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Allen Guthrie's Infamous Writing Tips

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rhondawrites

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19. This sounds like silly, insincere "advice" in a list of useful, sincere advice. Does the author really mean this? If so, it's completely absurd, like unironically saying "never write an action scene without ninjas or zombies." I guess perhaps the intent was to say "Don't have unnecessary sex scenes just for the heck of it."

I think what he means by this rule is that by not allowing the characters to actually sleep together you keep tension in the story. Which, in a way, is saying you shouldn't throw in sex scenes for the heck of it. So nevermind. :e2paperba
 

Smoothee

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Being a newbie. I am going to redo each chapter of my novel and apply. Wow!!!! This is gonna be fun to do now. Like homework.
 

Kishaz

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Rule #33:
Don't abuse rule #32 as a justification for your own laziness. :'D

Fantastic tips, I must say! Extremely helpful.
 

dgiharris

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great list. 32 rules we would all do well to remember :D

Mel...
 

erica_henry

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Thank you so much for this. I just printed it out actually to serve as a reminder. I know that #12 is a problem of mine. I tend to write my first draft in several POV. When I go back to do my first edit I chose which fit I like better. It would be more beneficial to me to just go with 1 POV in the beginning and change all of it if needed.

#18 is difficult for me to. I tend to leave out a lot of action in my first draft and fill in later. I am not sure if I like that method or should write a chapter over and over till I feel that it is important. Lately I've been free writing novels without editing at all and then when it is finished I go back as many times as necessary to achieve the novel that I want.
 

Dikaiopolis

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All These Downloads and Yet...

nobody noticed the typo in #22? I am sure he meant 'combining' not 'combing';)

Of course, having spotted that, now I am afraid people will think my talent is for copy editing, not writing;)
 

Torill

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Some good advice here. Like several of the other posters on this thread I wouldn't call them rules - but since the original poster talked about how fun it is to break rules and included #32, I suppose there's no reason to argue that point!

I believe there are only two rules in writing:

1) Know exactly what you want to achieve with whatever you choose to include in your text. Every element of language achieves something (yes, even adverbs...) - be sure it is what you want.
2) Don't bore the reader.

Rule #1 of course means you need to learn what all the different elements of language and all the different writing styles etc. etc. tend to do to a text. That's how the advice in this thread and many other places are so helpful. They offer tools, not rules.

I know I still get a lot of these things wrong. I may create distance when I meant to create intimacy. Or the other way around. Slow down the narrative when I meant to speed it up. Write too concise when I should be more contemplative. And so on...

Hopefully, I am getting the hang of it. Slowly.
 

FallenAngel

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8: Show, don’t tell. Much vaunted advice, yet rarely heeded. An example: expressing emotion indirectly. Is your preferred reader intelligent? Yes? Then treat them accordingly. Tears were streaming down Lila’s face. She was very sad. Can the second sentence be inferred from the first? In context, let’s hope so. So cut it. If you want to engage your readers, don’t explain everything to them. Show them what’s happening and allow their intelligence to do the rest. And there’s a bonus to this approach. Because movies, of necessity, show rather than tell, this approach to your writing will help when it’s time to begin work on the screenplay adaptation of your novel!


24: Cut out filtering devices, wherever possible. ‘He felt’, ‘he thought’, ‘he observed’ are all filters. They distance the reader from the character.

30: Pronouns are big trouble for such little words. The most useful piece of information I ever encountered on the little blighters was this: pronouns refer to the nearest matching noun backwards. For example: John took the knife out of its sheath and stabbed Paul with it. Well, that’s good news for Paul. If you travel backwards from ‘it’, you’ll see that John has stabbed Paul with the sheath!


32: If something works, forget about the rule that says it shouldn’t.

I have some doubt and confusion on these.

8. There's an article that states how to balance both which was discussed in the following thread.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=184286

If this is the case. Shouldn't the writer try and focus on balancing both show and tell?

24. How can I point out the characters thoughts after a specific event?

like for example.

Vegeta powers up causing the earth to shake.
"His power is growing" <---this would be Goku's thoughts.

What would be the correct way to point this out?

The only thing that comes to mind is

Vegeta powers up causing the earth to shake.
"His power is growing" Goku thought.

This is something I should post in another thread I guess for a faster response.


30. I Honestly can't tell the difference. I as a reader will assume it was the knife. It is obvious what the author intended us to read. However, let's say I apply the rule.

Would the correct way be.

John unsheathed his knife and stabbed Paul with it.

32. I guess I should apply this rule to 8 due to the link I mentioned here.


Over all I found the rules incredibly helpful. Answered many of the questions I had. Indeed AW is a treasure trove for writers.
 

Aphotic Ink

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24. How can I point out the characters thoughts after a specific event?

like for example.

Vegeta powers up causing the earth to shake.
"His power is growing" <---this would be Goku's thoughts.

What would be the correct way to point this out?

The only thing that comes to mind is

Vegeta powers up causing the earth to shake.
"His power is growing" Goku thought.

I usually just mark them in italics, if I'm going to directly quote a character's thoughts. Ideally, even if I'm writing in the third person, my POV should be clear enough that the reader can tell whose thoughts I'm quoting.

That said, the reader's been told what's going on (so I don't need Goku's thoughts to tell them), and I'd probably go for reaction if the thoughts were just a rehash. "Goku was horrified by the new threat Vegeta posed," or something. Or else if it's not obvious why Goku's thinking about it, segue to why he cares:

Brad watched as Alice parked the car and got out. She has driven here. The thought was oddly calming; clearly she was recovering from having run over the werewolf three weeks ago.

L&c,
F
 

FallenAngel

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I usually just mark them in italics, if I'm going to directly quote a character's thoughts. Ideally, even if I'm writing in the third person, my POV should be clear enough that the reader can tell whose thoughts I'm quoting.

That said, the reader's been told what's going on (so I don't need Goku's thoughts to tell them), and I'd probably go for reaction if the thoughts were just a rehash. "Goku was horrified by the new threat Vegeta posed," or something. Or else if it's not obvious why Goku's thinking about it, segue to why he cares:

Brad watched as Alice parked the car and got out. She has driven here. The thought was oddly calming; clearly she was recovering from having run over the werewolf three weeks ago.

L&c,
F

Ah ok, thanks ^^
 

Her Dark Star

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First advice post of the board I've read and I think i need to print them off and hang on them on the wall next to my computer. And rewrite everything. Darn.
Good stuff, mostly already aware of them but being aware and actually applying them is a different matter! Great summary.
 

branchwag

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Funny, I realized after reading this that I was using oblique dialogue without really knowing what it was and now that I see it in my work, I notice how it guides the plot along so well. The reader is constantly bugged by unanswered questions and reads on in hopes of finding out what the character means. I'm so glad my characters are so mysterious and vague. Otherwise, I probably would have never used such a style of dialogue.
 

Sydneyd

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I am going through now and searching for all my usages of Just. It is really one of those words that sneaks up on ya.
 

Jill Karg

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Check for as well as, since, then and when too. Your imagination runs a bit wild when you replace those words...lol

and take out he said, ...... and replace it with action in front of the quote.

example he said, "Go away."
He paced in front of the teenager. The sound of the gum chomping and snaping echoed in his ears. "Go away. Just go away."

Was best advice I was ever given was to get rid the he said and she said in a sentence. By the way the most challenging to, I had a character named Simon. Kept laughing everytime I removed Simon said.
 

Eric Vincent

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Fundamental Flaw

Several of these "rules" are completely ridiculous, but Mr. Guthrie gets off to a particularly bad start with his example in #1.

Removing the word "down" absolutely alters the meaning of the phrase - and that's another thing: Guthrie refers to it as a sentence, but it's not; it's actually a sentence fragment. So right off the bat, I'm supposedly receiving writing lessons from someone who cannot be bothered to exercise succinctness in the terminology he employs. Not a positive omen.

Back to that sentence fragment. When one hunts something down, that implicitly implies the hunt is successful, or imminently will be.

But when you remove the word down, one is now merely hunting for something, with no indication of anything being done but just passively hunting.

Some here will inevitably claim this distinction is too subtle to be pointed out. But if you were to compose a 100K-word manuscript without consideration to that level of subtlety, that lack of sophistication will arrive at the surface and become obvious rather soon into your narrative.

YMMV
 

Bufty

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If by removing a word, the intended meaning of your sentence is lost, then use your common sense and don't remove that word.

Yes - it is that simple.


And if you consider several of his suggestions to be ridiculous - go your own merry way and don't pay any attention to them.


Several of these "rules" are completely ridiculous, but Mr. Guthrie gets off to a particularly bad start with his example in #1.

Removing the word "down" absolutely alters the meaning of the phrase - and that's another thing: Guthrie refers to it as a sentence, but it's not; it's actually a sentence fragment. So right off the bat, I'm supposedly receiving writing lessons from someone who cannot be bothered to exercise succinctness in the terminology he employs. Not a positive omen.

Back to that sentence fragment. When one hunts something down, that implicitly implies the hunt is successful, or imminently will be.

But when you remove the word down, one is now merely hunting for something, with no indication of anything being done but just passively hunting.

Some here will inevitably claim this distinction is too subtle to be pointed out. But if you were to compose a 100K-word manuscript without consideration to that level of subtlety, that lack of sophistication will arrive at the surface and become obvious rather soon into your narrative.

YMMV
 
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Jill Karg

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If by removing a word, the intended meaning of your sentence is lost, then use your common sense and don't remove that word.

Yes - it is that simple.


And if you consider several of his suggestions to be ridiculous - go your own merry way and don't pay any attention to them.


Buf,

Love your comment. I was thinking it almost wrote it and said aw shucks doesn't matter what we say he will have his opinion any old way.

I knew most of what was stated in this thread but like everyone fall into traps that I am constantly rewriting to avoid. Still do it on first draft though...lol
 

Maxinquaye

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Several of these "rules" are completely ridiculous, but Mr. Guthrie gets off to a particularly bad start with his example in #1.

Removing the word "down" absolutely alters the meaning of the phrase - and that's another thing: Guthrie refers to it as a sentence, but it's not; it's actually a sentence fragment. So right off the bat, I'm supposedly receiving writing lessons from someone who cannot be bothered to exercise succinctness in the terminology he employs. Not a positive omen.

Back to that sentence fragment. When one hunts something down, that implicitly implies the hunt is successful, or imminently will be.

But when you remove the word down, one is now merely hunting for something, with no indication of anything being done but just passively hunting.

Some here will inevitably claim this distinction is too subtle to be pointed out. But if you were to compose a 100K-word manuscript without consideration to that level of subtlety, that lack of sophistication will arrive at the surface and become obvious rather soon into your narrative.

YMMV

You get that if you remove 'ting' from the word 'hunting', which is basically what you're speaking of. A neoplasm is a compound verb which is uneccessarily convuluted - and a neoplasm is often an Americanism and not really a part of Standard English.

Or, to put it more plainly, you do not chop of a part of the compund verb. You remove the compound verb for a better, stronger verb.

You do not hunt down the neoplasms, you remove them.
 

AEFerreira

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Some of these are excellent, especially 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, definately 9, 14, 21, 22, and 27.

However, there are a few I *politely* disagree with as rules, even rules that can be broken, because they disregard legitimate aspects of what might be a writer's style or what is appropriate to some stories.

#2: generally, yes, dialogue should work on several levels. But I disagree with conflict at all times. Although conflict is important to a story, there are many, many other human experiences worth writing about than conflict during the course of a novel.

#6: A speech should be as long as a speech needs to be.

#8: I think there is a balance between showing and telling. Some telling is very effective, when done in the right place. And sometimes showing is tedious to a reader when it is not something important. A good book, however, does have more showing than telling (and his example is a good one of where to show and not tell).

#11: I disagree with this strongly. In some books the writer is going to be nearly invisible, and that is a choice. I personally prefer books where I can hear the writer / narrator and feel like I am in a storyteller / listener relationship with them. I want to know there is real storyteller behind the story. Great turns of phrase and great style that fits the story, are also are part of a pleasure of a book. I think writers get in trouble when they try to be impressive for their own ego rather than reader's delight, but there should not be anything wrong with having a distinct voice and style or an involved narrator. This is why I have a personal preference for well done 1st person and 3rdOmniscent narratives over Limited Third - stronger narrative voice. The best writing, for my enjoyment, is when the narrator is visible and engaging the reader in a relationship.

#12: The only important thing with POV is that it is intentional, with good reasons behind it, and clear to the reader. "Headhopping", zooming in and out within a scene, etc, are all legitimate style choices that have been used very effectively by many authors, even if they aren't as popular right now.

#19 just depends on the story.

I guess #32 is the most important of all.

Overall, though, there are a lot of good things on that list. But nothing that should be taken as commandments, just suggestions for what might be needed to improve a weak piece of writing.
 

darkangel77

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Great tips! Found that I'm very guilty of #29...my characters grin, shrug, and smile all the time...time to fix it, lol.
 

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