A For Adviceby Alex Keegan
The Internet Writing Journal, May 2005
ALWAYS write it down. Never trust to memory
ABSORB craft until it runs in your blood, until craft is automatic
AUTOMATIC, free writing, writing unthinkingly accesses the unconscious
ASK QUESTIONS of those who have succeeded. Don't be afraid to be dumb.
BE PREPARED for everything. Always carry a pen and pad.
BLEED on to the page. Honesty, your soul, that's where real writing is
BATTLE, Battle, Battle, it's a long haul
BEAT BLOCK by writing anything.Diarise your day, and have a biolog which you can always continue. Never give in to block. It's a myth, but self-fulfilling
BEGINNERS. There is nothing wrong with being a beginner. Be honest, start at the bottom and expect to be poor. Things will improve.
CHECK everything (but AFTER the writing session)
CHARACTER, character, character
CULTIVATE the habits of a writer, time place, targets. Get to the stage where, when you wake up your first thought is "when do I fit my writing in today!"
CUT, Cut, Cut. Almost always the story can be tighter
CLICHÉS are skimmed. Write what you want to write in a new way
DISCIPLINE is vital. Create good, repeatable writing habits.
DETERMINATION, and doggedness are required for success.
DIALOGUE is NOT speech, it's an artistic rendition of speech.
DON'T open with a bang.
DON'T rely on a twist ending.
DON'T hold back
DON'T write with one eye on the market unless you're a hack.
DECIDE why you write, to write, to be an author, to make money, what? Be true!
EMOTE don't fear emotion, but avoid schmaltz
EMPATHISE with characters, think from inside their hearts
ENERGISE write with fire, inspire, seduce, persuade. Don't be plain vanilla
EDIT. Be ruthless. Be brave. Be powerful.
EDUCATE your loved ones. Agree your sacred writing time
FIND an honest, brave group, from two to twenty.
FLOW (and sing)
FOLLOW your heart
FLASHBACKS usually hurt the flow of a story.
FILL UP! Read, read, read, especially short stories and news. The soul will do the rest
GET TO WORK. Meet your targets and exceed them.
GRIN and bear it. Everyone suffers harsh criticism and rejection. Welcome it.
HONESTY creates art, not cowardice.
HOLIDAY SNAPS? Other people's holidays are boring. Remember to think, is my story of interest to others or a literary holiday photo?
IMAGINE, be, feel, act, then write it down
INTERNET chat rooms and bulletin boards are serious distractions. WRITE!
INVENT. Don't trot out stock phrases, clichés, bland proverbs, metaphors. Say it fresh, say it new, say it with your voice
JUST DO IT! Too many aspiring writers spend forever preparing, chatting, instead of actually doing the most important bit, committing words to paper.
KILL your darlings.
KNOW your characters
LEARN to see the world as a writer
LANGUAGE is important, its music, weight, colour and resonance can matter as much as the raw dictionary meaning
LESS IS MORE
LOGIC and care are for rewrite time.
LEFT-BRAINED writing is stiff, obvious, boring
MAKE EM LAUGH, make em cry, make em wait.
MUSIC MATTERS. Consider the "ring" of what you write. Don't drone.
NOTE IT! Whatever you see, whatever you hear. Write it down immediately. You think you won't forget it but you will.
NEVER TAKE ADVICE at face value. Consider it, judge the teacher. Think.
OBJECTIVE, honest, no-punches-pulled criticism is the kindest. If you want to be lied to and told your work is better than it is, you are adding five years extra slog.
OBSTINACY (refusing to hear advice might be good, but it's probably bad)
OBLIQUE doesn't have to mean obscure
PERSIST, PERSIST. Never give up
PRACTICE. Even you failures are important. Write, learn, write better.
PLOT is a Four Letter word. Character is the Key
PUNCTUATE well. PRESENT manuscripts immaculately
PACE, Pacing, Pauses. Check that the important parts are slower to read. Focus
QUERY everything. Much advice is simplistic, sometimes plain wrong.
QUICK! Quick! When writing, write quickly and get the words out. They will surprise you. Don't stop to tinker.
READ, READ, READ
READ A MINIMUM amount a day. Read, for example, one quality story a day. Every day
REJECTIONS are good. They are signs of your courage in sending things out. They are purple hearts. Get lots of rejections and don't blink. Eat rejections like Popeye eats spinach.
RIGHT-BRAIN writing is warm, sensuous, truthful, daring, revealing, surprising
STUDY the masters.
SEDUCE, don't instruct. (Show not Tell)
SING TO ME. Make your words, sing, rise and fall. Don't be dull
SET GOALS. Have a minimum (bronze) a silver and gold target. Meet them.
SUBMIT. Submit your work. Aim a tad higher than you think you should. Keep submitting. Set submission targets such as one a week. Rejected? Send it out again
STEREOTYPES are usually bad. Never accidentally use them
TWIST ENDINGS are cheap. Put your twist in line one and write.
THEME, the meaning, the point is important. Say something.
TEACHERS. Read what they have published
TMAWIA. Beware of writing stories that are too much about what they're about.
THOUGHT IT? Then write it. Never hold back.
TILT THE READER with your opening, tilt him into the story. Don't try to grab or impress, be subtle and promising.
TELL THE TRUTH in your writing (emotional not factual truth)
THINK before you click. Avoid doing things which eat into your writing time
USE YOUR HEART, use your soul, not your head, when drafting.
UNDERSTAND. Ask questions read the books, annoy teachers. Accept nothing.
VULNERABILITY is good, honesty is good, truth is good, pain is good.
VIEW THE WORLD through your characters not from outside.
VIEWPOINT can dramatically affect meaning. Think hard. Be consistent.
VOICE, find your voice, and let characters find theirs
WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.
WORK, WORK, WORK
WAIT until the story is trying to burst out
WRITE FIFTY short stories. Learn to write BEFORE you write your novel
WYSIWYG. What you see is what you get stories rarely satisfy.
WINE. When it isn't working relax, take a bath, have a drink, mellow, then gently call the words up. If in doubt read someone who stokes your soul
XAMINE, test, study. Take nothing for granted. Take things apart. Learn.
XPLORE. Try things you wouldn't. Write flashes, to order. Break the mould.
YOU CAN, but it will NOT be easy
ZZZZZ. Who needs sleep? Surprise yourself. Try going to bed very late or getting up very early. The person you are then is closer to the soul.
**British Crime and Literary Fiction Author Alex Keegan is publisher and editor of the British literary magazine, Seventh Quark. He is creator of the five Caz Flood novels: Cuckoo (Headline Books, St. Martin's Press), Vulture, Kingfisher, Razorbill (Headline Books) and A Wild Justice (Piatkus Books) which all feature feisty female private investigator Catherine "Caz" Flood. Cuckoo was published in the U.S. by St Martin’s Press, and was nominated for an Anthony Award as best first novel. His prize-winning short stories have been featured in numerous publications including Mystery and Manners, BBC Radio 4, Blue Moon Review, Southern Ocean Review, and The Atlantic. He is a Contributing Editor for The Internet Writing Journal. You may click here to see all of Alex Keegan's available books on Amazon.co.uk. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog can be found here.