Monday, October 4, 2010

A Writers' Group Reconvenes

After taking the summer off, my writers’ group reconvenes this week. We meet once a month on the campus of Eckerd College, most of clutching some sort of caffeine, and discuss our work. We have a moderator; we’ll call her The Moderator. She keeps us on schedule, and if ever a whip needed to be cracked, she would do it. However, we are generally a well behaved group, and to date, she has wielded no weapons.

We are a group of twelve, give or take. There are a few fantasy writers among us and a few who write memoir. There are those who write short stories and those who loath writing short stories. A few of us are outspoken. A few, soft spoken. So in honor of the start of another year with the writers’ group—this will be my third—I thought I’d share, in no particular order, some of my favorite writing tips.

• Adverbs are not your friend. I once heard Steven King say this, so I am inclined to believe it.

• That’s nice writing, but who the *&^% cares – a reminder that the most beautifully crafted sentence will never compensate for a missing plot.

• Write the story you want to read—and before you assume that you have done this, think very carefully about what you like to read.

• Show don’t tell. I think we all know this one.

• Avoid using the word ‘shrug’ 217 times in one manuscript.

• He said, she said, he asked, she asked, and that is it for dialogue tags.

• Write a short story if you want to learn about plot.

• “Remember to get the weather in your god damned book…”—that is from Hemingway, although someone else warned that we not begin with the weather.

• You will never remember the difference between lay and lie, further and farther, sit and set, who and whom, deadly and deathly, accept and except—look it up.

• Irregardless is not a word.

• The only way to sit is ‘down’. The only way to stand is ‘up.’ No need to sit down or stand up. Sit. Stand.

• Imagine it…don’t make it up.

• Felt, saw, thought, looked, noticed, heard, remembered are all signs that you are filtering. Never a good idea.

• Spell check is not a form of revision.

• Though no one talks about them anymore, it’s worth reading up on the four fallacies.

• Every novel has an arch. Every chapter has an arch. Every scene has an arch. Every paragraph has an arch. Every character has an arch.

• Give your characters something to want and something to need and make it difficult for them to get either.

• Begin at the beginning and avoid bathtubs and dreams.

• Putting your character alone on a boat or in a car or on a walk through the forest makes it very tough to conjure conflict.

• Why this day?

• And it’s worth saying again…Adverbs are not your friend.


  1. Dear Ms. Roy,
    Karina sent me your way. She recommended Eckerd's Writers in Paradise to me, where I was given good advice, as well as inspiration, but the best thing to come out of my attendance was connecting with a great person, wonderful writer, and friend, Karina Berg Johansson.

    I enjoyed the tips on your blog, thank you, especially the one about using the weather. I like to set a mood with weather, for example, using light, warmth, cold, or the scents connected to a season.
    I look forward to future posts. Maureen

  2. Loved the felt, saw, etc., comment enough to make a note of it. Thanks.