Thursday, July 9, 2009

Odds 'n Ends of Advice from Mystery Experts - by Vivian Zabel

I read writing magazines, blogs written by writers and writing experts, and articles about writing. Usually each thing I read gives me at least one nugget of golden advice. Here are a few of my favorites bits and pieces or “odds ‘n ends” of advice.

1. Clive Cussler, The Writer March 1979: Lead readers on and on by ending chapters on a note of mystery. Cut out deadwood. If it isn’t necessary, cut it.

I’m not always consistent about following the advice to end chapters on note of mystery, but I’m getting better.

2. I really like this bit of advice from James Scott Bell, Writer’s Digest March/April 2009, and I use it often: “Relive your scenes. Not rewrite. Relive.” Imagine yourself as the characters living the scene.

3. In the March 2009 The Writer, Staton Rabin writes: “Handle exposition delicately.” He states, “We must never know we are having things explained to us.”

4. Going back almost as far in The Writer history as the Clive Cussler article is the 1985 article by Randall Silvis, who wrote that dialogue draws the reader closer to the action, intensifying it.

5. Nancy Lamb wrote in a Writer’s Workbook, Writer’s Digest March/April 2009, and I’m going to quote the whole paragraph: “Never let the truth get in the way of your story. Creative writing is just that: creative. If the truth prevents you from telling your fictional story effectively, get rid of the facts and invent something that makes the story work.” Wonderful words of wisdom for fiction.

6. According to Gary Braver, The Writer April 2009, “give your hero two quests,” a personal and a public quest.

7. Jessica Page Morrell’s title, Writer’s Digest July/August 2009, is excellent advice: “Keep your story moving at the right pace.”

8. In the February 2009 The Writer, Mary E. DeMuth writes, “Translate your emotional experiences,” and “Get out in the world.”

I’ve given only eight tips out of the hundreds available, but each one gives an author much useful advice. Yes, they are some of my favorite odds ‘n ends of mystery writing advice.

Vivian Zabel
Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap


Vivian Zabel said...

I hope some of my nuggets are helpful to other writers.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Those nuggets apply to more than just the mystery genre, too.
And I've always followed #2 - I live the entire story before I ever begin my outline and story. (And relive as needed.)

L. Diane Wolfe

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This is wonderful advice, Vivian. Thanks so much for sharing. I particularly like the tips on reliving a scene in our heads, the idea of having conflicts be 'quests', and the tip on dialogue's connection to action.

Mystery Writing is Murder

F. M. Meredith, author said...

Good post--we do need to be reminded of these writing tips from time to time.

Thank you.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Morgan Mandel said...

I've got The Writer, Writer's Digest, and some other magazines I get every month, some bimonthly. Too bad I rarely have time to start or even finish them. I need to fit them in sometime since they're taking up space.

Morgan Mandel