12 thoughts on “Ten Writing Beliefs”

  1. #1 is of greatest import­ance to me, as it drives everything else. It’s the reas­on that TV writ­ing teams will ‘devel­op’ every epis­ode in full detail before someone writes a draft. Writing doesn’t hap­pen until the end, when every part of the story has an iden­tity.

    The down­side is how it ties in with the unconcious/subconcious part. If you’re work­ing alone, you just have to magic­ally mani­fest all these bril­liant story moments on your own. TV writers have the lux­ury of a writ­ing team to dis­cuss and devel­op ideas.

  2. Thanks for your com­ment, Eric. I find that, these days, if I have a cri­ti­cism of a piece of work — a TV show, nov­el, whatever — it often has more to do with it’s iden­tity. In oth­er words, it doesn’t have an over­all vis­ion; the dir­ect­or or head writer has to keep a strong sense of the story’s iden­tity and make sure the ele­ments aren’t ant­ag­on­ist­ic to it.

    I’d love to write as part of a team, bet it would be great fun.

  3. Great post, Ian. Strangely enough, read­ing it just led me to real­ise the solu­tion for the prob­lem that’s been plaguing me for the past month with my new nov­el. I owe you one.


  4. Hey, Aliya — thanks for stop­ping by. Glad to help! Let me know if you need an extra pairs of eyes for your nov­el…


  5. Hi Ian. I cer­tainly dis­like adverbs of the -ly vari­ety in fic­tion (espe­cially in dia­logue tags), and vague intens­i­fi­er adverbs (very, quite), but there are a great many “stealth” adverbs that are prac­tic­ally unavoid­able and aren’t dis­tract­ing in any case.

    For example, in “She still lives there,” ‘there’ is an adverb. In “He needed to get indoors before dark,” ‘before dark’ is an adverb. In “He nev­er arrives on time,” ‘nev­er’ is an adverb.

    I agree that adverbs of man­ner and intens­i­fi­er adverbs are usu­ally dis­tract­ing and mean you don’t have the right verb. But without all those little adverbs that only gram­mari­ans can identi­fy as adverbs–place, fre­quency, time, and pur­pose adverbs–I could nev­er write a nov­el. (Ooops. ‘Never’ is an adverb in that sen­tence.)

  6. A great post, Ian, thanks for shar­ing it. It’s giv­en me plenty to mull over.

    It seems to have been a good couple of weeks for genu­inely use­ful “how to write”-type posts!

  7. Thanks for your com­ment, David. You’re quite right to say that those adverbs are fairly (oops) cru­cial, and I’m sure my book is full them. I guess I don’t use ‘adverb’ to mean ‘any­thing that mod­i­fies a verb’ — which is just plain fool­ish­ness on my part. Those mod­i­fi­ers like ‘there’ and ‘nev­er’ feel dif­fer­ent because they seem to con­tex­tu­al­ise or re-dir­ect the energy of the verb, where­as ‘quickly’ and ‘hope­fully’ feel like after-the-fact fid­dling…

  8. Thanks for your com­ment, Shaun. I guess if there’s one thing every­one likes to do, it’s dis­pense advice…

  9. Hi, Ian

    Yes, indeed–and I know which adverbs you dis­like and why.

    The ques­tion is, Why isn’t there a more pre­cise name for the intrus­ive little bug­gers?

  10. Merrily we roll along, using adverbs all day long. I see noth­ing wrong with that. Why make rules?

  11. Very inter­est­ing. I espe­cially liked your com­ments about struc­ture: I’ve some, er, ‘issues’ with Hollywood’s love-affair with McKee and Campbell, (the recent dearth of innov­at­ive movies) and am dis­mayed to see the cult of Story tak­ing hold of nov­el­ists as well. (Go see ‘Adaptation’: insanely clev­er, the way it moves from exquis­ite to absurd as McKee’s prin­ciples are tacked onto the script.)

    I also dis­agree about adverbs, primar­ily because every begin­ner book and magazine art­icle I’ve ever read goes on about them, ad nauseam. They have their uses. Truly, madly, deeply.


  12. Thanks for your com­ment, Helen. Yes, I think it would improve a lot of stor­ies if more atten­tion was paid to intu­ition than intel­lect.

    I remain the enemy of adverbs! (Or at least the par­tic­u­lar sub­class of adverb that gets on my nerves…)

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