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!
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!