Ten Writing Tips Du Jour

Jordan Dane

I thought I’d update my “Words of Advice for Authors.”  Here are ten that came to mind, but I want to hear from you. What advice has helped you to keep going and improve?

Fotolia image purchased by Jordan Dane

Fotolia image purchased by Jordan Dane

1.) Skip the Boring Stuff – Unless you’re writing for your mother, who loves everything you do, consider the attention span of most readers. Describing anything for several pages or showing off all your research efforts in one scene can be tedious. One of my favorite quotes on writing comes from Elmore Leonard when he said, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”

2.) Cut Unnecessary Words – We are all creatures of habit. The way we express ourselves can become mechanical. We may not even see our “habits.” Make your first pass through your drafts be focused on deleting and tightening your sentences and wording. You’ll begin to develop a list of “red flag” words to avoid.

3.) Bleed on the Page – Remember to write with passion, even if it feels a little “over the top.” Writing is about emotion that resonates with readers. They have to care what happens to your characters, and that starts with YOU. If you aren’t fully vested in the world you are creating and the characters’ plight in it, you will not capture the hearts of your readers.

4.) Imagery is Key – Paint a picture with your scenes. Layer the world with images that trigger a reader’s memory, without “telling” them what they should see in their mind’s eye. Sure the moon shines, but how does it reflect on broken glass or dapple the ground through the trees? How does it look upon dead skin?

5.) K.I.S.S. – Keep things simple. Overwriting can cloud the emotion of the scene with words and remind the reader that the author is always present. Simple wording can focus the reader on the emotion and make the reader forget an author created a work of fiction.

6.) Write Whether You Sell or Not – Write for YOU. As authors we spend quite a bit of time at the craft. If you’re not having fun doing it, then why spend the time? Write because you absolutely love it.

7.) Learn to Improve Through Criticism – Easier said than done, but if enough comments are made about certain habits you have, as a writer, then keep an open mind and consider how you can incorporate changes to improve. Only you can choose to make changes in your story or in your writing style. No one can make you. You will learn who to listen to and what makes sense for you, but trust your gut to determine what works for you.

8.) Make Time for Writing – Develop a schedule that works for you and try to be consistent. If writing is expendable in the hours of your day, then it will become more so as time goes on. If it’s important to you, you will make time for it. Even if you can only write one page a day, that’s still progress.

9.) Write What You Fear – I’d always heard that phrase to “write what you know,” but I thought it should be “write what you fear, what you love, etc.” If a story triggers a strong emotional response in you, chances are it will do the same in your readers. Writing is about emotion, so don’t let naysayers dissuade you by saying you should only write what you know. You can research and learn things, but writing about emotional triggers will resonate with readers.

10.) Dare to be Different – Try new things with your writing and dare to be the trendsetter. Have fun with new directions if it makes sense for you. That’s how the “next big thing” happens. It doesn’t come from those you follow trends. It comes from daring souls who aren’t afraid to take risks. You never know where those risks will lead.

What tip would you add to this list, TKZers? What keeps you going? What Advice would you share with new writers?

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

12 thoughts on “Ten Writing Tips Du Jour

  1. Take some real classes in creative writing at a college and get feedback from an instructor with an MFA. Big difference. Big improvement.

  2. Good tips, Jordan. Someone might ask how to meld #3 and #5. I’d say to overwrite those emotional moments the first time around, then pull back as needed when you edit. That’s a little easier than trying to add emotional heat later. Write hot, revise cool. Write like you’re in love, edit like you’re in charge.

  3. A great list! I must especially keep #2 and #3 in mind as I write. When I first start again after a break, I find myself tight, like exercising without stretching first. Journal writing has become my mental stretch to prepare for the day’s writing.

    Number 7 is very important, too. Seek feedback, early and often and keep an open mind to the critique. If you get the same comment in a particular area more than once, it may be time to listen.
    Thanks, Jordan!

  4. Learn the craft before you break the ‘rules’, and then experiment…always with the reader, and the effect on the reader, in mind.

    I prefer to call the rules ‘guidelines’ or ‘tools’, but so many writers ignore them before they understand why we have them, why we say, for example, use adverbs with caution, use the invisible said, show don’t tell, etc.

    Someone called those writers ‘rebels without a clue.’ Wish I could remember who.

  5. Great tips, Jordan.

    I would add one that I find difficult to do:

    #11. Dare to tear the house down and rebuild it. Constantly assess your story and be willing to make slash and burn edits. It seems that great ideas come in the middle of writing the rough draft. Make use of them.

  6. Nice suggestion, April. Thank you. And within any class an author might take, there’s the potential to network with fellow students to develop encouraging writing craft relationships beyond the classroom.

  7. Write like you’re in love, edit like you’re in charge.

    I like this alot, Jim. This could be a post it note at my desk. Thank you.

  8. Hey there, Julie. Thanks for commenting. Yes, feedback can be like a collaboration with the right people. When you sell to a publisher and work with an editor, it’s a definite collaboration and is vital to keep an open mind. Happy writing.

  9. Hello Sheryl. Great tips. I’m a big believer in understanding the “rules” before you break them. It broadens our foundations in craft and makes it a bit more fun when we find a way to test those guidelines when it makes sense.

  10. You are a gutsy gut, Steve. Yes, I would imagine that’s scary to do, but when you get an epiphany of brilliance, it would be very rewarding to make a drastic change tgat pays off. That’d be like hitting it out of the park. Nice.

  11. Good suggestions. I’d add another one: Write the first draft all the way through until the end, then go back and edit. Too many people get hung up on perfection and never finish their manuscript.

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