Monday, March 16, 2009


Here’s a free PDF download of Bob Mayer’s 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes. (Just click on the two links – apparently you don’t need to sign up for the e-newsletter as it says.)
Bob covers a lot of territory in this two-parter, everything from amorphous Not Learning Patience to Letting Your Ego Run Amok to more technical aspects such as Overediting and Not Setting Your Scenes.
To his chapter on Misusing Writer’s Groups, I would add: don’t use them as a forum to air your dirty laundry. I’ve been to too many sessions advertised as critique groups where authors spoke about their personal problems rather than their writing. It’s just not the time or place, and talking about your divorce or operation instead of POV or character arc won’t be well received. It’s also why you shouldn’t Play[ing] Out Your Personal Demons On the Page. You want to cut to the bone of your story, but don’t injure anyone else in the process.
I love the chapter Not Breaking Rules. Yes, it’s important to learn the rules of writing. Then experiment with breaking them. It’s how you’ll find your true voice.
I’d also supplement his Not Having an Idea That’s Different Enough with a bit of advice from contest editors: Write down your story idea. Throw it away. Write down your next story idea. Throw that away, too. Write down the next ten story ideas. Throw all of them away – because if you thought of it, many other writers have, too. We’re never as original as we think we are – I’m as guilty as anyone. I sometimes think I’ve hit upon something really edgy and cool only to find it’s already been done and I’m way behind the curve. However – keep in mind that while there are no original story premises, your presentation of the premise makes all the difference. As T.C. Boyle said: "But then, that’s the beauty of writing stories—each one is an exploratory journey in search of a reason and a shape. And when you find that reason and that shape, there’s no feeling like it."

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