When people talk about writing and editing, they like to spout rules. Don’t use adverbs, don’t use speech tags, don’t start a scene with someone waking up, don’t end a scene with someone falling asleep. Don’t begin a book describing the weather.
Don’t, don’t, don’t.
All the rules are enough to drive a newbie writer to drink–if they weren’t already.
But what people really mean when they make lists of rules that you must follow or else is–find a balance. Everything in moderation.
The problem is with this advice? It’s easier said than done.
Finding your balance, finding your happy place, finding your voice, takes many, many, many, words. Many words. Both reading them and writing them.
You can read editing books all day long, but they won’t help you if you’re not writing, and vice versa. The best way to better your writing is to read editing books, write, ask for feedback on your writing, and then do it all over again.
I’ve given several people my favorite editing and writing resources, but the thing with all these books and all that advice they contain is that you can’t follow all of it.
And you shouldn’t.
If you take everyone’s advice every time you try to write, you’ll never sound like you.
I once read a blog post and the writer was giving some writing advice–rules–and one of them was, never use was more than twice a page. Imagine trying to find your style, writing to find your voice, all the while attempting to eradicate was from your writing. Sometimes you effing need it. (The book I’m reading now averages four a page, by the way. And this is a traditionally published book by a well-known author. Sure, the sample is small; I only highlighted was throughout six pages, but still. The fact that she’s using the word is clear.)
Writing resources are good to have on hand. They can spark ideas, smooth over a sentence you’re having problems with. Help you write that scene you just couldn’t make gel no matter how many times you’ve attempted to rewrite it.
What I recommend is reading these books, marking the advice you know you need because your feedback has indicated it, or because as you’ve been writing you’ve developed a list of naughty words you need to replace or delete in your writing. Words newbie writers lean like, just, that, pretty, really, smiled, sighed, nodded, frowned, shrugged. And any other word or phrase you’ve latched onto without realizing it.
Unfortunately, sometimes you need help, and that is where the feedback from beta readers and your editor’s notes come in. Then you have to develop the skill to make the writing resource suggestions yours.
Stephen King said, if you have to use a word out of a thesaurus, it’s the wrong word.
I used to disagree with this one a lot because when I write, I use a thesaurus on a daily, maybe hourly basis. But what he meant is, and I’m just guessing here, don’t choose a word because it means what you need it to mean. Use the word that sounds like your character.
As you write, you’ll learn your style, find your voice, and you’ll develop the confidence you need to wave off the advice you don’t want to take.
But don’t be arrogant, about how great a writer you think you are because you could turn your nose up at some really great advice that could take your writing to the next level.
Some of my favorite writing resources include:
- The Writer’s Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann
This book is wonderful! Lists upon lists of everything from things your character can do instead of nodding to suggestions on what to use instead of got. This book will also help you identify and delete filler words from your writing and help you show rather than tell by using descriptive words and strong verbs.
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Brown and Dave King
This book has a little bit of everything–from to perfecting your dialogue to knowing when to break up your paragraphs, this is a must-have for writers if the natural ebb and flow of your writing (your voice) is still eluding you.
- Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan
Need a first name? Need a last name? Don’t know what your MMC does for a living? This book contains a million ideas. It’s great to have on hand.
- Naughty Words for Nice Writers by Cara Bristol
Tired of using the word cock? Need something classier than pussy? This book has it! Whether you’re writing an erotica book and all your scenes are starting to sound the same, or you want to add a small sex scene at the end of your contemporary romance book when they finally get together, this book will help you find just the right word!
- Thinking like a Romance Writer: The Sensual Writer’s Sourcebook of Words and Phrases by Dahlia Evans
Another lovely writing source full of descriptions and adjectives, this book will keep your characters’ romantic scenes from turning boring with the same old, same old phrasing.
- Self-editing on a Penny: A Comprehensive Guide by Ashlyn Forge
This is one of the first books I used to help myself start editing after an eye-opening round of beta-reading. She’ll help you cut filler words and stop your head hopping. This book is a must for a beginning writer who is making mistakes that tag him as a floundering new author–something you don’t want to read like if you’re querying.
There are many many books out there, some are good, some are not so good. Some are written by indies who don’t know what they’re doing, and some are written by bestselling authors themselves. But no matter who you read, or how many, writing resources do have a place in your writing learning curve. There isn’t anything I’ve read that hasn’t helped me.
What’s your favorite writing resource? Let me know!