Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Read a Book

Welcome readers, to another installment of Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! We are rolling right along and into week six of this feature, and the cliche advice just keeps coming.

Okay, really quick let’s have a brief aside here for the new folks who haven’t encountered Being a Better Writer or the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice before. What on Earth is this?

Pretty straightforward, really. The Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is a feature running this summer on Being a Better Writer. BaBW, by the way, is exactly what it sounds like on the tin. It’s a weekly dose of writing advice on a variety of topics, from pacing, to plotting, to character development (sorry, had to break the alliteration there). Running every Monday save holidays for almost six years now, it totals hundreds of articles to browse through and learn from.

The Summer of Cliche Writing Advice, on the other hand, is a special temporary feature. If you’ve ever told someone that you’re writing a book, or even thinking about it, you’ve doubtlessly had the experience of “Oh, well be sure you do …” followed by some bit of quick, cliche advice that seems to follow writers like a lawyer follows an ambulance. Even if it’s your second, or third, or twelfth book, you’re practically guaranteed to have one of this cliche sayings tossed at you, usually from folks that have never written anything, but they heard it somewhere. Sands, my part-time job did a book launch for a world-famous author a year or so ago, and I would fully expect that had anyone in the office talked with them, they would have immediately started spouting off this sort of advice.

It’s pervasive. It’s everywhere. Social media, random conversations. If you announce you’re writing, you’re going to hear something like “Oh, show don’t tell,” “nothing new under the sun,” or “kill your darlings.”

So here’s what the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is all about answering: Are any of these sayings actually useful? Because one of the problems with one-line, easily repeated advice is that over time it can come to mean the opposite of what the original saying went for. It either loses context, meaning … or maybe it doesn’t?

That’s the trick. With all these easily and oft-repeated sayings out there, how do we know which ones are worth paying attention to and which ones aren’t? Are they all good? All bad? Somewhere in the middle? Well, the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is here to answer that question as we tackle saying after saying, digging into it, seeing what makes it tick, and how much of it is really worth paying attention to. And as for this week?

Want to be a writer? Read a Book.

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Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Don’t Be Boring

Welcome readers, to the fifth installment of Being a Better Writer‘s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! That’s right, this is entry number five! For some of you, you know what that means, but there may be some newcomers here (as this summer series has pulled in a number of new readers) saying “Hey, what is this?”

It’s pretty straightforward, really. One thing you’ll notice as an author or even just as a fresh writer starting out is that once you openly declare yourself as such, advice just comes out of the woodwork. Everyone and their dog (and possibly their cat) just starts tossing advice at you that they heard … somewhere. Most of them probably couldn’t say where, or they’ll ascribe it to someone famous they’re fairly certain wrote a book. But they heard it, and they’ve been told it’s good advice, and when they hear that someone is planning on writing, well … they share it. They share all of it.

In other words, authors new and experienced often face a deluge of writing advice in the form of short, easily remembered phrases. Phrases that can quickly be read and repeated at a moment’s notice. Phrases that sound pretty helpful.

But are they really? That’s the real question here, and what Being a Better Writer‘s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is all about. Are these short, simply sayings worth repeating? Are they useful to a new writer, or even an experienced one? Or are they the equivalent of a passer-by telling a mechanic to “check the brake pads” while they work on a transmission problem?

Each week, we look at a different cliche saying that writers hear constantly or see repeated online. We break it down, examine it, and see if it’s really worth listening to, acknowledging, and passing on … or if it’s something that does more harm than good, something that sounds good, but really isn’t helpful.

With that said, let’s get to it! And this week, we’ve got a classic to look over. This week, we discuss …

Don’t be boring.

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Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Kill Your Darlings

Hello readers! We’re back with the fourth installment of Being a Better Writer‘s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! Which, as this is installment number four, has some of you nodding and ready to move on, but if you’re checking in here for the first time, you might be asking “Wait, what?”

Never fear, here’s your explanation. Being a Better Writer is tackling all those oft-heard, cliche bits of writing advice this summer! That’s right, all those quick little tidbits new (or even established) writers hear from folks on Facebook, or Tumblr, or forums, or in person at a dinner. If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard most of them. You sit down at a dinner you’ve been invited to, someone asks what you do, you say “Well, I’m an author—” and the next thing you know you’re being “advised” by people with sayings like “Well remember, there’s nothing new under the sun!”

Yeah, that kind of thing. Those easily remembered and repeated sayings that are tossed around like candy around authors. They’re everywhere. But … are they really that useful?

That’s the question the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is here to answer! This summer, Being a Better Writer is tackling these common sayings one by one, breaking them down, examining what they say and what they mean … And whether or not that meaning is ultimately good, bad, or just neutral for writers.

Are you ready? Good. Because this week, we’ve got a classic spot of writing advice to break down. This week, we look at …

Kill your darlings.

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Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Show Don’t Tell

Welcome back readers, and welcome to the second installment of Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! Where we, one week at a time, will be taking a look at all those cliche, kitschy sayings that always seem to follow people in the wake of any writing project. Those one-sentence colloquialisms that are tossed out by the dozen on Facebook, Tumblr, or even in real life.

You know, the quick, easy to remember, easy to spout off stuff that sounds fairly smart.

Well … is it? Because last week I compared these sayings to a sculpture that had been carved in a game of telephone: something that’s been passed around so much and so often that while the general shape is sort of in line with things, the rest of the details are more caricatures of actual elements then real, detailed items.

And this summer? For the next few months, Being a Better Writer is going to dig into these bits of cliche advice and see what they really have to offer. Is there wisdom in there? Something we can glean from a such a distilled saying? Or has it been passed on and reduced for brevity so many times that the saying is effectively worthless?

Well, that’s what the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is all about. We’re going to break these sayings down, And this week’s quick quip of choice?

Show Don’t Tell.

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Being a Better Writer: The Ellipses and the Em-dash, Odd Forms of Punctuation

Welcome back readers! I hope you had, if from the US, a successful and interesting 4th of July, and if not from the US, a solid weekend! I did. For starters, my friends and I gathered and watched all of Season 3 of Netflix’s Stranger Things. I won’t spoil anything (obviously, I mean, come on) but I will say that I think it’s better than the second season. Mostly because they fixed the largest flaw with the second season, which was some weak pacing in the last few episodes. Here everything is much more tightly bound together, and there’s never really a single moment where even if you feel like you can stop that you want to.

So yeah, it’s really good. I do recommend. Next, there are only a few hours left in the Independence Day Sale! By tomorrow, it’ll no longer be available, so if you were planning on grabbing Shadow of an EmpireColonyDead Silver, or another book of mine while they were on the cheap, now’s your last chance! You’ve only got until the end of the day!

Finally, just a quick heads-up that we’re about to start the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice here with Being a Better Writer, and we’ve put out requests to you, readers, for every bit of cliche writing advice you’ve ever been told. If you missed the announcement, there’s a lot of cliche writing advice out there that can do more harm than good, especially when it’s taken literally and without the context it once had. So BaBW is going to spend the summer breaking down that advice, stepping back to look at what it really means and what you should be learning from it.

That starts next week and runs through either the summer or until we run out of cliche advice! If you’ve got one that you’ve always heard, go ahead and post it in the comments so it can go on the list!

Right, so with all that said (you read it, right? Sale, Stranger Things, and Summer of Cliche Writing Advice!), let’s talk writing! Specifically, let’s talk about some of the lesser-taught methods of punctuation out there: the ellipses and the em-dash.

You’ve seen them before … Right? In fact, there was one right there! Those three periods right in a row, the “…” That’s an ellipses, and you’ve likely seen one from time to time when reading a book. Or a lot if you read comics, or fairly regularly if you’re reading technical or research papers that use a lot of quotations. Though the use is a bit different in that last one.

Point being, you’ve likely seen it used somewhere. But, even though used on occasion, you don’t see it used as often as, say, the comma, or the period, or the question mark, all of which are regular features of punctuation you’re taught about in a basic school education.

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Being a Better Writer: Knowledge and Inspiration

Welcome back readers! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

So, thanks to Friday’s gargantuan news post—which you should check up on if you haven’t, as it basically announces all my projects for the rest of the year—all the news that’s worth mentioning is already out in the open. So there’s no need to repeat it here. Which means … we’re diving right into today’s post.

Knowledge and inspiration then. Let’s get down to it. What, with a title like that, am I getting at?

Well, probably not what you expected. See, today’s post isn’t about the tiny details of everything, from character to voice, or specific writing techniques. No, today is about a different—but no less important—bit of writing: acquiring knowledge of subject.

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Being a Better Writer: Your Opening Tone

You know, this is the first time I think I’ve had a post fall on April 1st, also known as April Fools’ Day. And part of me really wondered if I should do an April Fools’ Day post with this week’s Being a Better Writer.

But I decided against it. For starters, while it’d be fun for the holiday, then there’s the catch of it being left up for the rest of the internet to stumble across, ignore the date, and quite possibly take very seriously. So that ruled out gag advice.

So I figured why not do a normal post and just roll with it. It’ll probably get no views until tomorrow, because you can’t really trust anything today, and well, oh well. It’ll be written and out there helping folks out, and that’s what really matters.

So then … why not jump into it. As you can see from the title, today I want to talk about your opening tone.

Confused? It’s fine. This is a high-end concept that doesn’t get brought up much, But it’s best illustrated, of all things, with a Pixar film. Ever seen Monster’s Inc.?

I really hope so, because it’s a fantastic film. Today I want to start by talking about the opening of the film. Or rather, the two openings and how they affect the film.

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