Archives For Writing Tips

AL Kennedy's Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

A.L.Kennedy was born in Scotland in 1965. She is the author of six literary novels, one science fiction novel, seven short story collections and three works of non-fiction including the wonderful writer’s resource On Writing. In 2010 Kennedy shared the following advice with readers of The Guardian, published as part of a series  inspired to Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing.

1. Have humility. Older/more ­experienced/more convincing writers may offer rules and varieties of advice. ­Consider what they say. However, don’t automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else – they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.

2. Have more humility. Remember you don’t know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.

3. Defend others. You can, of course, steal stories and attributes from family and friends, fill in filecards after lovemaking and so forth. It might be better to celebrate those you love – and love itself – by writing in such a way that everyone keeps their privacy and dignity intact.

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What We Look for in Unsolicted Submissions

A guest post by Kim Winternheimer, editor of The Masters Review

The Masters Review is a publication that focuses entirely on new and emerging writers, offering a quality platform for readers, agents, and editors to discover new voices. In addition to our printed anthology, we have submission opportunities year round including a short story award for new writers, workshops, and a fiction contest running throughout September and October with guest judge Jeff VanderMeer. Nearly all the stories we publish are unsolicited, which means most of our work comes from the slush pile. So how do you make your story stand out? Here’s what we look for when reading stories.

1. Clarity 

Especially at the beginning of a piece. Assume any story you submit is being read by editors who are also reading many other stories that week, day, or even hour. A difficult beginning is disastrous because it informs the reader’s opinion on the rest of the story, making her less forgiving of small errors or lulls later. The start of your story should read clearly on the sentence level and avoid too much exposition or throat clearing. Our favorite pieces show intention, finesse, and clarity from the start, and introduce the story in a way that is easy to understand, even if the piece is experimenting with structure or other style.

2. A Good Hook 

The opening line in this year’s anthology is: “Almost everyone agreed that the death of Rodrigo Bradley had been an accident.” This is a great example of a piece that begins in the action of the story. When reading a large number of submissions, it helps to begin with a plot element that immediately draws readers into the world and has them wondering: “What will happen next?”

3. Productive Ambiguity 

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Who Is Your Boo Radley? Finding Characters Who Motivate You To Write

A guest post by Patti Frazee

We all have, within our memories, a treasure trove of characters. Maybe it was that quirky childhood friend or the mysterious neighbors next door. Perhaps it was that mean old lady down the hill or that big brother who (almost) always tried to protect you. Or maybe it was that strong, kind father who guided you through life’s hardest lessons. Sound familiar? These are all beloved characters in Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

It’s always gratifying to delve into your own treasure trove to discover those characters who speak to you. Many characters in To Kill a Mockingbird were people from Harper Lee’s life. Her childhood friend Truman Capote was the template for Dill Harris. Her father was the backbone of Atticus Finch. How can you go into your memory and find those “characters” who motivate you to write? Maybe no one seems as memorable of Boo Radley or Dill Harris, or maybe you simply have to take a closer look.

Examine intensely those characters who speak to you, as Harper Lee did: “Dill was a curiosity. He wore blue linen shorts that buttoned to his shirt, his hair was snow white and stuck to his head like duckfluff; he was a year my senior but I towered over him… his laugh was sudden and happy; he habitually pulled at a cowlick in the center of his forehead.” Imagine if Harper Lee had ended this description at “Dill was a curiosity.” She doesn’t make us discern what she means; she shows us that he was a curiosity. She makes him curious to us by showing him through appearance, sounds, and habits.

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13 Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Accomplished

Gretchen Rubin is the author of multiple New York Times bestselling books including The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, is the host of a chart-topping weekly podcast, and maintains a popular website with hundreds of thousands of readers form around the world. When it comes to advice on being a productive writer, she is someone we should all be listening to.

One of the challenges of writing is…writing. Here are some tips that I’ve found most useful for myself, for actually getting words onto the page:

1. Write something every work-day, and preferably, every day; don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Staying inside a project keeps you engaged, keeps your mind working, and keeps ideas flowing. Also, perhaps surprisingly, it’s often easier to do something almost every day than to do it three times a week. (This may be related to the abstainer/moderator split.)

2. Remember that if you have even just fifteen minutes, you can get something done. Don’t mislead yourself, as I did for several years, with thoughts like, “If I don’t have three or four hours clear, there’s no point in starting.”

3. Don’t binge on writing. Staying up all night, not leaving your house for days, abandoning all other priorities in your life — these habits lead to burn-out.

4. If you have trouble re-entering a project, stop working in mid-thought — even mid-sentence — so it’s easy to dive back in later.

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Ursula K. Le Guin Launches Online Writing Workshop

Photo by Jack Liu

“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most respected and prolific writers of science fiction and fantasy. Last week she announced she would be launching an open consultation or “informal ongoing workshop” on the Book View Cafe, a website she co-founded in 2008.

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7 Essential Tips for Writing a Successful Blog

Karen Andrews is a professional writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. She began blogging in 2006 and now has one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country. Here she shares her best tips for writing and maintaining a successful blog.


Yes, I’m talking in a selfless way here. Many successful bloggers will tell you that their mantra is always to ‘give, give, give’ – or, in other words, be as informative and helpful as possible, packing each post with jaw-dropping content. And I’m the first to admit that those kind of posts are lengthier, more time-consuming to write. They are worth it, though, and generally get the best amount of traction on social media and have staying power.

I’m also talking about smaller-scale matters. As you begin blogging and start moving around in those circles, there is an element of ‘If you do this for me I’ll do that for you’. That kind of network-building can be important when building your reputation, and is an opportunity to demonstrate reliability, ideas and a proactive attitude. Think about your strengths before making any offers. Back-tracking isn’t the best thing to do if you decide you’re not ready or certain about a course of action. Luckily, people are friendly and are usually happy to help out if you have any questions!


Those of us who choose to divulge personal, sometimes difficult, details about parts of our lives will be familiar with that feeling of trepidation right around that moment you’re about the hit the ‘publish’ button. Do you get it? I still do. And if I ever get tempted to hit the ‘save draft’ button instead because I get afraid I think of the words of Brené Brown: “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

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Literary magazine Bartleby Snopes was founded by Nathaniel Tower in 2008. In 2010 it was named as one of Flavorwire’s ‘Top Ten Online Literary Magazines You Should Be Reading’. Bartleby Snopes currently publishes two stories per week and holds a regular Story of the Month competition. Bartleby Snopes also publishes a free downloadable magazine every January and July.

In 2015 Bartleby Snopes is running its 7th Annual Dialogue Only Writing Contest. Entrants are asked to create an original story of up to 2000 words composed entirely of dialogue. To help writers meet this challenge, the editors have composed the following very useful tips. 

Dialogue Writing Tips from Bartleby Snopes

Every year, Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine hosts a dialogue-only writing contest. Submissions must consist of nothing but dialogue. You can have as many characters as you want, but you can’t have any tag lines or any narration. If it sounds easy, then you are probably doing it wrong.

During the six years we’ve hosted the contest, we have read hundreds of dialogue stories. Here are some things we have learned in the process. Even if you don’t plan to submit to the contest, we think these tips will help you create stories with great dialogue. 

Good Dialogue Should Feel Real
Many authors try to force the story to move through the dialogue. They will attempt to “cheat” by making the characters say unnatural things in order to paint the scene better. A character might say “I am going to pick up this gun right here off this table that is right next to me.” In most stories, the character would probably just pick up the gun. When you are telling a story through dialogue, you must remain true to your characters. Don’t force them to say things they wouldn’t just because it will move your plot along or paint a better picture in the reader’s head (it probably won’t). Before you start penning your dialogue-only story, take some time to listen to an actual conversation. After you’ve written your story, read it out loud and ask yourself if it actually sounds like people talking. If you can’t imagine someone saying it, then the story probably isn’t going to work. 

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