AuthorEditorWriting Coach

My Top Ten Tips for Writers

  1. Don’t Stop exploring: You never know what you’ll find or what’s just around the corner. Keep learning and trying new things. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, because that’s when you grow the most. Writing is a leap of faith. 
  1. Cultivate Beginner’s mind. To have beginner’s mind is to look at things as if you were seeing them for the very first time—just like a young child. Beginner’s mind also helps us be present and aware of what’s happening in the moment. So, try to stay open and curious and channel your five-year-old self. This attitude will fill your life with wonder and transform your writing too!
  1. Get out in nature. Unplug. Spending time outdoors can calm, heal and inspire.
  1. Use the 5 senses—sight, sound, smell, touch and taste—to bring language to life. Did you know that smell, more than any other sense, can conjure up specific memories of place and emotion? So, help your reader taste the pumpkin bread in a scene by describing the smells of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove baked inside.
The Five Senses
Future, Present, Past
  1. Know your character’s backstory: What happened to your character before page one of your story affects what happens in your story now. Our past is continually woven into our present, ever defining it. Knowing your character’s backstory will help you figure out what your protagonist wants and why he wants it, and why, as a result, he does what he does. 
  1. Have a sense of humor. Humor helps you cultivate resilience, one of the most important skills you can have for success. Laughter is also good medicine. If you can make your readers laugh, they’ll love you. Plus, laughter triggers the release of endorphins, strengthens our immune system, decreases stress, and even temporarily relieves pain.
Pyne family goofing off in the snow
Don't say it!
  1. Say it without saying it. Subtext, the content underneath the spoken dialogue in a scene, refers to what characters really think and feel but may not say. It’s an important tool for writers, because what people don’t say can be as important as what they do.
  1. Develop resilience. Writers need this in abundance. Resilience is important for success, because we  need to be able to bounce back when things don’t go as planned. Resilient people don’t dwell on failures; they learn from their mistakes and try again. Many superstar authors today like J.K. Rowling and Madeleine L’Engle endured multiple rejections before selling their books.
resilient in Scrabble letters

Think of your best-loved protagonists and why you admire them. I bet it’s because they always get back up again after someone knocks them down!

Revision = re-envisioning
  1. Revise. Revision = Re-envisioning. Even successful, published writers say they revise their novels over and over again. (Anywhere from 5-15 times was the average among the faculty at my grad school, Vermont College of Fine Arts!) Remember, writing is all about rewriting!