Ten Writing Tips That Work

Reading & Writing


If you’re coming in a few pages short in your manuscript, switch your typeface to Helvetica – it will add around 6 pages to every 100.

Sometimes you can streamline and improve your story by imagining it in a different format, a comic book, a play, a piece of art even. A story is malleable; you can change it back later.

Don’t create false delivery deadlines. No writer’s grave was ever inscribed with ‘She delivered on time.’

Writers have too many ideas. There’s no point in cramming them all into one book. Very often you need to strip back what you’ve got by a third, not add a third more.

‘Super Thursday’ is the day when 500 books come out at once.  It’s usually at the start of October, and designates the books which publishers feel will be their biggest sellers over the coming Christmas.  It’s a crowded date but if you can get your publisher behind you for this, you can expect better sales.

imagesWriters’ block does not exist. (It doesn’t even get punctuated correctly.) You gut stuck and can’t move for a reason, and here’s the problem; you’re trying to write your way out of it. Instead of convoluting the story and plodding on (as Stephen King suggests) you should go back and change something you already wrote (as Kingsley Amis suggests). The knot occurred because you tangled the threads earlier.

If you’re not sure that you’re telling the story correctly try switching one section, say a chapter, to a different voice. Change the gender, the tense, switch from first person to third, change the location. Make sure you keep the original!

I’m not a big believer in self-help manuals but elsewhere on this blog you’ll find discussions on ‘Into The Woods’ and ‘The Seven Basic Plots’, two of the best writing books. For a more unusual, quirky approach try Steven Pinker’s ‘The Sense Of Style’, which looks at writing in a digital age.

Don’t tell your reader what to feel. They can work it out for themselves.

If you want to see how contradictory writers’ advice can be, get yourself a copy of ‘Being A Writer’ by Travis Elborough. It’s a cut and paste book of quotes but a good one that shows no two writers agree on anything.

5 comments on “Ten Writing Tips That Work”

  1. Denise Treadwell says:

    I think it is hard to be always creative, and if that relates to writers block. Its me.

  2. Peter Tromans says:

    My supervisor said, “You should have more text. Most people write 200 pages. Try to make it 100 pages.”

    Thanks to Helvetica, wider margins and more space between sections, I got there. Or, more precisely, the poor typist did (this was a decade or so BPC).

  3. Graham says:

    Also, just KEEP WRITING. It took me six years to finish writing my first novel. Sometimes I thought I would never be done, but after three complete drafts I was very happy with the result. I started writing my second novel last month and so far I as pleased as I was with the final draft of the first one. Writing gets easier (though not exactly easy) with experience.

  4. admin says:

    Graham, I’m really not sure it gets easier, for the simple reason that you never stop learning. I’ve had about 40 books published and have finished who knows how many unpublished scripts and novels, and still feel like I’m just starting out! And I still read writing guides.

  5. Graham says:

    Perhaps I just feel less intimidated this time, and more sure of myself.

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