Friday, May 20, 2011

Things Writers Worry About...And Shouldn't

1. My chapters are too long/short.

I've read books with no chapters (Terry Pratchett) and 80 chapters (James Lovegrove). There is no hard and fast rule and breaking your book down into chapters is more of an art than science as well as being down to personal preference. As a corollary, don't worry about using numbers or titles for the chapters. Neither method is wrong or right.

2. I can always see something that can be improved or changed.

And you always will. Every writer can see things in their published books that they could change and improve, but you just have to let it go. If you're worrying about a comma or a phrasing, you're worrying too much. If you're concerned about whether a scene should be there or not then you may want to take a look at it. On the other hand, if your book's been published, just watch the money pour into your bank account and do it better next time.

3. My grasp of English (or whatever language) isn't good enough.

It is good enough. If you doubt me, read a Stephen King book and see how many colourful or long words he uses. It's not what you know, but how you use it.

4. My paragraphs are too long/short.

If you have one sentence per paragraph you are using journalistic style, whereas if you have one page per paragraph you are using academic style. How large a paragraph should be is another aspect of writing that is more of an art than a science and it depends a lot on your style and the context. If you want a rule of thumb, 'one thought per paragraph'. Finish describing an action or thought process before moving onto the next paragraph.

5. Should I use US or UK spelling?

If you live in the UK, use UK spelling, if you live in the US use US spelling.

6. How do I get ideas?

Look around you. See those kids walking to school: are they innocent or cooking up a plot to kill their teacher? Are they planning to bully someone or wondering what really happened to their friend Suzy at the party? What has an old tree seen happen under its branches? What is the REAL story behind the news? Take your time to look around, ask questions and the more you do that the easier it will be to have ideas.

Enjoy your weekend.


Ted Cross said...

I do short chapters for the most part. I think I had around a hundred chapters in my first book.

Martin Willoughby said...

Wow. 100. If it works, it works.

Elise Elleneth said...

A very informative to me Mr. Martin :) I am just a simple and had no idea about writing (no lesson taken yet). All my learning is came from my own; compare and differentiate all the books I read. I tried to learn something from other works but not copied (ideas) because my principle is "Originality is the best". So I don't know how and what to start that never or not too obvious similar to any story. I noticed about mine that I narrate a lot and deliver. But I want to write all what's on my mind because i want my readers understand right away or could imagine what I ma trying to. Hoped I could make a book but I have all the limitation. Many so I will not mention :) And tried my best as English not my language.

Martin Willoughby said...

Elise, your English is fine, and if you keep practising you'll get better. If you want to get a better grasp of english, try reading Stepehn King. He uses simple language but puts a lot of meaning into it.

Good luck.