Here is some important fiction writing advice from a compelling short story titled "Untitled" by Molly Giles in her collection, Creek Walk and Other Stories. Molly is a professor of creative writing, Pulitzer Prize nominee, and winner of the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction. The advice is given by fictional character Ellen Trennel to her class of creative writing students. I have no idea if Ms. Giles believes all of what Ellen said, but I think her words merit consideration: I feel it in my gut.
If you want to be a better writer, don't start a story with your character waking up in bed in the morning. Don't have anyone look into a bathroom mirror. Don't say "four-door four-cylinder Chevy Citation" when you can say "car." All right is two words no matter what the dictionary says. Remember that strong words--like fuck--lose their effectiveness when repeated. Commas go inside quotes when followed by attributives. If you are ever tempted to put your head to the keyboard and laugh out loud at what you've just written, you probably shouldn't drink wine while you're working. Don't ever say: "Something deep inside her said." Avoid the word got, avoid the word gut, avoid the word snuck. Drugged is not the past tense of drag, though it should be. Don't change tense in midstory or point of view in midparagraph. Plagiarize only from pros. Show don't tell. If you don't know what to write about, write about something you don't know about. Never, ever, end a story with, "And then I woke up."
This is a must-read for writers, and not just those who write fiction. David gives some excellent examples of how to write and revise, explains the WHYs of the revision process, and provides tips that I have found invaluable. (No, I don't receive a commission on sales of the book. But I did attend a fiction writing workshop taught by him at the University of Iowa and I learned a lot!)
There's something about writers that compels us to write about writing. It's like shoemakers wearing shoes. Okay, perhaps that was a poor analogy--or was it a metaphor? Which brings me to the purpose of this page. Even good writers fall victim to the occasional grammar or stylistic gaffe and there are only two remedies:
>a highly paid editor (which most of us, who write for pennies, cannot afford)