FEELS

A Pair of New Year’s (Writing) Resolutions

I have so far made three attempts to compose a work of fiction. Four, if you count that one I worked on for a couple of weeks in 2013 and then quickly abandoned. All of them were set either on another planet or in some kind of alternate reality, and I didn’t finish any of them. This particular genre is evidently a lot more difficult to write in than most people realize. It helps to adhere to a few guidelines of some type or another.

In addition to Kurt Vonnegut’s ever-useful eight rules of short story writing which I elaborated on earlier, I’d like to add two other rules of my own that I’m presently applying to my fourth (fifth?) literary attempt. The more practical writing experience I get, the more I realize how important these guidelines are. Especially in the speculative fiction genres, where the temptation is always there to go nuts with the worldbuilding.

  1. Do not edit as you write.
  2. Do not exceed 100,000 words on the first draft.
A scene like this, for instance, should not be vividly described in loving detail in prose fiction, unless it’s somehow relevant to the overall plot.

TASTE

Eight Simple Rules

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote down a list of guidelines he personally abided by when writing short stories. I’m trying to keep them in mind with the NaNoWriMo yarn, even though the finished product will presumably be a novel rather than a short story. Brevity is a particular quality in fiction-writing I’m striving to improve upon.

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck 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.