Sunday, 8 January 2012

From a Top Writing Blogs Award Nominee

I was pleased to get an email last week from eCollegeFinder informing me my blog is in the running for the Top Writing Blogs Award. They look for "nominees that will inspire and teach our student readers to find their writing style and improve their skills, whether the students are writing an essay or starting their first novel". They suggested I might like to do a post answering the question, What advice can you offer students aiming to improve their writing acumen? 

So here goes (geared to novel writing as this is what I do):

  • Read a great deal, but only for pleasure. Reading books you don't like will only make you grumpy.
  • Get it right: correct spelling, grammar and punctuation matter. Its and it's, your and you're used interchangeably are unforgivable. If uncertain, Google the rules and learn them.
  • Cut into the scene when it becomes interesting, cut out when you have achieved what you set out to. 
  • If you get bored when reading your own writing, this is a Bad Sign. And you will need to read it a lot as you tweak, polish and hone.
  • Brood about your characters - I do this in the bath, driving or walking. Even minor characters like the hero's mother or the dog have their own agenda.
  • Remember the villain thinks he's the hero.
  • Readers are smart - trust the reader. Never repeat yourself, and let readers do some of the work. They like that.
  • Pay attention to criticism in case you can learn from it, but don't feel obliged to take advice. It's your novel.
  • And most importantly: Never, ever bore the reader.


  1. Well done, Lexi. And I shall cut and paste your rules (if that's allowed). It's great advice.

  2. Awww Lexi!!! You tell these students - they better sit up and listen and get haircuts!!! :-)

    Good for you and CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Where can I vote for you? Am I able to? Where are you!??! I'm zooming along with the link you've provided but where are the writerly blog awards nominees!?!?! I want to vote for you!! LOL!

    Take care

  3. Some great rules, Lexi, and to echo Kitty's question - how do we vote for you?

    Meantime, a belated Happy New Year. I've been poorly recently and so am behind with wishing people the best for 2012. Hope it brings you more publishing success!


  4. Jo, I'm flattered :o)

    Kitty, does it have to be haircuts? Can I tell them to grow medieval villains' beards, like Guy of Gisborne or Blackadder 2?

    Sorry you've been ill, Guy. 2012 has hardly got out of bed yet so don't fret.

    Perhaps it's the students who vote - I wasn't canvassing, honest :o)

  5. Those are great rules and you follow them yourself. I'm never bored reading your stories!

  6. Congrats, Lexi! I got nominated, too. So did Alex Cavanaugh. We're in great company.

    It's a nonprofit and I think the board does the choosing/voting.

    I love your rules. Especially about how the villain thinks he's the hero. Wonderful advice.

  7. Thanks, FH. I should thank Alan Hutcheson, Holly Lisle and Jason Black for good tips over the years which have found their way into my list.

    Congrats to you too, Anne! I'm glad the board does the selecting. Too often these days the prize goes to the person who is the most shameless drumming up support. Authonomy put me off that for life.

  8. Congratulations, Lexi.
    I enjoyed your rules - especially about not boring the reader and the the the one about the villain. I'd never thought before that the villain beleives he's the hero - great point to remember.

  9. Great tips, Lexi and good luck with the award.

  10. Gee, what did I contribute? Ah, I remember "Confound the editors".

  11. Hi, Mary and K!

    Alan, I got, "Trust the reader. Readers are smart," from you. A long time ago when you and I were mere infants...

  12. Ah, that's right. And it's true. I hold a firm belief that the folks who have read my book are, without a doubt, some of the smartest folks around!

  13. The book to which you refer is Boomerang, n'est ce pas? Which contains one of the best dogs in fiction, whose role could have been bigger with no harm done, in my opinion.

  14. Well, let's add one more rule, shall we?

    Thou shalt devote adequate time and space in your story to The Dog. If there is no dog in your story you must find a way to correct the situation. Cats may be substituted in an emergency, but only if the author is unable to locate a dog.

    As you know, plenty of space is being devoted to the pooch in my WIP.

  15. Yeah! Said you were good at rules, Alan :o)

  16. Good advice, especially the last one. Finally got Snapback up on Amazon after a few formatting nightmares. Any hints on how you drive people to your blog? Or is that a trade secret? Bob

  17. Bob, I like to think I lure people to my blog :o)

    I've been writing it non-stop for three years or so, which helps, and I comment on other blogs if I have anything to say, and that attracts new readers. I'm a reluctant Facebooker, but have to admit that increases my blog traffic. I make it simple for readers to comment (no word verification etc.) and respond to comments. That's about it, really.

  18. Well done, Lexi. My mum and I send congratulations and I'm sending an E-bone and a few E-treats. Couldn't agree more about including a DOG. Are there actually any authors who don't?
    Love Cassie

  19. Woof! Woof woof, woof woof woof...oh, I forgot for a moment you are bilingual, Cassie.

    Thanks for the virtual treats. I once wrote a post titled Dogs in Fiction.