Who’s up for a writer version of the game Kiss – Marry – Kill?
As soon as you Google ‘writing advice’ you’ll find a limitless supply of things to do and not do. First though, let’s start with the bottom line and then backtrack to discuss writing advice.
BOTTOM LINE: Your writing path is yours and yours alone. You should research and explore options. You should also try things, fail, and try again. It’s your path and you are the only one who can walk it. You are the only one who can write your story.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s chat about some of the writing advice you’ll stumble across along your path and see what you think about it. Then you’ll need to pick Kiss – Marry – Kill for each one.
1. Write every day.
I greatly resented this the first times I read it. Working a full-time job means there might be little time to write during any given day. It felt like a harsh judgment to require writing every day to be a writer/ be a good writer. I also loved the idea of being inspired to write. The mystical Muse worked well with my fantasy storylines. My opinion changed when I needed to meet a writing deadline and wrote approximately 40,000 in two weeks.
The Muse can and will inspire your writing, but it is discipline that will allow you to finish your work. Discipline will help you when you are struggling and so tempted by new ideas. Discipline will allow you to edit again when you want to skip it.
Writing daily is one way to gain discipline. You wouldn’t jump into a marathon and run 26.2 miles, would you? More than likely, you’ll have a training program that increases your miles each week. It will also probably include weight training, stretching, drinking a lot of water, and eating enough healthy calories.
You need to find a writer’s training program that works for you. It’s not just about writing. You’ll need time to research, edit, build your social media presence, and read. It’s a balancing act that works best if it’s part of your daily life.
What if you don’t want to run the marathon? Maybe you only want to jog enough to be ready for the zombie apocalypse? That’s okay too.
Know what your end goal is (at this time) and create a balanced writer’s training program that works for you.
What are you going to do with this advice? Kiss to try it at least once? Marry and stick to it faithfully? Kill and never think of it again?
2. Kill your darlings.
This was another piece of advice I saw often and didn’t appreciate. However, there is something to be said for this. I prefer to think of re-locating my darlings instead of killing them. If you have an adorable side character who doesn’t advance the plot or development of the main characters, perhaps that character belongs in their own story. Does your favorite scene advance the story or take readers off course? Maybe it needs to be in a different place in the story to fit better.
PADS. I wrote this at the top of each chapter as a checklist for myself. Plot – this was my reminder that something had to advance the story action and/ or character development. Action – whether it’s tension or and actual fight scenes, something must happen each chapter. Dialogue – this one helps me avoid head-hopping and allows me to show instead of tell. Setting – limiting confusion and grounding me and the reader is a great way to keep the flow. If the chapter/ scene didn’t meet each of these requirements, I gave it a second look during editing.
Sometimes, I did kill my darlings. Sometimes, I just re-worked and changed the sequence so it fit the criteria later in the story. At this point, I haven’t relocated a character yet. I have written related short stories as part of my Rahki Chronicles universe. Those were ideas/ scenes I liked, but they didn’t fit into the story.
Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, we can all edit and revise accordingly. Distance helps me ‘kill my darlings’ and see the gaping holes and the pieces I’ve jammed in that didn’t really fit. Take the time to step away and see your writing with a more critical eye after that first blush of excitement has run its course.
Again though, your writing path is your own and your characters’ stories belong to you and them. Readers may not know what you have in mind for the series or spin-off. Readers shouldn’t know everything – keep your secrets until it’s time to reveal them. This means you may be able to keep a darling even if others say to kill them.
What’s your call for this one? Kiss – Marry – Kill?
3. Know the rules so you can break them.
I’ve always liked this one (at least the rule-breaking part)! It does take some time to learn the ‘rules’ and there can be some contradictions. I think the danger here lies in missing the forest for the trees. The rules are meant to help us write better. Yes, some of them are meant to make our stories more marketable, but again, let’s not fixate on that. The rules should prove beneficial to us. The first question then is: How then do we learn them?
There are many, many ways to educate yourself as a writer – free online course, industry expert blogs, author newsletters, social media stalking, writers conferences, writing groups, following hashtags, etc. Let’s not forget about reading. That’s a great way to learn more about writing.
Ask yourself what you liked in the story. What parts did you skip? Were there things that annoyed you? Take just one book and do this – almost like a school book report. Then, check out the author and the book reviews. Did other readers agree with you? Has the author spoken about their intentions? This can reveal many rules that may improve your writing.
Along these lines, stalk your favorite writers. Do you enjoy paranormal romance? Follow Kristen Painter. Is fantasy/ sci-fi your thing? Have you checked out Terry Maggert? There are several authors (especially indie authors) who have a strong social media presence. Some of them are even vocal about the writing process and their publishing experiences. You’ll definitely find some rules shared by successful authors.
Stalking writers also helps you to find readers…possibly even readers for your books. You’ll get to see how authors interact with the readers and be able to see what readers like/ don’t like. Be active in readers groups so you can learn your market and target your audience. These are more rules that can help you as a writer.
Again, there are many rules and many ways to learn them. Are you willing to put the time in to learn the rules or do you prefer to be a rebel from the beginning?
Last time to vote: Kiss – Marry – Kill?
There will always be advice and rules offered to writers along our paths. Advice is just that – advice. You don’t have to take it though there may be times you wish you had. I do think it’s important to consider our options so we can learn, grow, and fully embrace our writing lives. As they are our lives, it really must be up to us to decide if we kiss, marry, or kill.
Thanks so much for letting me ramble about writing! I’ve listed my bio and links below if you want to reach out. Other than writing, you’ll find I ramble about cloud porn, cats, travel, books, and chocolate. Feel free to join the fun!
Rennie St. James shares several similarities with her fictional characters (heroes and villains alike) including a love of chocolate, horror movies, martial arts, yoga, and travel. She is proudly owned by three rescue kitties including one all-black lady adopted on Friday the 13th several moons ago. They live in relative harmony in beautiful southwestern Virginia (United States). The first book in the Rahki Chronicles was released in 2018 as Rennie’s first urban fantasy series (Book 5 is coming in 2021). She joined the Atlantic Island Universe in 2019 and her Guardian trilogy is releasing in 2020. A new series and several standalones are already in the works as future releases.
Book link books2read.com/RahkiWorld