[REPOST] 15 Alternative Steps to Better Writing by Philip Overby

One of the interesting things I’ve found online. This is a great tongue-in-cheek piece on writing. Gives you a nice kick-in-the-pants if you’re waffling…

Since this isn’t my article, if you have a comment please visit the below link and let him know what you think.

15 Alternative Steps to Better Writing

Writing_starOften writing advice comes at a price. You don’t always know what works and what doesn’t unless you actually put it into practice and get results.

I’m here to say that every situation is different. So understand that as a writer, it’s up to you to find out what works.

Below, I’ve presented 15 alternative ways to approach your writing. Despite many of them going against what other professionals may preach, I think you’ll find some wisdom in each step.

1. Always write when you feel like it.

Many writers may suggest that “writer’s write.” Well, anyone who writes anything can be a writer then. Why torture yourself everyday by not putting out your best material? Write when you feel like it, even if it’s five minutes a day. I would even suggest that posting on Facebook or Twitter could count as your five minutes. By networking and discussing your day, you are doing important preparation for your fiction.

2. Probably no need to read anyone else’s work.

Another common bit of advice is to “read, read, read.” Why? Reading other people’s work not only muddies your vision, but wastes precious time you could spend writing. I never understood this bit of advice. The only inspiration you need is what you get from your muse. Plus, you can always use TV or movies to get any extra inspiration you need.

3. Re-invent and experiment.

Oftentimes the worry may come up, “My writing isn’t original enough.” In that case, go experimental. Write your novel in your own made-up language. Perhaps don’t even write it, just make a book out of nothing put pictures. You can do anything you want. It’s your novel. Genre conventions are meant to be broken. So go all out!

4. Intelligent discussions about writing.

This is sort of self-explanatory. Talk about writing as much as you like. You are a writer after all! Even if you’re spending more time talking about it than actually writing, you’re reminding yourself constantly that you should be writing. Talking about something is the best way to show you’re interested in it, after all.

5. Literally describe everything.

Dealing with fantasy, your audience isn’t always going to know what’s going on unless you’re describing every character, every new race, every city, and every piece of clothing. If you really want to immerse your readers in a fantastic world, you have to give them as much description as possible. Need to describe what a minor nobleman is wearing? Do it! It’s your novel, so if you need to spend multiple pages describing everything, by all means do so.

6. Forget “show, don’t tell.” “Tell, don’t show.”

Another bit of advice I’ve never understood is “show, don’t tell.” Why not “tell, don’t show?” It is story-telling after all, not story-showing. If a character is angry, don’t waste time with subtle hints or gestures. Just say “He is angry.” It saves your reader a lot of time trying to figure things out. If more writers employed this technique, reading would be a lot easier, faster and thus more rewarding.

7. Overemphasis on grammar and spelling are overrated.

That’s what editors are for, right? Don’t worry about your grammar and spelling so much. Spell-check covers most of that for you, so there’s no need to spend so much time worrying about your sentence structure. Most readers won’t notice anyway.

8. Old fonts can be boring.

I’ve often seen guidelines say, “Use Times New Roman or Arial.” Then what is the point of having all these other great fonts? My advice: use a new font and make it your own. It can be your “calling card” so to speak.

9. Longer is better.

Novels are getting bigger and bigger nowadays. If other writers are putting out 300,000 word novels, then you need to trump them by putting out 500,000 words. It’s a competitive market and the more words you have, the more “bang for your buck” you’re giving your readers. They will appreciate the longer book because it requires them to spend less money on other books.

While on the subject of the need for longer books, why not have a longer prologue? Prologues are very popular in fantasy novels and are your first introduction to the world. Some writers may say that making a prologue too long may detract from the meat of the book, but I think the more information the reader can get about the world you’re introducing them to, the better. I’d even suggest making the prologue longer than any of your other chapters.

10. Super-awesome magic and characters.

The more awesome and crazy, the better. Fantasy readers love magic, but don’t care so much about how it works. Wizard can pull fire from the sun? Works for me. Magic is derived from ancient glaciers? OK! There’s no need to explain magic or have it make absolute sense. Magic is awesome because it’s mysterious. So making the mechanics of how it works relevant is to me, irrelevant. Save that for hard science fiction.

Also, make your characters as awesome as you can. Near invincible characters prove for interesting stories.

11. Deus ex machina.

Why are these three Latin words so contentious? It exists because it used to be a perfectly acceptable way to end a story for the Greek dramatists. What makes writers today better than Greek dramatists? Use whatever device you need to end the story. Especially if you’re on a deadline. Having Zeus or Gandalf’s eagles or whatever come down and clean-up everything is a fine ending in my view. “It was all a dream” is also doable.

12. Ample info-dumps.

Often critics may say “Oh no, the dreaded info-dump.” But why? Info-dumps are after all, when broken down, “dumps of information.” Don’t readers need information to understand what’s happening? My belief is that if you want to stop the plot to give plenty of information to the reader, then it’s your choice as a writer. To me, plot and character development aren’t as important as knowing what’s going on. A good dump of information now and again can help clear things up.

13. Your characters can do nothing sometimes.

Realism in fantasy is becoming more and more popular. What is more realistic than sitting around and doing nothing? It’s what most normal people do a large percentage of their day. Have your character sit on the porch for six pages or take a nap for two. It’s important to get into the characters’ heads as much as possible. Having them think about daily chores, sharpening their blades, walking their dog, or whatever will make them appear more realistic to the reader.

14. Look at the first letter of each numbered step above.

15. Spell it out.

Tell your friends to read this article and it’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard.

Do you have any “alternative” advice to dispense? Leave some in the comments below.

You can find Phil’s blog about Japan, writing, pro wrestling, and weird stuff at philipoverby1.blogspot.com.

Philip Overby is a nomadic warrior, indiscriminate troll slayer, undead unicorn enthusiast, former indie wrestler, and lover of all things fantasy. He lives in Yokohama, Japan.

A Gutter of Tree Sludge and Blood

(Warning. This is an introspection piece and it contains graphic and unsettling imagery)


I compartmentalize. Sanitary little mind boxes meant to keep things separated. I’m sure I created the first one to keep me functioning when life and death got too big. It muffled painful things when it was locked away and I could pretend a normal face. Pretend, pretend and eventually you’ll feel it. But…I think the boxes are leaking.

I think they’re leaking because when I get overwhelmingly stressed, I go to a dark place…

And I have extra servings of worry lately. What are they? Suffice to say safety, sanity and survival for those I love most are pinging the top of the list along with a cumulation of swirling other exasperations to fill in the cracks.

Anyway, I think the boxes are too full … That or perhaps I’ve rearranged them so much the bottoms are breaking. I need to unpack them. Yes, I know.

See I’ve realized no matter what box I’m in, I’m missing my full potential. I’m incomplete. I’m a ghost shadow of what I could be. It’s a relatively recent realization and it makes me sad. But I wonder, in moving the boxes around in preparation of unpacking, have I allowed seepage to collect?

No. It can’t be. I’ve been trapped face down in a sludge of graphic images before. People with twin smiles who grasp their throats with hard realization and bodies cut deep to spill their inner secrets.

I turn inwards to escape the world and am greeted with a horror-lovers’ marathon. oh, fantastic. I don’t seek a horror genre but here it is waiting in the sacred place where thought collects.

The same mantra… Please…make the images stop, drain the poison from my mind. Do something with it.

Ah yes, the carnivorous carousel….and the blood pours bright red.

But I have used this venom to propel myself into better incarnations. Fling myself across the precipice to reestablish. Recreate. Fear of failing pales with what’s in my mind’s eye. I dress for battle. But I’m in a holding pattern this time. I must wait.

I hate waiting.

Perhaps I can use this creatively. Glimpses of hatchets with small heaps of bloodless feet. Yes. Creatively.

But where?

And why?

Yes, I’ve finally asked why. Why do I find this dark place. Why does it find me? Why does it hold the same template.

I remember waking.., cold sweat, afraid to move, hours before-elementary-school-started-pitch-black with yet another nightmare with my grandmother’s disembodied head in the yard. I remember… Squished and…

I feel squished… Like two massive hands work to press me flat like Playdough. Time to be reformed?Reshaped?

And I understand. I found a connection. A wild a-ha and resounding duh. The visceral blood thoughts and the sorrow and the worry… these are the legacies from and of my family when my uncle died and my aunt lost her jaw and I didn’t know if a killer would go free.

I made my first box then to hold the blood images and the shadow gunman who lived in my closet. And over time, I made others. They hold a myriad of ugly things. Some I’m afraid to open. But I know they hold hostage light and happy times too.

Like goes with like … and worry and overwhelm-ness goes in that first blood box and the memory goes…over there…in one of those hundred boxes….

I don’t want to put these worries in the box. Even for function’s sake.

I understand.

There’s a living tree, dissected and hacked, inside these boxes. My own personal tree of life. I’m not quite sure of its real dimensions … but I have in my hands a limb and a root. Their mine and I stand.

[Dark thoughts can be disconcerting and they can make life seem bleak. For anyone sinking into them I would suggest finding someone safe to talk to and to step back with the basics. Enough sleep, nutritious food, stay hydrated. Walk, dance, do something for your body’s natural feel-good endorphins. Journal. Paint. Breathe. Be your own best friend for a bit. Take things in moment-bites. Let go and let God. Know things will get better. Eventually. Live.]