Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Writers: take a tip, leave a tip

We've all seen the Take a penny, leave a penny trays near cash registers, right? I thought it would be fun and helpful if writers took a writing tip and left a writing tip here in the comments.

You can add an old favorite, or share something new you've discovered. It doesn't matter if you're published or yet-to-be-published, we each add something valuable to the buffet table of writing tips.

I'll get the ball rolling by sharing some favorite tips I've learned from others.
  • First get it written, then get it right. This gives us permission to finish the first draft, no matter how ugly we think it is. Which brings me to the next tip...
  • Finish. Sounds simple, but we all know it isn't.
  • B.I.C. = aka butt in chair. I believe Jane Yolen said this, right? We can think about writing all day long, but unless our butts are in the chair, creating, the work won't come alive.
  1. Get to the point
  2. Write a draft. Then let it rest
  3. Cut down your text
  4. Be relatable and honest
  5. Don't care too much what others may think
  6. Read a lot
  7. Write a lot
And Ten rules for writing fiction is loaded with tips. So fellow writers, what do you say? Are you with me? Please take a tip and leave a tip, and thanks for sharing!


81 comments:

  1. Have a plan (like an outline) and know where you're going.

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  2. Let your 'script rest for a period and then change the font before getting back to it.Helps a lot.

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    1. Interesting idea to change the font. Will definitely have to give this one a try!

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  3. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Trust your instincts.

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  4. Since you gave more than one does that mean I have to match it? Anyway, I have a Terrible Tip each Tuesday on my blog. Does that count as a tip? I say yes, yes it does.

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  5. Distractions happen, but put yourself in a position where they happen less frequently. (Like staying away from the internet during designated writing time!)

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  6. I don't have a tip to offer, but wanted to say what a nice idea this is. Go you.

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  7. Oh! FUN!

    Don't force the characters to do what they don't want to do... (this is a huge problem for me, lol!)

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  8. You come up with the best topics!! All the tips I can think of off the top of my head are obvious, but I'll leave one anyway:

    My favorite (I think it's my mantra now): Write what scares you.

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  9. Hah, Julie, I LOVE BIC--seriously! I never quite thought of it that way~ Ummm...

    The book I'm having published now came so easily but the one in my head is far harder to come by. why? I guess I'll have to do an outline and get my BIC!

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  10. I love your first one, and you put it so much nicer than how I heard it, which was: Give yourself permission to suck. Hearing that was light someone lit a candle for me. The first draft is just that - the first of your drafts - and it doesn't need to be perfect. And that advice dovetails nicely into the next bit: You can always go back and edit, but you can't fix what you haven't written. =o)

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  11. Clever idea for a helpful post.

    While doing all of this don't forget :

    Henry David Thoreau, who wrote in his journal, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

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    1. I tend to write in cycles. Not daily. Because I have to take time to live. I write in between my living moments. Thanks for the affirmation.

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  12. Writers, you're awesome. Please keep these amazing tips coming!

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  13. These are some great tips, Julie. :)

    My favorite tip is: Write what YOU want to read not what you think the MARKET wants. Don't write to trends.

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  14. Great idea, Julie.

    The tip that helped propel me through the second half of writing my novel was something Michael Connolly said: Push the story forward.

    It's nonspecific, but he was referring to the tendency to get mired in one place until you get it right and risk not reaching the end. He was encouraging the use of all kinds of writing devices to keep yourself on track and make forward progress. I still have the sticky on my computer!

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  15. wow, such great tips! One I just discovered: ask your characters how they feel, especially when things are uncomfortable.

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  16. What a fab idea, Julie! Love your tips!

    I'll leave one that hangs over my desk:

    "Never hold anything back for the next book. Always go for it. Be brave." Janet Evanovich

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  17. Great post - I read through every tip. The only other I can think to contribute refers to chapter breaks: don't break your chapters like diary entries, e.g., chap begins with protag getting up and ends with protag going to bed. I was guilty of doing this early on!

    Thanks to our terrific community of writers - you ROCK!

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  18. What an awesome idea! My tip is program yourself to be able to write any where, any time. Otherwise you'll end up limiting yourself.

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    1. First drafts I can do this easily. Revisions only up to a certain point. Then I MUST use the computer to "finalize" the next draft.

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  19. Recognize that it's ok to have a shitty first draft. You can't polish and perfect what isn't already written!

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  20. If you have time, write even when you don't feel like it. Sometimes bad writing days turn around and you can get out a lot of words.

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  21. I love these tips. Awesome! Here's mine:

    It's not the action or what happens that is important - it's the effect on your character and how he/she reacts that is most important.

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  22. Love these!
    I bought my crit partner a mug that says, "even if it's crap, just get it on the page."
    I think about it a lot when my internal editor wants to get bossy.

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  23. Really for me the "permission to suck" needs to be paramount. I tend to procrastinate because I don't know where I'm going--So, BIC and OTS (Okay to Suck.) :)

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  24. I love Stephen King's advice that writers need to read as much as they write!

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  25. If you have a tendency to overuse a phrase, mine is she/he/they felt..., Search "felt" or your personal challenge work and then rework the sentence to be more dynamic.

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  26. Oh, awesome idea! To make your dreams come true, you have to be obsessed. Obsession is passion squared. :D

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  27. There are millions of blogs/books out there. Only follow the very best how-to blogs/books about writing/publishing then get the rest of your knowledge from reading all genres.

    Great idea Julie!

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    1. Catherine, I feel honored that you visit my blog so frequently. Thanks!

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  28. Great idea, Julie!

    Write something every day, even if it's just a one page journal entry.

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  29. I'll take the BIC reminder and leave this gem I found at LTUE last week: The goal is not only to be published, but to be read.

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  30. I'll add another wise tip from my 14 year old son: write what you love. It doesn't matter if you never make it big or if you're never published, because if you write what you love you're rich in your own way.

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  31. Don't stop to edit the first draft. Get the first draft down on paper and then you can start the editing process.

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  32. Read your dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds realistic. And, if it doesn't, then sit somewhere like a cafe and listen to others speaking around you!

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  33. These are awesome! I' add to use Wordle when you get closer to the polishing stage - it really helps you find those over-used words!

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  34. Layer a character like you're playing them on stage. Inner to outward, build a real person and the reader will care what happens to them.

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  35. Write everyday. Even if you have to throw it out the next day.

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  36. I love this Julie. Love it. I just read a blog post by Jen Daiker this morning that I'm totally going to use here. She posts about getting rid of the "what if" writer. That would be my tip. No more what if's. Happy Wednesday!

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  37. Along the lines of Monica B.W.’s advice; allow your characters the freedom to do what they want.

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  38. Choose critique partners you trust and really LISTEN to what they say (you may not always agree, but at least think about why they said it).

    And for the polish, read it ALL out loud. (really helps spot things like overuse of words and run on sentences)

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  39. steven king's 'don't care too much what others think' is the best piece of advice on his list. also love the b. i. c.

    the poet howard nemerov said you can't always wait for the muse -- sometimes you have to forge ahead and hope she catches up!

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  40. It doesn't matter what you write on, as long as you write!

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  41. Action then reaction-- I was guilty of having my characters react first and then mention why. Great list!

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  42. I love this idea! All of the above tips are great.

    My tip is to take chances with your writing. You never know where it may lead you.

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  43. Tip: Just because it is a word- doesn't mean it is the right word.

    Dropping in on you from the crusades. :)

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  44. I really love your first tip. Must print it out and frame it.

    My tip is to love what you write, which can be different from write what you love.

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  45. I totally agree with the "get it written, THEN fix it" idea. I used to have a lot of trouble finishing anything, but nowadays that's the least of my worries :D

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  46. These are such great tips! Thanks! All I can add is to ask lots of questions of your characters to get to know them inside and out. Not just what their job is, but why they picked it, what they liked about it. Not just where they live, but why. And how they would vote, and what they like on their pizza, and what music they listen to.

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  47. Great tips.
    Here's another: Don't save the good stuff for the sequel. There might not be one.

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  48. Read a lot and write a lot are the best things I've done. Also your part about write it first, then revise... Reading aloud helps me with dialogue. Get involved in the writer-blogging community. All these great bloggie friends are nothing but a wealth of great tips and support.

    thanks, Julie!

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  49. You are brilliant, Julie!

    Here's mine (borrowed from advice by Mandy Hubbard):

    If you brainstorm 'character first', think about the worst situation you can create for that character to challenge them. BUT, if you brainstorm the 'plot first' create a main character who would be the worst possible choice to face the situation you've created.

    I'll say it again: YOU? Brilliant.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  50. My tip is: don't forget the power of the prompt, especially if you're blocked. Using a prompt can get you writing and before you know it, there you are, back working on your current project.

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  51. These are awesome!

    My tip? Don't let your emotions dicate if you write or not.

    Write when you're happy, write when you're sad. Make it a habit.

    Thanks for such a great topic, and thanks to all the commenters for sharing!

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  52. Wonderful tips! My tip: don't be too nice to your characters, nice people finish last and in fiction they may never finish at all. Don't be afraid to throw stuff at them and see what happens...

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  53. Read, read, read! Don't worry that you'll steal another author's idea or that your characters will have the voice of other authors. If you're not a reader, how can you write? I have come across so many books where the author could barely put two words together...not a reader. Reading gives you a feel for conversation flow, dialogue, timing, etc.

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  54. I love this idea, Julie. (Love the penny idea that inspired it too!)

    My tip comes from Anne LaMott's fabulous Bird by Bird. Use the 1 inch picture frame as a guide to keep your story from overwhelming you. You only have to write down as much as you can see in a one inch picture frame. It goes with the advice the book's title suggests, don't be swamped by the whole project, just take it "bird by bird."

    The version of BIC that I've always heard ended with HOK (hands on keyboard) for BICHOK. This is a good reminder for me because I may easily be BIC but without HOK I accomplish nothing.

    Thanks to everyone for the inspiring tips!

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  55. I like to change the font up
    Let it rest for a while
    and read aloud!
    great post!

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  56. I echo the tip about letting them rest. I honestly don't realize what a mess my novels are until I go back to them after a hiatus.

    Amy

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  57. This idea is brilliant, Julie.

    Since most of these are excellent craft tips, I'll add a business of writing tip: Don't pay for unnecessary stuff - writing should involve money flowing to the writer, not vice versa. Especially when you are starting out - there's lots of free, excellent advice on the web. Witness this blog!

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  58. Write like a truck driver ----

    Know your destination for that day and write to there. There are only two seasons on the road - winter and road construction --- drive anyway.

    by me --- lol couldn't think of anyone else to quote 8^[

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  59. This acually turned out to be a gift of a question -- I liked the truck thing so much I turned it into a whole blog post - Thanks for prompting the idea!!!! Hugs!

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  60. My favourite tip of all:

    Just keep writing

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  61. Have the ending in mind, because if you don't know where you are going, you will never know that you have reached there.

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  62. I can finish the BIC one for you (saw this on Cassie Clare's website, but she got it from somewhere else I can't remember...)

    BICHOK = Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard

    :-)

    PS. I see you have the beautiful number 500 above your followers gadget! Congrats!

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  63. This is simple and maybe obvious, but:

    Let your mind wander and keep a notebook and pen with you at all times.

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  64. Great tips! Definitely earmarking this to read over all the comments as they grow. As for my tip, have good writing music. It's easier for me to tune the world out if I have something low-key and mellow (even if I'm writing a fight scene). Find what works for you and use it to help you tune in.

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  65. Stephen King's book on writing was awesome. That I recommend to anybody seeking tips.

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  66. What a fabulous collection you have here already, Julie!

    As a procrastinator extraordinaire, I'll add one close to my own heart.

    Thinking might be essential before writing, and during the writing process, and after having written...but thinking isn't writing! And writers write!

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  67. I guess my tip would be, if you dream it...write it! (taken from the fact that I dreamed up a title....now I just need to "dream" up the story!) hehe


    And here's an award:
    http://snippettsfrommymind.blogspot.com/2011/02/blogger-awardinteresting-things.html?spref=tw

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  68. These are all great tips!
    I hope I'm not repeating anyone, but my favourite advice comes from Diana Gabaldon:
    "Read.
    Write.
    Don't Stop."

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  69. Don't let the "whole book" overwhelm you - just focus on finishing one scene at a time. You can always change them around, edit or re-write them.

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  70. The book that changed your life, that you love with all your heart? It didn't show up fully formed, perfectly written and ready to publish. It took lots of hours, effort and care to make it that beautiful. Whatever you create deserves just as much time, love and dedication.

    These are all fantastic tips! I'm looking forward to exploring this blog more.

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  71. What a GREAT post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading through these.

    Here's my addition, stolen from Stephen King:

    "Only God gets it right the first time."

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  72. Write like you're a cornered rat. True. Adds edginess to your writing. Or maybe panic. But it does help.

    Denise<3

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  73. Very helpful tips here Julie,
    And of course your readers share too is wonderful.
    My tips is always carry a small writing pad, a pen or pencil in your bag or pocket. It will help you to jot-down the ideas points plots come into your mind in a matter of second. it its not noted down it may fly away from your mind. :-)
    best regards to all writers
    here
    Phil

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  74. Julie, this is wonderful! Thank you for connecting us and for this helpful way to learn as we go. I have to say the most poignant tip here is from your 14 yr. old son!
    I say amen to that! Such wisdom in his words!

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