Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Here’s my best tip to help you write fiction

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One of my favorite writers is a mystery writer named Larry Block, or Lawrence Block in some of his books. Although he probably wouldn’t remember me from the half-dozen times we’ve met (once as a workshop partner of his in a seminar he was conducting), his style, writing tips, and even personality have had an impact on my writing career. I especially appreciate the title of one of his early “how-to” books for fiction writers: “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit.”

That’s my Number One tip for you if you choose/have chosen/were gifted/are destined, etc., to write fiction: Never forget you are free to “lie,” i.e., make things up as you go along.

Once you really think about that, it’s tremendously liberating. Of course, an important corollary to that which all new writers must get especially is this: Your lies must be good ones. Fiction is made up. But fiction only “works” and finds readers if it presents significant or interesting truths in realistic, “true life” ways.

But never forget, you are free to make up whatever you choose to develop a character, create dialog, move your plot forward, whatever.

In one of his books — perhaps the one mentioned above? — Block tells of a plot element he accidentally created in an early series he did about an international adventurer/spy character. He had the hero in some eastern European nation enter a “tobo” shop as part of the plot. “Tobo” was actually a typo for “tobacco” which made it past the proofreaders. Several readers were intrigued by the term and wrote him comments about how exotic it made the locale sound.

It worked, and I think Block said he used it elsewhere. He never even established what a “tobo” was, much less what sort of business “tobo shops” were doing.

So never get stuck on a character, a plot, a bit of action again when you’re writing fiction. Just remember the “tobo shop,” remind yourself YOU are the one writing and the one able to create magic out of words — and get on with the story.

Now get busy and write something to make us all proud.

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