I have an alter-ego on Twitter. Her name is Bad Writer.
She doesn’t have a million followers or viral tweets or anything like that. She exists merely to be the public face of my sarcastic side. And since I talk to writers a lot on Twitter, she focuses on writing.
Since her creation in July, she has tweeted 643 times, according to that screenshot. That’s a lot of bad advice being doled out. Some of those are quoted Retweets from Nat Russo’s #HorribleWritingTips, Sam Sykes’ joke tweets, Tweeps who reply, and other parody accounts, but most are her own content based on things that
I read she reads. Sometimes, the content overlaps a little. I thought we could use those instances for learning. And since Bad Writer says the opposite of what a writer should do, the lessons will be actual constructive things with her non-examples.
Lesson 1: Stop abusing character names
Bad Writer almost repeated that tweet from July 20 earlier today. I should probably tell her that characters should only say another character’s name if it’s absolutely necessary for identification or shock value. I’ve seen some book convos where the characters say each other’s name back and forth in almost every line, and to be honest, it makes me a little stabby.
People rarely say someone’s name to them in conversation in real life. It shouldn’t happen in the narrative.
Now, names aren’t just a problem in dialogue.
Name only those who get meaningful screen time, and refrain from pulling a Duggar and starting all names with the same letter.
Lesson 2: Listen to your editor (at least a little)
Bad Writer has an editor for some reason, probably because someone told her she should have one. She doesn’t listen and rolls her eyes too much.
And even if it seems like she’s listening, she’s really just being a smartass.
Editors do what they do because they know how stories are crafted effectively. We writers can’t possibly get it all right on the first go. Editors aren’t out to get you. They’re there to make the story better.
Lesson 3: Longer =/= Better
Have you ever read half a book and realized nothing had really happened? This is probably why.
Narratives involve movement, and fast movement (like in action scenes) will use tighter, snappier sentences. Too many words (and slow spots) usually means too much description and/or back story.
Writing a book as big as a cinder block might make you feel accomplished, but if readers get bored and don’t read it, what’s the point?
Lesson 4: Avoid overused tropes and cliches
The Orphan is one of Bad Writer’s favorite cliched devices.
Orphans obviously aren’t the only literary element that have been done. A lot. The point is to know what’s been cooked to death and write other things or at least figure out new plays on them.
Lesson 5: Leave your house occasionally, especially to promote your books or meet other writers
It’s no mystery that writers lean introverted. Just leave us alone and let us write! If we wanted to talk to people, we would work retail or something.
The best reasons for doing this are 1. To show people you’re a real life human writer, and sometimes readers like to meet those, and 2. You meet your professional colleagues (especially at conferences) and you can support each other!
Bad Writer may not have a clue as to what to do, but as one follower said, do the exact opposite and you should be fine.
See you on the Twitters!