4 Rules for Writing Fiction You Can Ignore

You think you know how to write fiction? You probably don’t. Not unless you follow these four cardinal writing rules.

Remember: some highly successful writers break these rules and still write great stuff. But you are not one of them. It is not possible to break these rules and write great stuff unless you are already a successful writer. Got it? Good.

1. Show, don’t tell

You’re telling me a story, right? Wrong. You need to show me the story. You don’t need a pen and paper or a keyboard — you need a stage. Perform for me, monkey.

You could act out the story, mime it, or come up with a contemporary dance routine. Whatever you do, don’t you dare tell me what happens, because that’s bad writing. It’s boring. What readers really want is a series of ideas which they can interpret in a million and one different ways without fully understanding what your story is all about. Do you understand? Of course you don’t. That’s exactly my point.

Now, there is a very subtle difference between showing and telling when writing fiction, and I’m afraid I can’t share with you what that difference is. Why? Because I have no idea myself. Nobody does. All I know is that “show, don’t tell” is the most repeated mantra known to fiction writers the world over, and we must abide.

2. Never carry dialogue with anything other than “said”

You don’t want your writing to become too pretentious, right? In that case, don’t even think about using anything other than “said” when you’re telling — sorry, showing — us how your characters interact.

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Some Lie and Some Die, Ruth Rendell | Book Review

Warning: I have a bit of a ramble here. If you want to get straight to the review, click here.

I acquired Some Lie and Some Die late last year when I helped my Mum do a mega clear-out in readiness for her to move house. She was saying goodbye to the family home she’d lived in for almost 20 years, so you can imagine there was a fair bit of clutter that had been accumulated, and a great deal of that clutter was books. Glorious books. Continue reading “Some Lie and Some Die, Ruth Rendell | Book Review”

Deadeye Dick, Kurt Vonnegut | Book Review

I love a bit of Vonnegut, but I started reading Deadeye Dick back in 2012 and barely got a quarter of the way through it. I got bored, despite enjoying his trademark one-liners and deliciously scathing tone.

This time around I finished the whole thing in just a couple of days, but those first few chapters were still a bit of a slog. Continue reading “Deadeye Dick, Kurt Vonnegut | Book Review”

Passion for New Projects | Blog

I started a new story this week. A long one. Well, technically it’s a short story, but considering that the majority of tales I write here are under 500 words, it’s gargantuan in comparison.

And I’m so excited about it!

It’s one that came from a daft little scribble in a notebook; a single line that I felt had potential to be something interesting. And now it’s all planned out and a third of the way written and I feel like it’s my wee baby – something to love and nurture and make wonderful. Continue reading “Passion for New Projects | Blog”

I Don’t Know What My Genre Is (Or If It Matters)

Something that I’ve been struggling with recently is defining my genre. Right now, I pitch my tales as “speculative” because this seems to me to be the most professional way to define “weird shit” which is, apparently, what I tend to write.

People have told me I have a “style,” but when I ask them what that style is, they say, “Um, well, I dunno. It’s just kinda weird.” Helpful. Continue reading “I Don’t Know What My Genre Is (Or If It Matters)”

How to Overcome Writer’s Block | Blog

Last year I wrote a blog post about how to overcome writer’s block, in which I recommended ignoring it and writing anyway. I mentioned that I try to adopt the attitude that writer’s block doesn’t exist, because resigning myself to writer’s block only makes the problem worse.

I do still stand by that to a certain extent, but I wanted to expand on it because overcoming writer’s block isn’t always as simple as completely denying its existence. Even if we don’t call it writer’s block, we can agree that there are always fluctuations in our creativity levels, the number of ideas we have, and the amount we write on a regular basis. We’re not all super inspired and eager to write every single day. We all go through phases in which we struggle to write, and it’s perfectly natural and normal.

But what’s the best way of dealing with it? Is overcoming writer’s block possible? Continue reading “How to Overcome Writer’s Block | Blog”

What Querying Feels Like

I’m currently querying my first ever novel. It’s stressful, to say the least. It feels like there’s so much at stake and the thought of getting it wrong is horrifying, never mind the fear that the book is just pure rubbish which no literary agent in the history of time would ever be interested in representing. Okay, we’re getting into rant territory now; focus, Ellie. Continue reading “What Querying Feels Like”

February Reads

February has flown by in a flurry of novel-finishing (finally), querying (ARGH!),  socialising,  and planning for future writing projects. I still managed to cram in three books, and all of them were wonderful.

Since this is the last post of the month, it’s worth mentioning that my posting schedule is set to change from March onwards. I’m planning on posting an extra story each week, and increasing my blogs from monthly to weekly. No, I don’t really have the time, but I can forgo sleep and sanity, right? Continue reading “February Reads”

My Writing Playlist

Do you like to listen to music while you write? I know some find it simply too distracting, while others need some background noise in order to focus. I’ve even come across folk who like to write in loud, busy environments like coffee shops or trains or planes, but I can’t imagine trying to concentrate with other people’s conversations going on around me. Personally, I do like a touch of music when I’m writing, but not while I’m editing. When editing, I need to completely focus on the words, and I find music, particularly music with lyrics, stops me from taking in every sentence and analysing it to the nth degree to check that it reads right. Continue reading “My Writing Playlist”