Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Posts Tagged ‘writing advice

Can reading writing advice hurt your writing?

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In this first revision of my novel, I’m changing a lot of things drastically. That means I’m throwing a lot of good writing out the window, but I’m still keeping and altering some scenes. It’s tough, as a writer, to go back and pick out those parts of the scenes I want to keep, and then to notice that the rest of it, the part I’m leaving out, isn’t really that bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. How did I not notice that when I was first writing it?

The thing is, I don’t feel like the writing I’m doing now, to replace it, is as good. Is it because I just can’t see it until later? Or is it because I recently read some books about writing and editing fiction, and I’m letting my inner editor have too much reign at this point in the process? I may be worrying too much about using words other than “said” as dialogue tags and stripping my writing of adverbs. This advice is useful, but not if it makes me self-conscious to the point of making my writing sterile and lifeless.

On the other end of things, I get too frustrated with the advice that tells me to “just do it. Just get words on paper,” and focuses a lot on word counts. I WANT to know more about the editing process and what it looks like to sit down and chisel away at what I’ve already written. Apparently, I just need to know where to apply that advice.

My conclusion is that writers need to take advice self-consciously. Obviously, anything that causes you anxiety and keeps you from writing is not good. My solution is to take a step back, and give some conscious thought to how I’m following the advice, or whether it would benefit me to follow it. Another solution is to filter the advice and make sure to only apply it to the part of the process I’m in. This can be tricky sometimes, since I’m still exploring my own process and figuring out what works for me. And that’s the thing about advice, too. Writers are all different, and we each need to figure out what works for us.

On to another note. I have pictures of Week 2 of my garden. Seeds are sprouting, things are growing! I harvested my first pepper, but the plant came with the almost full-grown pepper on it, so I don’t think that counts.

Here’s a pic of the whole garden. I think it’ll be fun to have a week by week collection of these and watch it get greener and greener overall.
GardenWeek2 #1

My zucchini seeds sprouted! I plan to tie them up on the green mesh as they get bigger. I may be a little too late planting them, but we’ll see. Que será, será.
GardenWeek2 #2

Baby zucchini closeup. I planted two seeds in each hole in case one didn’t sprout. Sadly, I did pull the second sproutling out of each pair. I hate doing it even though I know thinning is a part of gardening.
GardenWeek2 #3

Lettuce sprouts growing in among the peppers! I thinned these, too, after taking pictures.
GardenWeek2 #4

Closeup of cute lettuce sprouts.
GardenWeek2 #5

Green bell peppers! The peppers were already on the plant when we bought it. Yay for head starts. I’m excited for this one, because last year I bought one before our garden was built and wasn’t able to plant it for about a month. I think we’ll get a lot more peppers this year!
GardenWeek2 #6

Big beef tomato flowers.
GardenWeek2 #7

I planted snap peas and pole beans near the trellis and next to the tomato plants so they can climb the tomato cages. Last year, our tomatoes got so huge, I’m not super worried about other plants blocking their sun. If the beans and peas grow too fast, I’ll just cut them back. Here’s a pole bean seedling. Cute!
GardenWeek2 #8

And, a shot of the tomatoes now, to compare with when they get really big!
GardenWeek2 #9


On reading and taking advice about writing. And frozen yogurt.

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Today is the first day of Script Frenzy. In the past, I haven’t paid much attention to it, even though I knew it existed. Script Frenzy is the script writing version of NaNoWriMo. This year I was tempted to try something new and learn how to write a script, but I can’t. I’m still doing something new. I’m editing my novel from NaNoWrimo.

Right now editing my novel is hard. It’s because I’m not so much editing as rewriting. I have a lot of work to do, it’s hard to motivate myself to do it. It’s difficult to go back now and fill in holes, change things to make my ending work, and to find out just how much world building I still have to do. When I am finished, it will have been worth it, because I now have a much clearer idea of what my novel is doing and where it is going. It will be a solid second draft. When I started NaNoWriMo this year, I started from scratch, and the idea of the book evolved as I wrote it, so that the beginning made absolutely no sense in correspondence with the end. It’s almost like I did a giant brainstorm and now I actually have to write the novel.

I subscribe to a number of writing blogs and follow some people who tweet about writing . There is a lot of good stuff out there, but right now I don’t have the time to pay attention to it. I can’t pay attention to it because I’m not there yet. I can’t read advice about marketing, because I have nothing to market. I read it and I start worrying, start thinking about how hard it would be, how undesirable some things are to me. The same goes for other aspects of it, and treating writing as a business. At some point, I will need to pay attention to that kind of advice, but I can’t now. Right now, all I need is advice that’s going to keep me writing. The only way that any of that other advice is going to help me is if I have something I’ve written that is beautiful and polished and ready to sell. And I don’t have that. I just need to finish editing my novel.

I’m still leading my Novel Writing class after school, which had been tied in with NaNoWriMo in November but now is just this crazy thing where when I try to lead activities, the kids ask for writing time, but when I give them writing time, the goofy ones distract all the other ones and they just have chat time. A couple of weeks ago, I found a bunch of quotes on writing advice and printed them out. I asked the kids to read through them and circle ones they liked, put question marks next to ones that confused them, and so on.

I was very surprised by their reactions. Overall, the kids were disdainful, to say the least. “This doesn’t make any sense!” they would cry. “I don’t get it!” One girl would underline all of the masculine pronouns in each quote while shaking her head and saying, “I have a problem with this guy.” I explained that there is no gender-neutral pronoun in English and that writers either have to choose one or the other or constantly use the awkward “he or she,” and “his or her,” but she didn’t buy it. We eventually agreed that more people should choose “she” as their default pronoun anyway. What I learned was that kids are very good at deciding which advice they think is bogus and which they want to follow. I didn’t regret choosing quotes written by adults for adults, because, despite some vocabulary and difficulty handling odd metaphors, these kids get it. Again, I am inspired by the children: ignore most advice. Just write the way you want to, and do what works for you.

Here are a couple of pictures of the cool yogurt place we went to, Yogurt Lab. According to our friend Jordan, places like these exist in abundance in Chicago, and Minneapolis has had a sad lack of them for years. I like it. You serve yourself your own yogurt out of the soft serve machines, choosing from several flavors, then load up on toppings from the the various toppings bars. I had cookies & cream ice cream, espresso ice cream, with chocolate covered waffle cone chunks, oreos, yogurt chips and sprinkles on top. Delicious! And cool graphic design.



Written by nikkinbird

April 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

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