Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Writing tips from R.L.Stine



I particularly like the first half of Tip #5!


I subscribe to the newsletter published by The Strand magazine (you should too!) and I got this there.

22 comments:

JeffO said...

R.L. Stine would not like me very much....

Amanda Capper said...

Oh dear. Number 5 is the only one I agree with. Number 4 is too strict, but I agree the fewer adverbs the better.

Heidi Willis said...

I was shocked in my MFA program to hear most of the faculty say it's better to have no idea at the beginning of a story where it will end up... that if you as a writer know, it takes out the spontaneity, and the reader will feel that flatness as well.

Writing to "find" the end rather than "get to" the end had changed the way I write. It's both scarier, and more freeing.

GillyB said...

I both agree with all of these and totally disagree (except with number five. WOMAN UP. THERE'S NO CRYING IN WRITING). It's certainly helpful to have a plan, but sometimes the best ideas arrive completely unannounced. But a vague plan can help unlock those.

As for knowing the ending, half the time I do, the other half I don't. Still haven't figured out which is better. You should limit your WAS's and adverbs, but not as a hard and fast rule. You can break your back trying to avoid was, and sometimes a perfectly placed adverb is a thing of beauty. But all in moderation.

Bill Scott said...

Blerg. I don't agree with people who use "never" and "always" in rules. I break #1 on a routine basis.

Sarah W said...

"There's no hugging in horror!"

Karen Denise said...

Um...I don't agree with any of these. I think WAS, PUT, GOT, and ADVERBS can be used in moderation. As can hugging and crying-lol. I hardly ever know what is going to happen at the end when I "sit down" to write. So yeah, R.L. Stine would not like me much.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I'm generally not a fan of "never" either. #3 and #4 are easy to nitpick, but #1 deserves some attention, too. I'm an extensive outliner and almost always have a plan when I sit down, but sometimes the best segments arise spontaneously. A certain amount of flexibility and a willingness to follow unknown roads can be beneficial. One just needs to learn to recognize when that unknown road will lead to a dead end.

I do like #2, but I might be biased because the ending is usually one of the first things I envision. I like working toward something concrete. (That said, I am open to my idea for the ending changing a bit as I fill in the middle.)

Michael Seese said...

I completely, totally agree with #4.

Sheila JG said...

Thanks for sharing. I love to read about other writers' methods.

It's funny, I just read a whole bunch of these lists over the weekend at brainpickings.org. I liked Kurt Vonnegut's list (his number 7 made me laugh). Someday I hope to understand Jack Kerouac's list. Here's the link if anyone is interested:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/04/03/kurt-vonnegut-on-writing-stories/

Miguel DeMoravia said...

Number three and four are absolute nonsense from a prescriptivist writer who think he knows grammar, but clearly doesn't, and can't follow his own rules anyway (wanna bet he's an apple off the Strunk & White tree?)

Page two of the prologue of Stine's newest book uses 'was' as the sole verb of a sentence... "Was it a sail?"

One sentence before that and we encounter the first adverb of the day, "...a canoe bobbed crazily..."

What does it say for a writer's tips when he can't write past page two of the prologue in his own book without violating two of his own rules?

Should you listen to R.L. and never use 'was' or 'put' or 'got' in your work, or go back and cross out all your adverbs? No, absolutely not. No writer has any business following any of these nonsensical 'tips'.

DD3123 said...

I was going to quickly whip off a reply after I hastily read this, but after having a sob and a good hug, instead I decided to

BP said...

WHAT?! No hugging or crying?! Clearly, this guy doesn't read Dickens, Austin or Dumas; hugging and crying make up the bulk of the most moving scenes of their novels. Maybe not an EXCESS of hugging and crying, which I would agree with - great for soap operas, but loses its power when over-used in novels :/ haha

natalie said...

R.L. Stine gets credit for making me an obsessive bookworm. "Let's Get Invisible" was my first ever favorite book, and spurred my streak of faking sick so I could miss school and stay home all day to read Goosebumps.

So I guess I kinda have to take his advice seriously.

Alice said...

R. L. Stine is *harsh*.

Janet Reid said...

I thought the "No Hugging. No Crying"applied to the writer, not the book.

And it certainly applies to the Agent!
No Hugging The Shark!

Kelly Matherly-Urban said...

Great tips.

theplantsigrow said...

Always and never are adverbs.

Never use WAS as a verb? What else do you use it as?

BP said...

Thanks for clearing that up, Janet and Gilly. May also apply to the author/manuscript relationship, fraught with senseless emotion. YES sirree...no hugging the computer or soaking a print draft with tears!

Lanette said...

I cried when one of my characters died? Isn't that allowed?

M.P. McDonald said...

I agree with a lot of these tips but...is this the same R.L. Stine I read to my daughter a few years back? It seemed like he never met an adverb he didn't like.

Ed Scarpo said...

As a journalist with 20 years of experience, I can honestly note that number three is probably the single best piece of writing advice I have gotten in my entire life...