I’m a Bit of a Perfectionist

Undiscovered by Dellani Oakes - 200I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I qualify that because looking around my house, you wouldn’t know it. Perfectionist isn’t to be confused with OCD, though I fall prey to that on occasion. I am, however, a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my writing.

Finding the right word delights me. I can spend hours poring over my work, reading and perfecting. Sometimes, I find things that shock me – as I did with something I read over a couple days ago. There were bits and pieces in there that sounded as if they’d been written by someone else. I was appalled. Needless to say, I fixed it immediately.

As compulsive as I am with being precise in written form, I am equally precise when I speak. I found out long ago that being precise leaves the speaker in a stronger position. This has come in handy as a teacher and parent. Try as they might, they will try to get around it, but if I’ve said exactly what I mean, it’s much harder to creatively interpret it. Giving them very little wiggle room has saved me a lot of grief.

Treat your readers the same way. Be exact and say what you mean. Do not be vague. Try not to leave your readers guessing. Why? Because otherwise your message is lost and the audience is confused. Choose words carefully. Keep your voice strong and don’t be repetitive. Keep it simple, avoiding long, flowery passages. These may amuse the author, but a reader loses interest. Describe things fully, but don’t over describe. Many readers are put off by long, descriptive passages. Find a balance between dialogue and narrative.

In fact – be a perfectionist.

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Writing Tips from Four Famous Authors by B.Y. Rogers

A few minutes ago, not more than twenty, I was checking my Twitter messages and one of the tweets caught my eye. I clicked on it (imagine that!) and it led me to the Facebook page of Reno Pete. I scrolled down the page and noticed a link to a blog called Brain Pickings. I have run across this blog once before but this particular link made me stop so I clicked on it. It brought me to a post concerning writing tips. The blog offered writing tips from Kurt Vonnegut with links to more tips by David Ogilvy, Henry Miller, and John Steinbeck.  I quickly opened the links and copied them into my Evernote file. I then went to bed but my mind was racing and I knew I would not fall to sleep until I read these tips carefully.

I do not know what to make of them. Some are obvious, some I need to think about. In any case, I think each of the tips are valuable to authors who, like me, are still perfecting their craft (are we ever finished?).  So here they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. I have not attributed them as I should, but the link to the original blog is above. If you want to know who said what, please click on that link. There is another link to even more writing tips, in the Kurt Vonnegut blog post, but as they are mostly business related and not fiction writing, I did not provide the link here.

My favorite tips are in bold.

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Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

Write the way you talk. Naturally.

Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

Start as close to the end as possible.

Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Work on one thing at a time.

Don’t be nervous. Work Calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is at hand.

Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time.

When you can’t create, you can’t work.

Cement a little every day rather then add new fertilizers.

Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

Don’t be a draught horse! Work with pleasure only.

Discard the Program when you feel like it. But go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.

Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.