Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Said is Dead

Hello readers! It’s Tuesday, which if you’re a long-time reader of this site, you know is a little unusual for a Being a Better Writer post, usually only happening on the occurrences of a holiday or a work shift taking me away on Monday.

Yesterday was the former. I hope you all made the most of it!

On a side note, has anyone else ever actually looked up what Labor Day is in celebration of? I did and was immediately surprised. If you aren’t sure why it’s a holiday in the US, take a minute and look it up!

But after you’ve perused today’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice entry! For the uninitiated, the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is a special feature here on Being a Better Writer, where we look at all the bits of easily repeated, oft-spouted, cliche writing advice that just about every writer young and old has heard time and time again. Usually these sayings are quickly spoken, easily repeatable, have alliterative appeal (or rhyme, like today’s) and are based on something a famous author or English teacher said somewhere.

Note that I said based in that last sentence. With good reason. Like many common sayings, these are phrases that have become far simpler than their original explanations and intents. Sometimes, as we’ve seen in prior entries this summer, to the detriment of those that hear and apply them.

Which is what the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is all about! Each week, this feature has tackled a common cliche saying or phrase directed at writers. We dig into it: What it means, what it says, how it says it … And then look at whether or not that’s truly helpful, or whether there’s better advice out there. In some cases, even, we’ve found that a saying is actually harmful, something that in becoming short and easily repeatable has lost all meaning to the degree of being more harm than good.

So, enough preamble! Let’s get started and see if that’s true or not with today’s saying! Today, let’s talk about—

Said is dead.

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Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Never Use Adverbs

Hello readers on this wonderful, sunny (if your weather is like it is here) Monday morning! I’m here to alleviate your Monday blues with this week’s Being a Better Writer! Which, you may notice, is still in the grips of our summer special, the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! Week seven of the feature, no less!

A bit of background if you’re unfamiliar with this or BaBW and encountering it for the first time. Being a Better Writer is a weekly series all about, well, as the title says, becoming a better writer! Running now for almost six years, BaBW has discussed hundreds of topics from developing characters to working out subplots to keeping pacing fresh. If you’re new to Unusual Things, then congratulations, because you’ve just stumbled across one of the web’s better writing resources for fiction.

But what about this “Summer of Cliche Writing Advice” stuff? Well, that (or this, rather) is a special summer feature. One thing you may have noticed if you’re a writer of any experience is that the moment you become a writer, it feels like the whole world descends upon you to give you advice … regardless of any actual experience in the territory.

Actually, scratch that. It doesn’t feel like it. The world does descend on you. From Facebook, at family gatherings, in conversation with ordinary people … Everyone has some sort of advice to give you. Usually in the form of a short, quick saying that “everyone” seems to acknowledge as writing advice of some kind.

But is it really? Because a lot of advice that’s been shortened and trimmed down to a single, quickly repeated and easily remembered phrase has the issue of being, well, too short to be of much value. Or in some cases, ended up with exactly the opposite meaning to the original well-intended advice.

In other words, some of this advice writers are flooded with is advice so often repeated that few bother to question if it really has any worthwhile meaning, only assuming that it does. But …. does it?

That’s what the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice has explored these past two months. Each week, we’ve taken some of this advice, from “Show, don’t tell” to “There’s nothing new under the sun” and tackled it in-depth, digging into what it means, what it teaches, whether or not that’s useful to a new writer—and if not, what a new writer should learn instead.

This week? That trend continues with another bit of oft-repeated advice all writers hear. So let’s get down to it. This week, we discuss a tricky one. This week, our bit of “advice” is:

Never use adverbs.

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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: Stop Planning and Start Writing

Hello readers, and welcome to the third installment of Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! Where each week this summer we’re taking a different look at some of those oft-heard, easily repeated sayings of writing advice that seem to swarm young writers (and even some veteran ones) wherever they go. The quick, off-the-cuff sayings that just seem to crop up like flies.

Because while they’re numerous and oft-repeated, are they really that useful? Or have they, in being cut down to something that’s bite-sized and easily digestible, lost some of that functionality we’d like them to bring, or even perhaps become harmful, like last week’s “Show, don’t tell?”

Or are they distilled wisdom that, while curt, is really quite useful? Well, that’s what Being a Better Writer is figuring out this summer with this series. Is the saying really that useful? What sort of knowledge or advice can we take out of it? Should we be repeating it? Or is it something we shouldn’t use because it’s likely going to cause more stumbling than smooth sailing for a new writer?

Enough pontificating! This week’s quick quip of choice?

Stop Planning and Start Writing.

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Being a Better Writer: Commitment

Hello readers! Welcome back to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! A late one, I know. Sorry about that. Late morning.

So, really quick, before we get down to the business of today’s post, the news! And I can sum it up very simply.

I am never going to edit two 300K+ monsters at the same time again. It’s doable, but it’s an absolute pain, and overtaxes everyone involved.

Unfortunately, now I’m committed. Hunter/Hunted‘s beta is about 2/3rds done, and Jungle is about 1/3 of the way through the Alpha (and this week I’ll be opening up a second set of Alpha calls for those of you that are interested). But sands and storms, editing two books at once, especially of this size, is too much.

Never again. I’m going to get these done, but then it’s one project at a time for editing. It’s just too much. However, if I keep working hard, I should be able to keep to my original planned schedule of getting Jungle out end of summer/early fall.

Only one other bit of news. Patreon Supporters, there will be a new chapter up for you this Saturday. I hit snag in the story I’ve been dropping there that backed my brain up for a while, but I think I’ve got a way around it. So look for that if you’ve been waiting!

Okay, all said and done? Then on with the post! So, let’s talk about commitment.

Now, I realize this might be a bit of an odd topic. And title. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of you saw it, metaphorically scratched your heads, and said “huh?”

Which only makes this post all the more vital, because the idea of commitment in the modern writing sphere is one that … Well, let’s just say I’ll bet that once we get going, a number of you will have a sudden epiphany and nod with recognition. Especially if you’re part of the generation that finds your entertainment online.

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Being a Better Writer: Voice VS Grammar

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday, and that means Being a Better Writer! So, our topic for today? We’re going to start off with a little quiz. Nothing complicated, just pick answer A or answer B.

The setup? Picture a man sitting alone in a train car. He’s alone in his berth, the other three seats unoccupied. He keeps glancing out the window. His leg is bouncing up and down in a rapid rhythm. His clothes are wrinkled, unkempt. He looks as though he may have missed his last shower. His fingers keep beating a nervous, staccato beat against the arm of his seat.

The door is open, and he jerks his eyes to it as a trolley stops in front of it. The man behind the trolley politely asks if the occupant would like anything.

The man in the berth opens his mouth and says—

Option A) “No, thanks.”

Option B) “No thanks.”

So, which option is correct?

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