The best writing advice of 2017


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    Our round up of the best writing advice of the past year

    Click here to see the full blog post


  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    March in this post is one of the biggest reasons I sweat over starting a story. Once I have started, I'm fine, but I always worry that the first sentence I write is not strong enough.



  • You have the revision process to fix the first line. The first draft is all suspect -- and I, personally, have adopted an earlier revision process where all stages in revision are complete rewrites until it is time to move to line-edits.

    We can spend months fiddling around trying to make a stinky first draft not stink, or we can take what we've learned from that first draft and write a better second draft from scratch.

    I can hear the complaints. "All that writing! Surely it takes longer to rewrite it from scratch!"

    Try it with a short story. A little 3,000 word piece. Bust out a first draft at your top speed. Ignore it for a few days and work on other projects. Then bust out a second draft of the same story at your top speed. (If you're a planner, outline before the first draft. If you're a pantser, outline after the first draft.)

    It doesn't work for everybody, but I can speed write a novel twice in far less time than I can slug through a "good" rough draft (which is the slowest for most people) or a quick first draft and major computer-based revision (which people think of as being "normal").

    People get hung up because our tools make the repetition unneeded. In the end, it's the difference between someone improvising a story for the first time and an expert oral storyteller retelling a favorite story. It's like any manual-based polishing process. The repetition is an important part of creating the shine and bringing out the brilliance.

    Some people hand-write their first drafts. I used to not understand that, but when you accept that the second revision will be a total rewrite one way or the other, it makes complete sense.

    Personally, I think people overthink the first line and its importance a lot. I sort of see the first scene as almost a poem. A sort of magical poem that even if confusing and bordering on nonsense summons the story in to the mind of the reader. Among other things, this means that a fantastic first line is meaningless if the first scene is backstory. A great first line is great, not in isolation, but because it precludes a great first scene.



  • That's what I get for replying before reading the whole article from March. In addition to the one quoted, he also says, "Often the opening line won’t be found until you’re halfway through your first draft. You hit page 157 and you suddenly realise, Ah, that’s where I should have begun."


  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    I hear you. I think for me it actually goes a bit deeper than that. When I go to write a story, I find myself trying to balance story and plot and I know that when it comes to plot I am weaker than when it comes to story! :D

    The editing process is one I've recently learned to embrace. It's become one of my favourite parts of the entire process of writing at this moment in time. Getting a story out is nothing. Nailing the plot, plot structure, and editing is where I find myself stumbling. But as they say, the more you do something the better you get at it. At least I get and understand that now!



  • @josey said in The best writing advice of 2017:

    The editing process is one I've recently learned to embrace. It's become one of my favourite parts of the entire process of writing at this moment in time. Getting a story out is nothing. Nailing the plot, plot structure, and editing is where I find myself stumbling. But as they say, the more you do something the better you get at it. At least I get and understand that now!

    I struggled a lot with editing until I adopted my current approach.

    I used to be comfortable with story structure due to outlining. That's changed, though. I'm exploring this crazy experimental theory of story, where structure is mirrored both in the microcosm as well as the macrocosm and the same structure can be used for a series as for a chapter, and the organizing drive present in a scene is also in a novel itself.

    Structure is one of the points I disagree with when it comes to a lot of discovery writers (aka. pantsers). I've reached a point where I work within a narrow structure, and find it freeing instead of limiting. It's like working within the structure of poetry. Yeah, the freeform poetry seems pretty popular these days, but there is a place for tight, clean structure, well-balanced verse, and of carefully working with your medium and the limitations of your readers.


  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    @yam655 said in The best writing advice of 2017:

    I've reached a point where I work within a narrow structure, and find it freeing instead of limiting.

    I find this can work for some types of creatives. When working artists I know (be it writers, painters, musicians, sketch artists, etc), I am often told by them that they need to know the box they are working in. Just saying "Writing me a story" or "Draw me a picture" is exceptionally cruel to them.

    Still I know others who feel that the moment someone says "You must do this" it actually messes with their mojo.

    If nothing else, I think each step of the creative process that I take is helping me to define my process even more and I've learned over the years (especially working here) that no two artists are the same or follow the same methods. It's why I love learning about new methods from others. I'm quick to test, and willing to try all kinds of new things. Not everyone is capable, or willing, to break a mould. :D

    Also the idea of a macro and micro working together or mirroring each other is something I am actually quite familiar with, so it's neat to see it brought up here.


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