sjohnston
  • Member for 11 years, 1 month
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  • Minneapolis, MN
The "Rules" of Writing
178 votes

Show, Don't Tell This may very well be the most popular "rule" of writing. It refers to the idea that it's better to "show" an event as a scene, rather than simply "telling&...

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The "Rules" of Writing
99 votes

Cut Adjectives and Adverbs This "rule" is often stated more forcefully as "remove all adjectives and adverbs," but, like most of these rules, I don't think it should be blindly ...

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The "Rules" of Writing
Accepted answer
72 votes

The list so far (alphabetically): Cut adjectives and adverbs Don't go into great detail describing places or things Give yourself permission to suck Know the end before you begin Miscellaneous Show, ...

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I have written my first novel and I think it's ready. What next?
Accepted answer
47 votes

Agents Typically, you would begin querying agents. Agents offer a number of benefits: Some will help you polish up your novel further They know the marketplace and have access to editors at ...

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What are good places to post your work where it will be read by others?
24 votes

Fictionpress is a popular website that allows anyone to upload stories, read those stories, and comment. As the site is wide open, the quality of comments varies wildly, along with the quality of ...

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Good books on writing for comics?
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21 votes

One of the best books you can read on the subject is Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. The book itself is written as a comic, so it can illustrate the techniques it discusses. One of the topics ...

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What's the benefit of using invented languages in-story?
Accepted answer
17 votes

An invented language can be a tool for exposing the traits of a culture. Different languages not only sound different, but they feel different. They shape ideas differently. They are also shaped by ...

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When should a chapter end?
Accepted answer
15 votes

Follow the standard plot arc: conflict, rising action, and resolution. This is often used to describe plots across a whole novel, but it is equally applicable to a single scene. Each scene needs a ...

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What's Essential In A Combat Scene?
13 votes

I've recently been reading an anthology of Robert E. Howard stories. He's a pulp author from the 30s who is known largely for his action-packed adventures. In fact, pretty much every one of his ...

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How long can a writer expect to write before publishing his/her first novel?
10 votes

I would encourage you to not compare yourself to other authors. I understand you're just trying to get a ballpark estimate, but in this case, the ballpark is gigantic. The figures aren't really ...

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Waiting for response to full MS
Accepted answer
9 votes

It's perfectly reasonable to follow up at this point. I've read numerous agents' and editors' opinions on this, and never have I seen anyone claim you should wait longer than three months (one such ...

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Simplicity is fundamental in design. How about in writing a novel?
Accepted answer
9 votes

The answer to this depends a lot on what you're setting out to achieve. In my experience, clarity is most highly valued in genre writing. Plot is often very important in genre writing. Genre writers ...

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How do you avoid purple prose?
9 votes

In its broadest sense, I would define purple prose as excessive and imprecise description. Adjectives and adverbs often qualify, as Final Draft illustrated, because a weak adjective + noun combo ...

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What genre is my writing?
Accepted answer
9 votes

There is significant overlap in genres, and nowhere more so than speculative fiction. There are few hard and fast rules to identifying genre, and one man's Urban Fantasy is another man's Supernatural ...

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Do you always revise your stories or do you sometimes move on?
Accepted answer
9 votes

It is almost always worth editing. Even if it's Murder She Wrote / Star Wars crossover fanfiction that there will never be a market to publish, it's still worth practicing the art of editing. You ...

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How does one go *back* to editing an older piece?
8 votes

Have someone else critique the piece. It doesn't have to be in-depth. It could be a significant other or a critique group. Make it clear you want to know what didn't work for them. (You might have ...

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Keeping track of multiple plot lines
8 votes

Notecards or post-its with chapter or scene summaries are a big help. You can lay them out on the floor or pin them up on the wall to get a visual of your various sub-plots. I know others who create ...

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Do you use the word "that" too much?
Accepted answer
8 votes

Plenty of writers have little tics like this. You may find a turn of phrase that you just fall in love with, or it may be something that carries over from the way you speak. At various points in my ...

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Best humorous exaggerated comparisons
7 votes

Douglas Adams has numerous examples. "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't." "[The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] says that the best drink in existence is the Pan ...

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Are composite characters in creative non-fiction okay?
Accepted answer
7 votes

I would encourage you not to do something you find unethical. The writing will suffer, and it probably won't be worth the rewards to put out a product you regret. I think this article on the subject ...

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How do you make a character quintessential, but not cliched or cartoony?
6 votes

Some of the best advice I've heard on characterization involves the motivations of your characters. It's easy to create characters that are dead-set on a single goal, but this isn't very realistic. ...

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What techniques are used to create non-linear stories?
Accepted answer
6 votes

It seems to me that highly non-linear plots are rather different than simultaneous sub-plots, so I think I will address them separately. Simultaneous Plots When I do longer work, I usually have ...

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How would a source be referenced in the typical paper/book?
Accepted answer
6 votes

As others have mentioned, various institutions prefer different formats. On a broader scale, a particular style is often favored by specific disciplines or groups. (For example, APA is popular in ...

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What should I do to promote my books?
Accepted answer
5 votes

You might consider approaching local bookstores to do readings and/or signings. These types of events let potential readers meet you, and people who might otherwise pass over your book may decide to ...

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Can I self-publish on a reputable publishing platform, and how much would it cost?
5 votes

I suspect the sort of company you are looking for isn't out there, but I will happily retract my answer if someone can point out an example. I would be interested to find out such a company exists. ...

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How Much Can You Make From Writing a Book?
5 votes

I can't really comment accurately on your particular examples, but royalties and payments can become quite complicated. For example, there is often an advance against royalties to consider initially. ...

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How to explain something mid sentence
4 votes

There are three ways to insert an aside mid-sentence like this: Commas: "Laurent and Phil had to go see the Pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, and warn him..." Em or En Dashes (NOT the same as ...

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Where is a good place to find writing prompts?
4 votes

This article describes an interesting system for coming up with infinite writing prompts through Wikipedia.

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Are already privately bound books a deterent for publishing houses?
4 votes

I will defer to some of the editorial folks, who may know better, but I believe you'd be okay. If you head on down to the local Kinkos and get your work bound nicely, nobody will ever know. The main ...

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How to handle foreign military ranks?
3 votes

One option is to implicitly or explicitly translate the ranks. If your characters are, say, German, and presumably speaking German to one another, but you are writing their dialogue in English, then ...

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