How to write descriptive passages – the iceberg metaphor

man writing woman thinking - descriptive passages

If not well organized, descriptive passages are often at risk of turning into info dumps, so killing the pace of your novel and putting your readers to sleep.

To avoid such an unfortunate outcome and produce instead well organized descriptive passages, you need to know perfectly well what you’re describing. Both in narrative terms and in terms of factual knowledge.

This is why you have to ask yourself many different questions about the story you want to write.

Questions about your main characters as well as the secondary ones; questions about the setting; questions about the story arc, and so on.

Then you have to come up with just as many answers. If your answers are rich of details and quite articulated, good. But this is not so essential. In fact, the type of answers you need relates strictly to the type of type of writer you are. Continue reading

Precise writing – how and when to use adverbs to write better

How the indiscriminate use of adverbs in creative writing can undermine precise writing, and how to avoid this.

precise writing - - ink bottle spills out on the paper a lot of words

Precise writing is writing in which you as an author manage to put down on paper all your thoughts so that there’s (ideally) no discrepancy between what you want to write and what you actually write.

Sure, seen from a distance, this transferring process might seem quite straightforward, but as any author knows only too well, precise writing isn’t always such a natural process.

In fact, while it is relatively easy to write a page after the other just letting the words flow from your pen into the world, it is much more difficult to do so while writing compelling prose. If then you also set limits to the amount of your output, the task of transferring your thoughts on the page can turn into a harrowing experience.

Because all of a sudden you have to choose between what must go and what is worth staying. Because you have to make sure every word matters. So to speak, you must become a selective and efficient censor of (sometimes) even large parts of your writing–to make sure the really important parts have the desired impact on your readers. This is also why editing your drafts over and over is what often distinguish great authors from the mediocre ones. Continue reading

Break all the rules–why often it isn’t the best way to go

picasso-sleeping-peasants-break-all-the-rulesBreak all the rules, and you’ll have to make up new ones. They will be different, but not necessarily better. Then you’ll have to explain your new rules and get the people to accept them. And before you realize it, your rules will be broken by some other badass full of contempt for your rules.

It’s no wonder that amid these storms of iconoclastic reformations most readers value at least a certain amount of stability. In fact, it takes time and a lot of efforts to get used to new ideas and ways of living. And few people are willing to embark on such a journey if they can avoid it.

Break all the rules. Ever noticed, it is in itself a rule? Only it requires times. That’s why languages change so slowly over time. What is too new for the old generation, is acceptable for the current one, and will be then considered limiting by the new one.

So, if you write only for your pleasure just go with whatever you feel right for you. Experiment and write in a language nobody ever spoke before. But if you want to have also a sizable following of readers, of people willing to lend an ear to what you have to say, then it’s probably better if you limit your iconoclastic campaigns. Continue reading

Book spoilers – do they really affect the reading experience?

woman near a cliff - book spoilersBook spoilers are bad. Book spoilers are so bad that when you review a book you are often requested to clearly mark the sections of your review that contain book spoilers.

This to avoid having hordes of enraged potential readers calling you names for having destroyed their reading experience right from the start. Or rather, even before the start.

Yet, some guys have put this belief about book spoilers under a magnifying glass, and what they have found seems to disprove the conventional wisdom about the subject. In fact, it seems, book spoilers aren’t such a bad thing. Not at all.

Wielding about the results of their work, the researchers claim that when we read a story whose outcome we already know, we can appreciate it more than when we read it without having any previous information about it.

They also say that although the reasons for this go “beyond the scope of the study, […] one possibility is perhaps the simplest one: that plot is overrated.”

They also go on speculating that “Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing.”

Sorry, but I beg to differ. Continue reading

Writing – how to find your voice and how it relates to style

sparrow on a branch - how to find your voice Although in general when we speak we understand each other quite well, the way we speak is so personal that each of us can be said to speak a unique version of our shared language — linguists call this distinctive version an idiolect.

The same goes for writing.

No matter how hard we try to copy someone else’s style. The way we’re wired inside our heads, the experiences we undergo in our life, and who knows how many others variables, all make sure we leave our unmistakable fingerprints on our writing — always.

That is the author’s voice.

(For an illuminating read about this you can have a look at The secret life of Pronouns by James W. Pennebaker.)

Uniqueness and baloney

Some beginning authors in the attempt to develop a highly distinctive voice come up with some really weird stuff. They build sentences that sounds artificial to say the least. They over ornate their prose. They resort to a wide variety of peculiar words.

Avoid this kind of madness. It serves neither the author nor the readers. Really, any device that draws attention on itself and away from the story should be used only after long deliberation. As the saying goes, you should learn how to walk before you leap. Continue reading