Friday: Tips

Writing Tips

 

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners; I wish someone had told me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.

But there is this gap.

For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met.

It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile.

You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

-Ira Glass

Wednesday: The Grade

The Grade

This contest challenges our following writers to fix these offending lines. To participate, simply post a “before” line and an “after” line from your writing. If you’d rather not show your personal growth, just work on the lines provided below. The follower with the best rewrite will win an edit of their work for up to 1000 words! I know it might be easy to pick on Twilight, but I can’t help it. Rather, I refuse to help it. Here is a line from Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon:

No matter how I tried to distract myself—and I had plenty to think of: I was honestly and desperately worried about Jacob and his wolf-brothers, I was terrified for Charlie and the others who thought they were hunting animals, I was getting in deeper and deeper with Jacob without ever having consciously decided to progress in that direction and I didn’t know what to do about it—none of these very real, very deserving of thought, very pressing concerns could take my mind off the pain in my chest for long.

Post your entries in the comments below!

Monday: Find the Typo

Find the Typo

Welcome to this special French-inspired installment of Find the Typo!

Phone 2014 January 480

The phrase is correct as “en route.” Any editor would know the spelling; if not, they’d at least be professional enough to look it up. That’s what we’re here for!

Have you found a typo? As always, if you find a typo on Cicero Grade at WordPress, we will feature your web-space in a future post! Comment with typo stories below; if you have typo photos, please email them to Blog@CiceroGrade.com to win a feature-post. Thank you for reading!

Friday: Showcase

Showcase

Why English is Hard to Learn

By Anonymous

We’ll begin with box; the plural is boxes,

But the plural of ox is oxen, not oxes.

One fowl is a goose, and two are called geese,

Yet the plural of moose is never called meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a house full of mice;

But the plural of house is houses, not hice.

The plural of man is always men,

But the plural of pan is never pen.

If I speak of a foot, and you show me two feet,

And I give you a book, would a pair be a beek?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,

Why shouldn’t two booths be called beeth?

If the singular’s this and the plural is these,

Should the plural of kiss be ever called keese?

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,

But though we say mother, we never say methren.

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his, and him;

But imagine the feminine . . . she, shis, and shim!

If you’re interested, there are loads of angry poets rhyming (kinda) about the English language. Check out a few here!

Friday: Showcase

Showcase

Today’s post comes from Jonas David, science-fiction author and cat enthusiast. When he was asked to tell us about his writing rules, he wrote the following advice. Check it out! Jonas David

My Rule One is not necessarily a rule that would be number one for any other writer, but it is one I have to keep telling myself.  It is  “Skip to the point.” Details are fine and dandy and can be fun to get lost in, but don’t let yourself get trapped in them.
When I first started writing, among many other things I had a problem of getting stuck because I couldn’t think of specific details or would end up writing about inane, pointless things that the character had to do to get from Point A to Point B.

For instance: Say your character needs to meet her illicit lover in the coffee shop for a clandestine conversation. Well, first she needs to get out of bed, right? Yes, then she needs to brush her teeth and put on some clothes, but what should she wear? Once she’s dressed, she has to have breakfast and maybe read the newspaper, then she has to find her keys and walk out to her car in the driveway. Then she gets in the car and drives to the coffee shop, getting trapped at a red light on the way . . . Or, you can escape the detail trap and just start with her sitting down at their corner booth in the coffee shop.

The above may be an exaggeration, but I often notice a subtler version of it in my writing and that of others. Ask yourself: Is this important to the plot or character development? Does it tell us something we didn’t already know about the story or the character? Is it at least exciting? If you can’t answer yes to any of these, then why are you writing it?

It’s like being trapped in Zeno’s Paradox of Motion: “That which is in motion must arrive at the halfway stage before it arrives at the goal.” It implies that it is impossible to ever reach the goal because you can always move half of the remaining distance to the end.
If you find yourself writing like this, the paradox will become true and you’ll never get to the point. So instead, skip to the point! I this rule think easily fits under Cicero Grade’s Rule One. Mine is just a more specific area in which your writing can get in the way of your story.

Other rules I like to use are “If something can go wrong, it should!” and “Think bigger!”

The more conflict in a story, the more interesting and exciting it is, so don’t miss opportunities to add some. Secondly, why do something small when you can do it huge? Let’s combine both of these into our previous example: Our heroine is meeting her lover at the coffee shop, so what could go wrong? Let’s put her husband at the counter having some breakfast before work. Great! Now our heroine is uncomfortable and stressed, just how we like our heroes to be. But wait, lets think bigger! He turns around and sees her and yelling ensues. Bigger! He gets into a brawl with her secret lover and the police are called. Now we have a story.

So get your fingers on those keys and go write! And when you do, skip to the point where things go wrong—badly wrong!

Which of Jonas David’s stories is your favorite? What writing advice do you agree with, and what are your writing rules? Comment below!

Wednesday: Before Editing and After

Before Editing and After

Today’s installment of BEA comes courtesy of ANONYMOUS.

“Oh please, Grant. You know, you’re right to be ashamed of yourself, you tracksuit-wearing hypocrite. Not because you’re a hypocrite, but because you’re too fucking afraid to admit it. And isn’t that just a bit mad? Brother, you’ve killed more than the number of times you’ve fucked your wife.”

“Oh, please, Grant. You’re just a hypocrite in a tracksuit. You’re right to be ashamed of yourself—you can’t even admit it! And isn’t that mad, Brother? You’ve done more killing than fucking.”

How would you have rewritten it? Put your answers in the comments below!

Would you like a free paragraph-edit? To be featured in Before Editing and After, send your passage of up to 150 words (along with your name and a link to your webspace) to Blog@CiceroGrade.com. Thanks!