Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Eight Rules for Writing

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
— Kurt Vonnegut: Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

Found this list at the New York Writers Intensive while surfing around.  Seems like a good list, though No. 8 sounds like the dreaded "infodump" and No. 7 runs directly counter to one of the site's bloggers, who claims, and I quote: "The biggest mistake you can make as a writer is to toil away for months or years on your own, honing your masterpiece in solitude, polishing and repolishing your prose until every word is perfect. The writing process begins when you show your first draft to people and start getting feedback. Beethoven went through 70 drafts of his symphonies. As William Zinsser (arguably best known for his book, On Writing Well) put it: 'Rewriting is where the game is won or lost; rewriting is the essence of writing.'”

I'd like to believe Vonnegut's right and not Zinsser. Why? Because I can't find a critique circle or beta readers who can give the level of feedback I need (and no, I don't have an ego that rejects the feedback--I want to learn and grow as a writer). A couple of years ago, I joined a writer's group that met at a local coffee house. After the first couple of meetings, the organizer pulled me aside and asked me not to mention that I had an agent . . . because it would make the other writers feel bad. Seriously? It's not as if I flogged the fact that I had an agent . . . or that I mentioned the kind of laundry detergent I used or something else unrelated to writing. Needless to say, I left the group--but not just because of that. I got no useful feedback. People just listened to a fragment of a chapter (which was all we were allowed time for) and said, "That was nice."

I admit, I'm frustrated. I went to RWA this year, which was freaking fantastic, but in every session, I heard people talking about their critique partners. I felt lost, clueless, inadequate.Where does one find critique partners? Beta readers? Anyone willing to read their pages without rolling their eyes?

If anyone out there can help, do let me know.

Had a good rewriting day, btw. Lots of new ideas in the old manuscript.


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Writing smexy paranormals with a Celtic twist. Blogging about good books.