Books Writers Should Read—6. Wrede on Writing: Tips, Hints, and Opinions on Writing by Patricia Wrede

Experienced author Patricia Wrede covers a wide range of writing topics in her book, Wrede on Writing. She discusses different points of view, building a sentence, beginning and ending your story, working with agents, the business side of writing, and much, much more. Her frank, honest advice is essential for beginning and veteran writers because it teaches them how to really look at their writing and how to improve it.

books and pencils

  • “Take each and every piece of writing advice you get with a large boulder of salt.”
  • “Writing a story is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Some people start by doing all the edges. Some people look for the easy bits and pieces throughout. . . . But it doesn’t matter what order you put the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together in. What matters is that they are all in the right places when you are finished.”
  • “There are three things that any scene in a book or short story can do: (1) It can advance the plot, (2) It can explain the background or backstory, or (3) It can deepen the characterization. If a scene does none of these things, it isn’t actually a scene and doesn’t belong in this particular book.”
  • “Stories, short or long, generally are not about characters who are happily living their normal lives. Something unusual is going on; something has upset the status quo, whether the status quo was a miserable life as a slave or a happy life as a king.”
  • “There’s nothing wrong with encouraging creativity, but in the long run, you still have to know the rules.”
  • “In writing, you yourself are the only person who can really push you to improve significantly.”
  • “Yet somehow, writers have pulled off one of the greatest marketing coups ever: they have convinced everyone that if they are not-writing, they must have “writer’s block” and are therefore to be offered tea and cookies and sympathy and support. If a bank teller or accountant tried to claim they couldn’t work today because they had paperwork block, everyone would laugh.”
  • “Specific, concrete words nearly always have more impact and are more effective at conjuring up an image than abstract words or general words.”
  • “Action, like static description, needs a reason to be in the story.”
  • “First, if your heroes get too powerful too fast, they’ll overcome all their problems too easily. So you have to jack up the level of problem they’re dealing with and the power level of the bad guys.”
  • “Stories do not require conflict in order to be effective. What they do require is struggle.”
  • “The plot is what the story looks like from the outside. The characters are inside the story; the plot may say they have to do X, but in order for that action to look and feel believable to readers, the characters have to have their own reasons for doing what they do.”
  • “Writers almost always know far more about their characters, the backstory, and the setting than ever belongs in the book or story.”
  • “All the writer really needs to do is to remember to frustrate the character at some point (usually just before they think they’re going to get what they want at last) in order to keep the story moving.”
  • “Cruise control is not a good idea for stories; you normally want variation. Fast bits and then slower bits so the reader can catch his or her breath.”
  • “Editors are not the enemy. Inadequate writing skills are the enemy.”
  • “Your query letter isn’t competing against other people’s rich, deep, fascinating novels; it’s competing against other query letters. All of which also have to boil their rich, deep, fascinating novels down to two or three stupid paragraphs.”
  • “Discipline and persistence are the two most important characteristics a writer can have—because it takes discipline and persistence to keep writing when it gets hard or when it doesn’t seem as if you need to.”
  • “Writing is a produce-oriented business. Editors want a good story; they don’t really care how you get to it. Worry less about how you are going about doing it and more about whether what you are doing works. Or better yet, don’t worry about it at all. Just write.”

To learn more writing tips from Patricia Wrede, check out her blog.

This post is the last one of the Books Writers Should Read blog series. If you know of other great writing books, then post about them in comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

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