LESSON #10:

MIKE SHULTZ’S WRITING ADVICE


MY FAVORITE WRITING QUOTES
or
GEMS OF WRITING ADVICE




For the past few years, I've collected my favorite bits of writing advice from a few of my favorite authors. Most of them are from Orson Scott Card because two of the best books on writing that I've read are his (How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy and Characters and Viewpoint.) I narrowed the list down to keep it to a couple pages. I'd be glad to hear your favorites--feel free to send them to me.


- Tell the reader the full purpose of what a character is doing as soon as the character knows it himself. (Orson Scott Card)

- A reader doesn't take pleasure in reading a story unless the story feels, at some level, as though it matters. (Orson Scott Card)

- The first trigger to writing a story is to find some situation in the real world that makes you wonder--how would someone deal with this? What if this situation were different? Exaggerate or clarify something from the real world and then insert a character into it and imagine what their responses might be. (Orson Scott Card)

- It is the character's attitude, purpose, experience, and relationship with the other character or characters in the scene that will make it impossible for his or her dialogue to have been spoken by anyone else. That is all the differentiation that is needed, most of the time. (Orson Scott Card)

- If you mess up the opening, nothing you do later in the story will fix it. And because mistakes in the opening reverberate through the rest of the story, when you finally fix the opening you usually have to redo everything after it. You simply have to get the opening right before you can go on. (Orson Scott Card)

- What does the hero have to lose? Who wants to use him, and what about him is worth using? (Holly Lisle)

- Thou shalt have conflict on every page. And if thou wants to sell thy damned story, thou wiltst. (Holly Lisle)

- Reward the careful reader. They will pay attention only if they are rewarded for doing so with little cookies like apt phrasing, witty dialog, incisive description, humorous asides. (David Alexander Smith)

- Punish the careless reader. An author should create text so tight that the reader who skips two or three pages will miss something crucial and backtrack to re-read it. Making him re-read will swiftly persuade the reader to remain engaged. (David Alexander Smith)

- Let the reader have his own emotions. Writers who lack confidence often overkill their situations by telling the reader how to react to them. Readers force-fed feelings either become lazy or rebellious. Readers who feel for themselves become more engaged. (David Alexander Smith)

- "If your story's getting boring, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand." Of course after you've done it you're stuck with explaining why--but in the meantime the reader hasn't got bored and walked away! (Tim Powers quoting Raymond Chandler)

- Always know the light source in every scene. (Tim Powers)

- A character story begins when the main character finds his present situation intolerable and sets out to change; it ends when he either finds a new role or willingly returns to the old one. (Orson Scott Card)

- Readers expect a story to end when the first major source of structural tension is resolved. It's as if you begin the story by pushing a boulder off the top of a hill. No matter what else happens before the end of the story, the reader will not be satisfied until the boulder comes to rest somewhere. (Orson Scott Card)

- The character who suffers pain and the character who inflicts it are both made more memorable and more important. (Orson Scott Card)

- The first time you mention a character's grief, it raises his stature and makes the reader more emotionally involved. But if you keep harping on the character's suffering, the reader begins to feel that the character is whining, and emotional involvement decreases. (Orson Scott Card)

- The first time a writer had the villain jam a burning cigarette into the heroine's hand, the audience gasped. The villain had proved that he not only could cause pain, he would. His next threat was credible again. (Orson Scott Card)

- One of the surest signs of an amateur story is when strange or important events happen around the POV character, and he doesn't have an attitude toward them. (Orson Scott Card)

- I've always liked really short opening lines--something the bookstore browser's eye takes in all at once. I think that's a much more effective grab than a paragraph-long sentence that requires the browser to consciously read in order to absorb. (Robert Sawyer)


BOTTOM LINE: Ponder them!

NEXT: Opening Lines




Lessons List * 1* 2* 3* 4* 5* 6* 7* 8* 9* 10* 11* 12








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