Friday, October 20, 2006

Top Ten Writing Tips You'll Ever Need

10. Get and keep a day job; anything that pays the rent, because I shit you not even a contract for six figures, such as 100,000 dollars is doled out in such a fashion for say 3 or 4 books that you will be making less than minimum wage, even though you can brag about six figures.
9. Write on a schedule; set time aside for writing, and when you miss the appointment with your writing self, make it up before the week is out. Any schedule is better than no schedule. Be it 1 hour a week or 20 hours a week. Most successful authors write 3-5 hours a day. If time does not work for you, write a scene a day to get that rush of 'accomplishment' via each finished scene.
8. Have a place to write. Set aside your special geography and stick it. Find out where you get most of your writing done, be it at Starbucks or at home, and work there.
7. Stiff-arm loved ones when you work; this sounds harsh, but you have to convince those around you, be they children or adult, that your writing time and space is sacrosanct and extremely meaningful to you. Nothing short of blood will stop you from your writing.
6. Make time where there is none. If you commute on a train this is easier. However, if you believe there are not enough hours in the day to write, re-write time. Re-make it. Rearrange your life to give up other activities for writing.
5. Take a Ph.D in letters or writing if you can afford it, say at the Iowa School of Writing or some university closer to you, and seek out teachers who are published as they have a lot more to say about the business as well as the writing. If you can't afford the university degree, created your own 'university' as I did and write for four years and then bestow your degree on yourself, but most important, you've taken apprentice time to hone your craft.
4. Write to your opposite. Exercise and flex your imaginative muscle to include characters and settings completely foreign to yourself and your life. Set a story or scene in India, Havana, China, Indonesia or Puerto Rico and create characters who populate such places and stop writing about middle-class America, the burbs, and purely and only 'white bread' characters.
In other words do some research and stretch.
3. Do some research and stretch.
2. Always open a book, a chapter, a scene in the middle of action, and never stop a scene to describe a person, place or thing. Such descripts must come in in the midst of character action and character thought and character speech and the character's five senses and if possible reach for the sixth sense before leaving that scene.
1. Open a novel, a chapter, a scene with your character's hands; focus on said hands and what they are doing. What are the hands and fingers immersed in? This already gives you action and tells you something about character--who he is and what he does. What a character says (with his hands and feet as well as his mouth) and what a character does = who s/he is.
Bonus Tip: When in doubt, strike it out; work with active voice, strong nouns followed by strong verbs, and stay away from the crippling qualifiers and helping and linking verbs that slow a scene to death.


Blogger Ron Estrada said...

Great advice, especially the one about stretching ourselves. Too many writers get comfortable once they've got the fundamentals down and settle in, writing the same characters over and over. Why can't my protag be a black southern woman? That's what makes this gig fun. It sure ain't the money.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are the hands and fingers immersed in? This already gives you action and tells you something about character--who he is and what he does.

You've been reading James Herriot!

1:35 PM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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