It would not have occurred to me to write a list of writing tips, but as an author of a couple of published books that some people seem to like, I’m already often asked by bloggers and friends about my advice on various aspects of writing anyway.
We’ve reached November, that wonderful month when writers try their hands at finishing a novel in a month. No, I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo myself; I’ll be doing is another high speed project, trying to bring my work in progress from first draft to something readable.
But as this is a month when many first time or near first time novelists come out to play, I’ve gathered a selection of the advice I’ve found myself offering, some previously published, some not.
May it be of use.
On Writing Action Scenes
Imagine the scene as it would be in a movie. You need to describe it, but because you don't have camera tricks and incidental music stings to make the audience feel how you want them to, you have to do that with the words as well. I like to imagine every paragraph break as a camera cut, and try to make it clear what we're looking at next as fast as possible.
The easiest traps to fall into are general descriptions that are too vague, like "they were fencing," or blow-by-blow, exhaustive choreographic descriptions that still feel distant. I recommend choosing a few important sensory details to focus on when describing each action. In the fencing example, what sound do the swords make against each other? Do they spark? Are the fencers sweating and stumbling, or do they make it look easy?
As well as compensating for the limitations of prose, make the most of the advantages you have as a novelist over a filmmaker. We don't have as many when it comes to action as we do in other areas, because you don't want to spend too much time on internal monologue during action, but you have room for a few quick thoughts that would be harder to get across onscreen.
And we do have unlimited budget. So any way you can think of to push the action a little further that would suit the story, go for it! For example, in the earliest draft of one of my (unpublished) early works, a building our heroes were in was just attacked by three giant, mind-controlled tarantulas. The scene didn't feel big enough, so they became a full swarm of giant, mind-controlled, magically altered, flamethrowing tarantulas.
The only limits are those you choose to set for the world you create.