Writing Tips

Wendy Blanton:
"If you find yourself staring at the blank screen, pack up the laptop or a notepad and pen, and go somewhere else. If you can walk there, that's even better. Sometimes a little exercise and a change of venue wakes up the muse."

Stephen B. Bagley:
“Learn, learn, learn. We must realize we are always pupils. Read writing magazines and books. Attend writing workshops online and in person. Seek out authors who write better than you or have more information. Share your information with other authors so they can share with you. Read other author’s books and see what they did right and what they did wrong. In this way, your knowledge of the writing craft will continue to grow.”

Debra E. Chandler:
"Avoid thinking things like have to and should in relation to your writing. Try reprogramming want to and will in the space those words take up in your head. It helps maintain that sense of play that is so vital to creativity."

Barbara Shepherd:
"Ideas, or solutions, occur when you least expect them. If you think you’ll remember those brilliant words or phrases until you can sit in front of your computer, odds are you won’t. So be prepared. Keep a pad and pen on your bedside table, near your grocery list, beside your favorite chair, and in your vehicle. How long has it been since you wrote with that pen? Make sure you have an extra one or a pencil in reserve."

Debra Chandler: 
"When you’re stuck for ideas, try the person, place, thing prompt. Start with one, say a thing, and then think about who would use or need that thing, and then where they might use it. Make it the basis for other questions and development."

Heath Stallcup:
"Link everything. We live in a technology-filled world where everything is, or can be, linked. Link your phone to your computer to your online cloud storage. Find yourself stuck in a doctor's office with a long wait? Access your current WIP [Work In Progress] and add to it. It also makes it a lot tougher to 'lose' that work in the event of a boneheaded move.

"Link your life as well. Connect your social media so that one post to your blog also feeds Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media accounts you might have. It saves you time and gets your name 'out there' more."

Nita Beshear:
"Entertain yourself first. Many authors have said, 'I wrote for me.' You're a reader; write what you want to read. If it's too far-fetched, you can always edit it later. Despite the overabundance of repeats on television, in the movies, and even some books, your audience really doesn't want a rehash; they want something new. It doesn't have to be 'landing on Mars' new, just something a little different, odd even. Besides, if you don't entertain yourself while writing, writing becomes a dreaded chore, and the writer ends up slogging through to get the story written. So, entertain yourself with your story; it will entertain your reader."

Debbie Anderson:
"Write something. Even if it isn't the part of your book you seem to be stuck on. Sit down and write. Write about your experiences. We all have them--good ones, funny ones, sad ones, bad ones, etc. Write about your dog, cat, or hamster. Or use your pet as the character for a completely different story. Did anyone read Watchers by Dean Koontz? It's one of my personal favorites. If I had known it was about a dog that learns to read and write with Scrabble letters, I would have never picked it up. The mystery aspect was what grabbed me--the dog made me love it. So write. Ask yourself, 'What if?' And then start writing."

Stephen B. Bagley:
“Find a good, honest person who will function as your beta reader. You need someone who reads your genre and knows what’s been published, who can tell when they get bored, when a plot point is unbelievable, and if they would recommend the published book to a friend. Critiques are always tough to hear; remember that you asked them.

“A good critiquer, however, doesn’t attempt to change your story. They let you know the flaws they see and then do not attempt to fix them. You’re the writer. It’s your story. It’s your responsibility to fix its flaws.

“Sometimes, however, your story simply doesn’t click with a critiquer because of your subject matter or focus or whatever. Thank them for their time and look for someone else. You need an honest, objective look. While it’s nice to hear someone loved your draft, such comments do not help you improve.”

Debra Chandler:
"Look for evocative descriptors. Words that may be used in unconventional ways to create a depth of imagery behind the thing being described. To use an example from Nathan Brown’s Remember Los Alamos, he describes a particular dessert as being a “buttery meltdown” in a diner in the town that is the “birthplace of the (nuclear) bomb.”

Wendy Blanton:
"Daydreaming counts as writing. Sometimes you have to step away from the keyboard and do something that doesn't require thought. It can be going for a walk or curling up on the couch, but I've also had good luck with washing dishes, folding clothes, and gardening. Doing something with my hands and freeing up my brain to noodle the story works for me. Your mileage may vary."

Nita Beshear:
"Sometimes we have a tendency to wander around when we just went to look something up on the Internet. It's a little like going into the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with a basket full of items. One remedy for both is a list. Take a list into the store, don't go down other aisles, stick to the bread aisle. Find the bread on your list; turn around and leave.

"For the internet, make a list of facts you need to check or questions you need answered by the wide world of the internet. Then, when you get online, give yourself a time limit, and go down your list of questions answering them and moving on. I started the list making back in the day when I didn't have internet at home and had to go somewhere else to get online. It became important to do my research first before I went 'playing' or had to leave."

Wendy Blanton:
"Write every day, even if it's just a little. It's easier to pick up where you left off than it is to restart altogether. Keep the momentum going."
"Use a timer, set for one hour, for your writing session. When it goes off, get up and move for five minutes to get blood circulating and clear your head. Reset and start again as often as you need. Also, do this for research sessions. It helps keep you on task. I love research and can get lost for several hours without moving unless I set a timer."

Heath Stallcup:
"Read aloud what you've written. If it doesn't flow, fix it. If you confuse yourself, imagine what a reader would go through. Your words need to flow...like a stream. Not rage like a river during a flood."

Stephen B. Bagley:
"Don't head hop. Unless your character has telepathy, stick to his/her thoughts exclusively in a scene. Yes, I know you can find published books that do this, but that doesn't make it correct or helpful. Staying in your character's head--whether first person or third person--builds reader identification and helps to pull them into the story."

Debra Chandler:
"If you want to engage your reader, engage their senses. Use all five senses to describe what is going on in the scene. Not just the setting, but the action as well. Think Surround-tactisoundeflavosmellovision."

Stephen B. Bagley:
"I’m writing a story and use the Internet to look up how quickly hemlock can kill a person...and then an hour later, I’m looking at funny dog videos. The internet has seduced me away from getting my writing done. Has this happened to you? Maybe this tip will help.

"The tip is: Turn your internet off. My router is next to my computer, so when I know I would rather surf than write, I reach over and turn it off. If I want to look something up, I can turn it back on, but it takes a minute or two to boot up, which is usually enough time for me to acknowledge I’m trying to avoid writing.

"If your router isn’t close by, there are several programs for your computer that will turn off your internet for a specified amount of time. Programs such as InternetOff, Anti-Social, Freedom and several others are available. Some of them are even free. They will all help you keep your writing time for writing."

Kathy Akins:
"Read books in the genre you want to write. If writing for children, choose an age level as well. Read, read, read. Understand the genre to write it well."

Barbara Shepherd:
"In poetry, every word should be important to the poem. If you say everything you meant to say in four lines, limit that poem to those four. Transfer that logic to prose: Every word needs to earn its keep and move your story forward."

Stephen B. Bagley:
"When I edit, I work backwards. I start at the end of the book or short story and read the last page first and proceed backwards. Somehow that increases the number of errors and mistakes I catch. I think it must disrupt the flow of reading to allow the editor part of my brain to the front. One of my college professors suggested actually reading an article backwards, sentence by sentence. It does help with certain difficult passages."