Archives For Writing Tips

3 Writing Tips from George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R.R. Martin’s mind-bogglingly successful A Song of Ice and Fire series, was first published on this day in 1996. Martin is frequently asked for advice by aspiring writers hoping to emulate his success; on his website he shares the following writing tips.

1. Read

The most important thing for any aspiring writer, I think, is to read! And not just the sort of thing you’re trying to write, be that fantasy, SF, comic books, whatever. You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy, SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, erotica, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones — what not to do). Continue Reading…

Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories - Buster Keaton Title Image
By S.S. Van Dine, a pseudonym for art critic and detective novelist Willard Huntington Wright. First published in The American Magazine in September 1928. 

The detective story is a kind of intellectual game. It is more — it is a sporting event. And for the writing of detective stories there are very definite laws — unwritten, perhaps, but none the less binding; and every respectable and self-respecting concocter of literary mysteries lives up to them. Herewith, then, is a sort Credo, based partly on the practice of all the great writers of detective stories, and partly on the promptings of the honest author’s inner conscience. To wit:

 1. The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.

2. No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.

3. There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.

4. The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit. This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. It’s false pretenses.

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Sherman Alexie Writing Tips

Sherman Alexie is the author of 24 books including Reservation Blues which received an American Book Award in 1996. His first young adult fiction novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has sold over one million copies.  

In the September 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest magazine Alexie shared the following advice for writers.

1. Don’t Google search yourself. Continue Reading…

How to Write a Short Story: Advice from Kurt Vonnegut

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

In this video, narrated by the author himself, Kurt Vonnegut shares eight insightful tips for writing a great short story.

This advice was published in the introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box, a collection of Vonnegut stories written during the fifties and sixties for popular magazines including Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post.

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3 Writing Tips from Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld is the bestselling author of four novels: PrepThe Man of My Dreams,  American Wife and Sisterland. In an article in The Guardian last week, published in the wake of the controversy caused by Hanif Kureishi’s assertion that creative writing courses are ‘a waste of time’, Sittenfeld (herself an experienced creative writing teacher) shared the following very practical advice for writers.

1. Establish a writing schedule ahead of time for the coming week or month.

This is more important the less time you have. If you work full-time, you might plan to write for an hour at 6am on Tuesday and Thursday, or at 4pm on Wednesday and Saturday. Write this commitment down in your diary or calendar, don’t schedule anything that conflicts with it, and sit alone somewhere you can focus when the time comes. It’s OK if you don’t produce sentences during that time, but don’t do anything else – don’t check email, don’t text, don’t go online (and for heaven’s sake, if you’re using a computer, shut all files and windows except for the one you’re working on). If some nagging errand you need to do occurs to you, write it down, but don’t start doing it.

2. Create an outline. 

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PD James - Top 10 Writing Tips

P.D. James is one of Britain’s most popular crime writers. Born in 1920, she has published over 20 novels, many of which have been adapted for television. P.D. James was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991 and was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame in 2008 alongside Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. In November 2013 she shared her top tips for writing novels with the BBC.

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In July this year Joyce Carol Oates, one of the most prominent writers of her generation, posted on Twitter her top 10 writing tips. For new and experienced writers alike, this is some very valuable advice.

Joyce Carol Oates' top 10 writing tips

Related post: Joyce Carol Oates on Developing Realistic Characters