The best writing advice I give is very succinct. Put your butt into the chair and write. There’s no substitute for experience. But since I’m seldom without something to say (ask my husband), I wrote up a random series of:
CHRISTINA DODD’S WRITING TIPS
Plot is important. Characters are more important. Readers must care about the characters. The chief protagonists must march through hell and survive — and triumph!
Major protagonists can do anything, no matter how stupid or trivial, if they’re well motivated.
Motivate your protagonists with *big* things: important issues, dramatic experiences.
Always ask, “What’s the worst thing that could happen to this character?” Then write it!
If your heroine starts the book being a timid, bookish librarian in glasses, by THE END she had better become a wild, passionate, smart adventuress.
If your hero starts out the book as a rude, revenge-driven, sexy, rich brute…hey, I’m a happy reader!
Let me try that again.
If your hero begins as vengeful sexy rich brute, by THE END he had better be tamed by heroine’s love. Still sexy and rich, tho.
Tortured, brooding, sexy, ruthless heroes…I love them. Everyone does. Not really a tip. Truth.
About Ideas and Synopses:
Ideas are everywhere. Watch movies. Read books. Improve bad stories and re-work good ones.
Worried about writing a cliché? Clichés are clichés for a reason.
1. A synopsis is a roadmap of my plot. Want to write quickly? Work out every plot point before you start.
2: Divide your synopsis into chapters so you always know what happens next. Of course, changes happen…
3: A synopsis is a roadmap. Off-roading is encouraged! Change, revise, do anything to improve your story.
Most important: Put your butt in the chair and write.
Very important! Write the book you want to read.
Very, very important! The more you write, the better you get. Yes, there is a learning curve. I wrote two practice books which were never published. So what? I’ve published over sixty novels and novellas since then (my “Books by Series”, and had (and have) a successful career as a writer. Put your butt in the chair and write. A lot!
Very, very, very important! As long as you produce pages, your writing method is the best. Yes, if you’re writing without a synopsis, but the characters and plot is shaping up and you’re putting out pages, IGNORE WHAT I SAID ABOUT SYNOPSES! Ignore everything. You’re the writer. There is no correct way to write.
Had another, less experienced author tell me he was writing crap. I told him, “So write crap!” You can always fix crap. You can’t fix a blank page. Guess what? He published the book. So…hey you! Yes, you! Write crap!
Research is important, but I’ll never get it all right. Just write the book.
Stuck? Change location. Move to bedroom, deck, Starbucks. Don’t know why, but this jogs my brain.
Writer and pal Heather MacAllister says a vacuum cleaner is your best writing tool. Stuck? Think about getting up from your desk and vacuuming (or performing any other hated task) and inspiration fills your brain.
Writer and pal Susan Elizabeth Phillips taught me to set a timer for an hour and write. Don’t get up. Don’t check email, or look at Facebook or Twitter or Goodreads. Don’t answer the phone. Write.
Social media and email too much of a temptation? Write on an Alphasmart Neo. No internet! Are you editing too much? Write on an Alphasmart Neo. Forces forward progress. Yes — I do write most of my original material on an Alphasmart. It’s cheap, light, portable, and restrictive in important ways that work for me. (Note: Since I wrote about this, the company stopped making them. When I need a replacement — I occasionally screw up the keyboard — I buy it online and used.)
Promo is not writing. Blogging not writing. Twitter/Facebook/Instagram is not… Writing=producing pages on book with (self-imposed) deadline.
Writing a sex scene is full of pitfalls. Suggest critique group/editor/much revision. Read about the nuts and bolts of writing sex…
Typos & misplaced modifiers are inevitable. And funny. Again, suggest critique group/editor/much revision. Read about my funniest mistakes…
Motivation can be as easy as an M & M with each paragraph. Whatever works! (Also, you must exercise. Yes. Exercise.)
If your goal is five pages and you don’t make it, don’t yell at yourself. Next day, start new and write five pages. Remember, one page a day equals a book in a year.
Finished your manuscript? Go back and take out half of the stage direction.
Finished your manuscript? Go back and eliminate the “justs” and “suddenlys.”
Author glamour is overrated, especially at Costco in dirt-covered gardening clothes.
Best words in the English language are THE END. Better than “I love you” or “Here’s your royalty check.”
Proof. Eliminate extraneous words. I found this gem in my manuscript: “The expression on his face.”
The mind boggles as to where else she could see his expression.
Also, “The sky above.” “The ground below.” (Where else would they be???)
Don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Quality words on the page don’t matter on the first draft. Quality comes later in revisions. I revise every scene at least five times before the manuscript goes to the editor. Then I revise according to those comments. Then it goes to the copy editor who checks grammar/punctuation/continuity, and I revise again. I spend at least as much time revising as I do writing. Revise! Revise! Revise!
My favorite Christina Dodd book is the one I just finished or the one I haven’t started. Never the one I’m working on.
Misc. Writing Tips:
Opinion: the best writing book Chris Vogler’s WRITER’S JOURNEY. Problems? Flip open to any page and get immediate help.
Win a contest? Finish a 1st chapter? Or a book? Re-publish a long out-of-print collectable novel? (LADY IN BLACK) Celebrate with ice cream, a nice glass of wine, an evening out, or whatever makes you happy!
Selling your first book is An Occasion that will never come again. Celebrate! I took the family to DisneyWorld.
Some stories are hard to write, some easy. Doesn’t matter, doesn’t effect how the book is received.
Don’t sweat reviews; good or bad, it’s just an opinion.
The book of your heart is important, but if you want a writing career, your heart had better be TEEMING with books.
Recap of the Most Important Writing Tips:
The book of your heart is important, but if you want a writing career, your heart had better be TEAMING with books.
As long as you produce pages, your writing method is the best.
My printable book list sorted by genre, series and in order.
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