No Hooptedoodle Here: My Top 5 Writing Tips

Someone passed along this interesting article on writing. It’s a sweet and succinct 10-point list urging writers to stay away from adverbs (especially in dialogue tags), exclamation points, and opening your story with a prologue–or worse, the weather.

How many countless hours have I poured into reading articles and books on “How to be a Better Writer,” or “The 20 Things To Do” or “The 20 Things Not To Do.” And how many times have I (and perhaps you) have read the whole “Well, you can break these rules–if you’re damned good at it!”

If I had to list my top five writing tips–that I actually practice, and work for me–they would be:


  1. Write, re-write, and keep writing! It’s a skill which must be practiced and nurtured. Anyone who wants to improve at writing (or master it) must actually do it, and often. With each story I write, the better I get.
  2. Act it out. Please don’t think I’m weird, but sometimes I “act out” or at least play a scene I’m writing in my head as if watching a play. Why? I’m a visual learner, and so I love absorbing visual examples and seeing how something is done before trying it. By imagining and watching two characters arguing, or fighting, or holding each other, it draws me into the action and emotions of the moment and helps me to better communicate them in writing. It also helps me avoid stiff or forced dialogue, and the temptation to think I’m (subtly, of course) imparting the next great allegorical moral lesson.
  3. Don’t write when you’re sleepy, but do write when you’re bored. For some of us, our best window of opportunity to write in peace and quiet is the evening. However, if you’re typing out your latest thriller well past bedtime, you will likely find yourself misspelling words and re-reading lines while fighting to keep your eyes open.  When you’re bored, that means you tend to have a bit of free time, right? Right? So give yourself a boost from mind-sloth and dive back into your work-in-progress during this time. Often you’ll find that your imagination and enthusiasm will kick in and fuel your writing.
  4. Be ready to kill. Whether it’s a go-nowhere plot, a character that only you love, or a scene that just isn’t working…nix it if it’s getting in the way of everything else that’s going well.
  5. Learn by example. Read other works (for both pleasure and learning) and note what those authors did to make such a riveting story, unforgettable hero, or amazing world. And you don’t have to emulate another writer’s style, but what this means is to look at other people who are doing it right and doing it well–and take careful note 🙂


What has been the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?


Share your thoughts!