The most important highlights from the e-book (read this morning, very quickly) – Art & Craft of Writing: Secret Advice for Writers by Victoria Mixon. E-book is free.
1. Meaningless dialog doesn’t count.
“Good morning. How are you?”
“I’m fine. How are you?”
“I’m fine. Did you get my email?”
“Yes, I got your email. Did you get my answer?”
“Yes, I responded.”
You know what our reader wants to know? What’s in the email. That’s all.
2. Rambling, unspecific, cliché description doesn’t count.
“Readers don’t waste time. They want excitement, they want it big, and they want it now.”
3. Straight-forward unexplained action counts.
“Honestly, nobody cares what happens. All they care is that it’s vivid, detailed, and unexpected.”
4. Surprising, inexplicable dialog counts.
“It wasn’t your bottle in the first place.”
“But there are eggs everywhere!”
“Besides which, bottles are outside the Law of Possession.”
“Listen, my Uncle Eunice threw up in that bottle.”
“What kind of name is Uncle Eunice?”
Characters speaking at cross-purposes drive each other crazy. And that’s how the reader likes them—chocked to the eyeballs on conflict!
What does it mean? Who knows?
But it’s clear, it’s concrete, and the reader can experience those details through their own senses.
Fiction is nothing but an experience for the reader.
5. A single line of original, unexpected exposition is worth a thousand words.
“Even waxed wings couldn’t help her now.”
It doesn’t need to make sense, only be exciting!
And this is the big secret: the reader is only interested in ONE PAGE AT A TIME!
We must make every single one a page worth reading—load it with tactile experiences, visceral action, thought-provoking dialog—and the reader will be happy.
6. Mistakes: too many protagonists.
“It’s everybody’s story, which means it’s nobody’s story, which means the reader has no one to identify with, and the reader’s real life echoes louder in their head than the call of our story.”
You must pick a protagonist!!
7. Surprise the reader!
“Curiosity killed the cat, and it will kill our reader too, and they will love it!“
That’s how good our ‘surprise’ must be: worth trading their life for. Because they actually are giving up a piece of their life to us—hours of time that they could spend doing something else—and they will never get that piece back again.
The thing about curiosity is that the reader doesn’t know what the heck is going on…
Amateur peer critiques are always telling each other: “I don’t understand what’s going on here!” Of course they don’t. That’s why they have to keep reading!
8. Be FUN!
We’re not just surprising. We’re not just mysterious. We’re not even just chock-o-block full of fabulous, riveting conflict and an endless series of quite intelligent and forceful attempts to resolve those conflicts. We’re fun to hang out with!
“We’re secretive—then honest. We’re twisted—then straight-forward. We’re subtle—then heartrendingly naked.”
This is charm, people. This is addictive charisma!
You know what’s the best kind of book to write? The kind that gets little rips in the bottoms of the pages from readers turning the pages too fast.
On every single page: Make something exciting happen!!
9. You know what nobody wants to read?
A novel about people being boring. We must write fiction that’s thrilling and entertaining enough to get attention even in this era of inescapable stimuli. Fiction that our reader reads because they simply can’t help themselves!
10. The technique: resonance.
This is the simplest technique ever, but aspiring writers rarely know about it. Resonance is that wonderful reverberating feeling inside the reader that makes their whole body feel like it’s been gong’d. Gonging a reader is putting them between two large brass gongs and giving it a hearty whangngngng!!!!
Great novels always have Resonance. The reader reels back in their chair at the end shrieking: “That was toooooooo fabulous!”
11. Add Mystery!
“…but clear clue to our Climax somewhere near the very beginning, then spending the rest of the novel drawing the reader’s attention away from it. This is why mystery writers have to put the culprit in the first 1/4-1/3 of the novel.”
The simplest technique ever!
There is one thing I would like to add to this. As a student screenwriter 11 plus years ago, there can be a clot in the scene of dialog. Having 3 or more characters talk in 1 scene can leave the readers confused. Sure, it is less evident I screenwriting, but more obvious in novel form.
yes, true. I agree with you on that, sometimes it is necessary tho, but it should be clear then who is talking and the dialogues shouldn’t be tooooo long 🙂 to get lost is easy haha
If it is not necessary for the story advancement, don’t add a line for nother character just to be cute. Many do and it just sounds out of place even when you have it read out loud to you. Over the years, I have developed my own ways of inking out the unnecessary things. And, the only way is through editing. And, editing. And, more editing. Some of my stories are on its 2nd edit. I have just recently turned back to writing full time and spent much of the time making certain that the mistakes I made 11 years are limited or nonexistent.
Yes, we all wanna make our characters cute and lovable.. The thing is I’m personally writing a weird (odd) dialogues, ppl doesn’t talk like this in real life…and I often think it is OK (probably not so cute, but def stop-right-now-sign). But probably all depends on the genre too. Sometimes when 3-4 heroes are talking in the novel it is really hard to follow who is who and what they really want.
Editing is depressing, but necessary. I do edit right now. And it’s almost like re-writing haha
Anyway, I don’t know a shit. It is mostly for fun.
Thanks for sharing your views 🙂 good luck with your stories (scripts).
Do what you love
Yep that’s what Ray Bradbury says 😂 too
I am excited by this post! I added the ebook to my Kindle Cloud Reader from Amazon for free and will get into it sooner or later. Victoria Mixon is looney; perhaps delightfully so, I can’t tell yet, but it would take a looney of SOME kind to write a book titled “A Girl and Her Slug, A Boy and His Slime: A Tale of Tentacles and Sentient Puddles (Monster College Book 2),” surely.
Some of the rules you excerpted for us are expressed in extremes that I want to quibble with; but as working rules of thumb, especially for a first draft, they look like pure gold. Thoreau expresses the wish that he might be extreme enough in his statements, if only to wake his neighbors up. A fiction writer might aim for the same goal; the result can always be toned down later.
Ron Judkins has a similar idea: “One person who is willing to be excessive can achieve more in an hour than fifty reasonable people can achieve in a year.” This is from his invaluable book that is my current “bible” on creativity, called The Art of Creative Thinking: 89 Ways to See Things Differently.
Thanks, RNB, for putting me on to Victoria Mixon.
“A Girl and Her Slug, A Boy and His Slime”?? Really? Haha
It was more info in that e-book, but I’ve picked only the most important for the aspiring author or those who r writing the first novel ever, just like me. It is kinda a good reminder.
I think I’ve seen the title somewhere, I mean – The Art of Creative Thinking: 89 Ways to See Things Differently – I’m going to check.
And everybody has own way of expressing and “seeing” things. I kinda agree with Ron Judkins, but I’m not sure I’m excessive one. eh
This is so helpful! Thank you for posting this Ray. Means a lot to me, like seriouslyyyy thank you!!!! :)))) I have to reblog this, is that alright?
perfect 🙂 and thank you :)))!!
Reblogged this on IdeaProvoker and commented:
This is absolutely a must-read! Love this post as much as I love this beautiful writer from Sweden, Ray 🙂
Thank you ALOT :)it is truly great info.. and have a great weekend !!! Hugs
Hemingway sometimes deliberately omits speaker identifications where a reader’s uncertainty is inevitable. I don’t know what to make of that.
Oh only Hemingway knows lol but I’m sure he says that the expression/language of the hero doesn’t always tell/explain/or show to the reader who the hero really is.
I’ve always hated that about Hemingway. Always very abstract.
I don’t know. Before, when I was in the school, I didn’t like him much. Ah…I wanted to be a Byron lol (when I was 11-12).
Right now I prefer Hemingway’s style more. It is simple and direct. I like simple.
Apple-Rae sent me and now I’m following you. This is the best thing I’ve read all day. Thanks! Will take this advice seriously and attempt to implement. Looking forward to more of your posts…advice or not.
thank you 🙂 glad you enjoyed! And welcome welcome :)) only be prepared for the weird stuff sometimes, and hope you are 18+ haha
That makes your blog sound even better! I’d seen your comments on Apple Rae’s blog before, but since you weren’t actually Ray Bradbury I never checked you out. I’m not Ray Bradbury either.
Haha 😂 being Not-Bradbury isn’t that bad 🙂 now we r 2 lol 👋😬
Interesting take on novel writing. Thanks for the post, Ray.
I felt I have to share with the WP-world and newbies like me 🙂
Deep down there is good advice there that is learned through experience. I always wonder when I read advice on how to write, do you hold the book in one hand and write with the other? 😀
I don’t know. I think they kinda “outline” it, just as a usual book. For example I read how some non-fiction writers work and usually they pick 6-10 books, brainstorm the chapters for the ideas, analyze some maybe. Then make a plan (huge), adding quotes = here is is! The book 😉
I HATE superfluous dialog. In books. In real life. When a customer calls my store and asks “how are you?” I just want to say “you don’t care I am. You want to ask for something… JUST ASK! Because, honestly, I don’t care how you are either!” 😂😂
I guess me too. I think “how r u” is necessary in the novel only if the next move/word is totally unexpected or scary or funny = emotional.
dude the end quote!!!! SOOOO TRUEEE.
👋😉 oh yes!! True 🙂 how is weekend going? Editing something new or just chilling?
studying. exams on the way and all.
Oki…not bad too 🙂 even if boring sometimes 😴 & good luck with that! 👋
thank u i guess.
goodluck with that book, ray
Lol it will take a while 🤸♀️😅 cuz I’m not in rush here haha 🙂 thx 👋😀
I wouldnt be in a rush either. i m writing one during holidays and DO I HAVE PLANS FOR THAT!!!!!
Cool 🙂 👍👍 I’m sure it will be fantasy and..romantic 😉✌️
hahahaha!!! this genuinely made me laugh! 🙂
Some nice advice in here. The only idea I take exception to is “pick a protagonist.”
Recently some of my favorite reads have had 2 protagonists and I think it makes for a layered novel.
My current WIP has 2 protagonists who at times are antagonistic to each other but they also have their own nemesis.
Yes I’m sure, can have 2 🙂 but often it is 1 protagonist & 1 antagonist. It was more in the book about it.
I think it is easier associate ourselves with 1 protagonist (but we can love & relate to more heroes).
This is terrific. I am not a “writer” but in terms of what I like to read all of your points are pertinent and important. I read little fiction but even in non fiction the same advice applies. I just finished reading a book of the history of the Lipizzaner horse during WW2. It was a real page turner! There were nights ( I always read at bed time) I could not put the book down. There were chapters that read like an action movie. Basically is was just very…very…good writing.
Yes it is difficult to create a good book …to think about all the details and plus the reader.
If u couldn’t put the book down – that’s a real success for the writer:))
I’m going to write a review of it now that I’ve finished it.
Awesome! U must because you can give a better view (feel) to all the readers bcz u know the subject well.
Hey Ray: My post comes down tomorrow (Paul delivers a new message.) But if you take the time to read it, you’ll understand MOST of what happens going forward. Just sayin.
Of course I’m going to check/read. ☀️😀👋
What gone? It was there yesterday
Read About section. I’m still laughing over your latest post!!!
I can’t see it through the phone bcz when I press on web it is saying “no post” & nothing else. I have to check it on laptop and I’m outside with the dogs now. I’ll check at home. Maybe I have to check on the reader here, I’ll see
I remove all my posts in 48 hours. I don’t exist to pressure you. WP is all about fun…which your latest post clearly illustrated! LOL! More later!
But why?…r u going to post new?
New one up at random moments. Thanks for chatting!
Holy crap you have 2,000 ++ followers? How long you been doing this?
Yeah I don’t know why tho… mmm I’ve started 6 December 2016, then in April 2017 I’ve abandoned it for 6-7 month (deleted WP app, never checked), then I got back in January 2018 again. So now I’m here.
Awesome tips, thank you.
Love this post. A lot of thought and effort has been put into this. Thank you for this.
Very useful. You should write a story to illustrate each point and then sell that on Amazon. 🙂
Lol it’s mostly for my followers 😂😉 cuz I care u know 😎😎😬😬 I’m the teacher of literature I know the most of it.
What you just said makes me realise that I don’t know what you are. Are you really a teacher? Just being nosy. 🙂
Yes I worked in high school/gymnasium 🙂 9 years of school-4 years of college-6 years university-9 years teaching. Then I had a break 10 years lol now I’m officially a blogger 🙂 and who knows maybe one day a writer too
You’ve had a busy life! 🙂 You ever miss the kids?
Nope lol 😂
I get they miss you. 😉
yep 🙂 but they have own families now :)… so they are busy haha
Ah yes – family. Is family an important part of life if you’re Russian? I mean, I get that it’s important anyway, but more important?
yeah, you have to do what your parents says.. it is a bit like in India haha
You’ve been to India too? 🙂
Was a Nice Xmas trip :))
I loved literature more than kids 🙂
Who doesn’t! 🙂
But I had no choice so I became teacher 😉
I wanted be a librarian haha
Really? Well, why not! 🙂
Because the college for ‘teachers’ was in my town, and for librarians – in another. And my mum would never allow it to go to college in another city when I was only 15yo.
And yes, I’m THAT old 😂😂😂👋
I think you posted somewhere that you are 40 – that sounds about right. 🙂
Yep 🙂 I am.
Nice. It’s a lovely age – you shuck off the burden of body and ascend to the throne of mind.
yep 🙂 I’m fine with any age… it is what it is. Happy to be here 🙂
Great mantra for life – ‘it is what it is’. I like that very much.
Ojooooj. This sounds like a definition of click-bait culture or a terrible teen novel series. 🙁 If she wants to put me between the gongs, she would need a bit more than is listed here. All that writing advice… I better not read a single thing like that if I ever wish to write anything.
🙂 first – it is a free ebook, she doesn’t sale anything, but sure she’s probably expecting ppl to check her out. But it doesn’t matter. Some – do, some – don’t. The book is collection of the most viewed posts from her blog (for ex one post-100,000 views). I personally saw it one morning while googling lol and bcz it was free I’ve checked it straight away = read & I thought it is not so bad ‘basics’. Because some ppl doesn’t have basics at all, and then …yep, as a result you have to read those terrible teen novels lol
To write – you have to be talented + to know the basics + to have a lot of practice. The advices there, in that book, are quite harsh but I think it isn’t sooo bad. I read so many “yes-no” dialogues (just an example) in the writings on the blogs…I have no desire to spend my life on this,” – I think & move on. BUT could this person improve a little bit? Yes. Maybe. If he/she knew the basics. Because then you can come up with the own rules or go against the rules 🙂
The writing advices are very personal thing of course. I can come up with my own, but I would never tell how I’m writing bcz …some secretes should stay secrets forever 🙂
The gongs is funny tho haha sometimes I can feel it in the books, very seldom tho. The older we are – the less gongs we can hear.
About click-bait…maybe (some way), but I don’t care.
“The older we are – the less gongs we can hear.” That’s true! And not really fair! 😀 But it might be that those that we do hear, really shake us up. My problem with all this advice is that when a writer follows any sort of ad-hoc advice, the reader can tell and it’s not pretty. I’m amazed at how many books you read that I wouldn’t touch with a nail of my pinky. It reminds me of my amore who has the maximum amount of Facebook friends. He says he is studying humanity. Pfffff! Instead, I’m searching for the gongs. 🙂
I guess we hear less*, because we have bigger experience (again: because we r older). They don’t need to follow those advices after the reading but it’s good to know them, and yes, often they are similar everywhere but still – you can’t write Dream without “e” (or maybe we can if we r some kind of “genius”. Not everybody is Einstein tho. And even Einstein wasn’t that stupid at learning basics as ppl says, just different).
I’m reading the books from the usual bookstores lol that’s exactly what they sell and ppl read 👋😂 I already have a classical education I don’t want to read any classics or similar kind of books. Also I’m reading mostly for my language,😌(Im speaking English ONLY when traveling 😂😉) …and some books r okay. I’m not so picky. What the purpose of being picky? If it’s fun – im in it (or up for it). The book nowadays is entertainment. I have no goals to aim for “name between Tolstoy & Faulkner”, so ….whatever. Haha
To study humanity- is to study yourself. Don’t u think?
Well, yes and no. “Entertainment” today is pretty horrible. As is news. No need to go far to see examples of horrible humanity. My way is the search for quality and time spent worthwhile, and not a study of what makes people tick and what would make them buy my book. But luckily we all do things differently or it would really boring.
…yep, whatever make us happy – works. We are all different ppl :))
I hate Kyle M and Wendi j
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