Advice, Fiction, Motivation, Scene, Tips, Writing

One useless writing tip!

Last month at a critique meeting, I recounted my experience with a writing tip I’d read. Some famous author (I’m bad with names) said that he always ended his writing day in the middle of a sentence. For him, it was a jumpstart into the next day’s writing session. For me, it was sheer frustration.

I sat with my fingers poised on the keyboard for a half-hour trying to recapture the words I had intended to write. “As he ran back toward home, he strained to make out the stairway  … “ Hmmm. I read it again. And again. I knew, of course, this was Jalal running on the beach, and I knew why he was looking for the stairway. But how had I intended to end that particular sentence? And what was the next line meant to be? In the end, I deleted that sentence and “meditated” to re-visualize the scene. Eventually, I saw that Jalal doesn’t see Renee on the stairway because she’s descended to the beach. He doesn’t notice this and runs by her. She calls out, startles him, he turns around. Then, as the whole scene unfolded, I typed away, irritated I had wasted those thirty minutes on a half-finished sentence. Now, no matter what, I not only finish the sentence, I finish the scene before I end my writing day.

Obviously, that author’s writing tip is not useless for him, nor likely for many others, it just didn’t work for me. Have you tried any writing tips that didn’t work for you?

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

44 thoughts on “One useless writing tip!”

  1. I used to use the ‘stop in the middle of a sentence’ trick, though it was more often ‘stop in the middle of a paragraph’ because leaving a sentence unfinished is annoying. I always managed to jump right back into the story though. I think it’s about learning which place is a good place to stop, and which is not and that will be different for everyone.

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    1. Glad to know it works for at least two people, Cassie. 🙂 I’m sure it depends on what sort of writer you are. If the writing is going well for me, I’m pretty much writing what I see and hear in the movie in my head, and I fear I’ll lose the scene if I don’t get it all down. In fact, I still wonder if the original place I was taking that sentence to might have been a better place than the replacement did. It might have made my novel brilliant instead of just fantastic! 😀 (Yes, I am destined to drive myself insane with these thoughts.)

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  2. I’m with you Linda, I tried the same tip, but I can’t stop in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. I can stop in the middle of a scene, but it’s only if I’m out of time. Once you have that scene playing in your head, it’s hard to walk away.

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    1. I really can’t walk away, Cathryn. I end up thinking about it until I at least scribble down the essence … even if it’s on a napkin while I’m having dinner with my husband. Oh, yes, he’s familiar with that faraway look in my eye. 😀

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      1. oh, yes, my husband is familiar with and tolerant of that “look” — the boss? not so much 😉 So perhaps walking away is the wrong term, it’s more like being yanked away.

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  3. If I left something finished mid-sentence I would never sleep that night until I got up and finished the sentence properly. In point of fact, I couldn’t even walk away from a scene that I was mid-way through. What I do at the end of a writing session though is write a single sentence on a notebook in front of the computer that tells me explicitly what scene I intended to write next. That way when I sit down the next day, I know exactly what I’m supposed to be writing about.

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    1. Ha ha. After the screen refreshed when I wrote my reply to Cathryn, I saw your comment. 🙂

      I completely agree with you, Cassandra. And jotting down a reminder for the next writing session is something I’ve done. I take it you don’t start your project by writing out a detailed scene outline?

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  4. I’ve never actually considered what tips I use or don’t use. I try to avoid those sites like the plague. They always end up either annoying the hell out of me with their rules, or make me feel inadequate because I don’t fit the cookie-cutter version of a “writer”.

    “You must write every day. You must prioritise your writing. You must structure your story just so. Every story must have a hero and a villain. You must have conflict on every page. You must describe everything so the reader can “see” the world. If you don’t follow these rules, you will never be published.”

    Pardon, my bullshit meter is on. I read enough books of all genres to know that these sorts of “instructions” are absolute tosh.

    /Rant off. (Sorry, Linda!)

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    1. Merrilee, I often rant on this blog about arbitrary writing rules, so I agree with your point. 😉

      But this one I took more as a tip, not a rule. In some of my posts I share what works for me, but I hope no one thinks I’m setting down rules. Having too many “writing rules” stuck in my head was a burden for too long. I’m kind of a stickler for correct grammar and punctuation, but now anything else is up for debate. 😀

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      1. I certainly didn’t read the post (or any of your posts) as setting down rules. I agree, the so-called rules just end up being a painful burden, and can stifle you better than a smelly sock. Grammar, punct. definitely have rules. But writing? Not so much.

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    2. I feel the same as Merrilee when it comes to being told how I should write by someone speaking as if they had the ultimate authority on the subject. I rather enjoyed her short rant. 🙂

      I think the value of a tip lies solely in receiver. Some tips work — some don’t. It all depends on whether they fit within your natural style and writing techniques. I’ve received some great tips over the past year. My favorite (since I’m a planner and not a pantster) was: Plan your novel from the end to the beginning.

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      1. I think I have heard a published author or two say something like that, Trista. I know I’ve read someone famous say they write the last line first, which I have done, though eventually it changed. But I do think you’d have to have some sense of where you wanted to end up before you started … even if the story takes a turn or two as you write it. Otherwise, wouldn’t you have a lot of editing to do to make the end consistent with all that came before? I’m sure in some genres working backwards would be almost essential, like the mystery genre, wouldn’t you think? Maybe one of these days I’ll plan a story like that, back to front, and see how it works for me.

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        1. That tip worked so well for me that I kicked out a draft with few holes in 23 days. That MS is cooling and I will begin to address editing after the workshop ends. I’m curious to see how much the actual character development may have suffered at the hands of my outline. It may be that I avoided the plot holes, but sacrificed the characters souls instead. It will be interesting to read it in a few months. Heck it might be horrible. 😉

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          1. Are you serious … 23 days? That might be faster than even my friend Kasie can write. 😀 I hope when you get back to it, you find it’s even better than you hoped.

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  5. I think I’m with the person who said this would keep me awake all night. I’d HAVE to finish the sentence, at least.

    One of the most useless tips I got was to write through my writer’s block. If it’s truly block, I can’t write. So … eh?

    But that’s me. And I don’ think this one would have worked for me either.

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