Eight Tips for Writing

  1. Read a lot of books
    • After reading a Stephen King novel, you might find that your children’s book is a little rough around the edges. That is because reading is extremely influential! All those new words crammed into your head is bound to reflect upon your personality, which will reflect through your writing. Just as much as you’re researching for your next piece of work, train yourself for that next piece of work. If you’re thinking of an internalized narrative with a twinge of memoir, we suggest Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. If you are trying to write a children’s book with a hint of murder-mystery, go ahead and read Stephen King.
  2. Read a couple of books at a time
    • One mistake is eating with your eyes. Sure, reading is exciting and filling your bookshelf up with the variant, pretty colors of interesting stories is impressive but reading too many books at once can be overwhelming. Try to make two books at the same time your maximum. In this way, you don’t get the plots mixed up and you don’t fall into the curse of procrastination due to feeling burdened and exhausted with completing a book in a reasonable amount of time.
  3. Write everything you’re thinking and then trim the split ends
    • This is similar to our Break and Revise rule. Hold nothing back. Make a descriptor out of every little thing that comes into your head and then shave it down when you read over it, obviously realizing that it’s verbose. You’ll still have plenty of sentences Goodreads.com will quote you by and then you’ll have spare sentences you can elaborate on in future stories. There are hundreds of ways to write one story as there are hundreds of ways to say one thing. Have exactly the adjectives and the verbs and the adverbs at hand so you hit your explanations on the head. There’s no shame in using a thesaurus to remind you of a term you don’t use on a daily basis. We don’t all speak like Donald Sutherland all the time.
  4. Whatever you didn’t say during your last argument, write a story around it
    • We’re all probably familiar with l’esprit de l’escalier. That statement– that one statement could’ve blown everyone’s minds! Don’t worry. You can still blow people’s minds. If you’ve walked away from an argument feeling that your opposed’s wit got the best of you, elaborate a fantasy in which you rewrite history (literally) and your cunning account becomes a beloved piece. You will have defeated every argumentative jerk you’ve encountered and people will like your version better. Even throw in some accounts that didn’t make the cut. Inglourious Basterds did it and we were all like, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Some people enjoy realistic tales of misfortune. In movies and in real life, no person who has suffered a loss really lost at all. Or, in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.” We either learn something from it, gain the sympathy of others, or become renowned for our dereliction. However, like in every Disney movie, most people love watching the underdog prevail. The greatest defeat is success. We should perceive success in everything we endure but the greatest defeat is success.
  5. Make an idea for a novel and an idea for a flash fiction piece interchangeable
    • All novels don’t necessarily have to contain a full cast of characters and several different conflicts leading up to a grand conclusion; all flash fiction pieces don’t have to have a couple characters interacting in a very light plot. In Forty Years From Yesterday, a man discovers his wife has passed and grieves. The eighty-minute relatable drama has a minimalistic script and very little drama. Have one character and one situation complete your five-hundred page novel; have thirty characters drive an intricate plot in your flash fiction piece. They do call it creative writing for a reason, after all. A British novelist from Gloucestershire, England wrote a ridiculous tale about witchcraft and wizards and a schoolboy who must save his school and was acclaimed because the Harry Potter series was so well-written. Remember to depend on the writing because any bad story can be great if it is written masterfully. Any great story can suffer at the hands of bad writing.
  6. Don’t think about the book as a whole– think about the stories that make it up
    • Wanting to become J.K. Rowling is a long shot because not even J.K. Rowling thought she’d become J.K. Rowling. Maya Angelou didn’t sit down one day and aim to write as many poems as she did. All great writers took their work one page at a time. If you have a story, focus on the characters and what they’re doing to lead up to the climax, not how many pages you want the introduction to be or how long you want the climax to be dragged on so anticipation can be at an all-time high. If it feels natural getting right to the climax, get right to the climax. If you have no more words after the climax, end the story. Spend more time on what you want to lead up to rather than how many pages you’re going for. A novel wouldn’t make it to Oprah’s Book Club just because it’s five-hundred pages. Again, a great story can receive slack for trying too hard. Gone Girl got right to the plot and anticipation was still at an all-time high. Prisoners took a while to get the peak of the story but it ended short and the story was still good. When in doubt, leave your story up to interpretation and critique (like many great stories).
  7. When starting your book, if your flow has come to a premature halt, think of two different plots and tie them together
    • Sometimes, ideas run dry. Ending the story too soon can make for a piece without an actual story. If you don’t know already, everything can be brought together. For example, we’re going to make the blanket you sleep with connected to deep conditioning your hair by connecting blankets to cotton and cotton to clothing and clothing to t-shirts and t-shirts to drying hair and drying hair to wetting hair and wetting hair to deep conditioning. There! We like to play Wiki Wars to sharpen our open-mindedness for these things. In A Place Beyond the Pines,  we thought the story would be over when hapless Luke’s story is told and he dies after officer Avery Cross faces him. No, no, no! A totally different story picks up! Two random characters meet and you’re all like, “What’s going on?” Jason is AJ are what’s going on– the sons of Luke and Avery Cross respectively! Jason is about to carry his revenge out toward wannabe-hapless AJ Cross. So, anyway, write a story beginning with blankets and explain how warm the cotton is and how cotton is also in t-shirts. And then take the story to deep conditioning and explain the deep conditioning process and how important it is to deep condition hair while wet. And then bring blankets and deep conditioning hair full circle by connecting t-shirts to wet hair. It’ll all work out with a better story line.
  8. Write with a pen and paper outdoors
    • Writing in a Starbucks is pretty cliche but if it’s the only place that will get you off of your couch, so bet it. Watching television for inspiration can only get you so far so quit trying to convince yourself that that episode of True Life is going to provide the basis to your next big piece. Getting out assists writing so much more. When you authentically see what you want to describe, you become more in touch with your ability to describe it. Some people have photographic memory and x-ray vision.. some don’t. Go downtown and sit outside of the library (or inside if you want). Smell the air, observe the density of the clouds, absorb the movement or lack thereof around you. We can offer some leeway and allow typing your story instead of writing it. A quill pen can be a little pretentious. A typewriter is as well– remember that. We commend you for striving for perfection by not giving yourself the opportunity to fuck up but a computer has an undo button for error and a pen can cross permanent things out. Even austerity deserves imagery and you won’t nail the austerity of a small-town downtown inside the austerity of your living room. You don’t have to be in the most interesting of places– not everyone has access to Literary Walk and, anyway, just because the names of authors are inscribed on park benches, doesn’t mean your story will be great. As a matter of fact, writing on Literary Walk is probably more cliche than writing in a cafe.
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