Well, that is all I can think of for now.  I will add more as they come to me.  Feel free to ask any questions, and I may include them in this book.

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