So I suppose you’re tired of hearing advice from me, your friendly neighborhood upstart writer (that it, if you so happen to be in my neighborhood, which you’re probably wrong). Whether or not that’s the case, I decided to make a copypasta of a bunch of different authors’ advice on writing fiction.
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
- Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
- Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
- Put it aside. Read it pretending youve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
- Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
- Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
- Laugh at your own jokes.
- The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
- An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.
- Limitations are more interesting than powers.
- Expand what you already have before you add something new.
And then there’s the Zeroth Law: Always err on the side of awesome.
- “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that arenot the story.”
- “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”
- “The adverb is not your friend.”
- “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”
- “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
- “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
- “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
- “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”
- The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”
- “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”
- “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or video games for you to fool around with.”
- One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”
- “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”
- “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
- “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”
- “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”
1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.
2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.
3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.
5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.
6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.
7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Negro minstrel at the end of it.
8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.
9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausably set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.
11. The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.
12. An author should say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage.
15. Do not omit necessary details.
16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
17. Use good grammar.
18. Employ a simple, straightforward style.
That should be enough advice to tie you over. These tidbits of knowledge are from the world’s most successful authors both of our era and of times past, and you’d do well to listen to them. You’d also do well to smash that beautiful subscribe button at the bottom of the home page.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!