Archives For Writing Tips

Image via Reddit

Aaron Sorkin is one of the best known and most influential screenwriters working today. He received four Primetime Emmy Awards for ‘The West Wing’ and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2011 for ‘The Social Network’.

Earlier this week Sorkin participated in an Ask Me Asking session on Reddit to help promote his new online screenwriting class. When Sorkin was asked how much of a character’s backstory he knows before he writes, he provided the following insightful answer:

I don’t like to commit myself to anything in a character’s backstory until I have to. I didn’t know going into the West Wing that Bartlet had MS. Then, along came an episode where I needed to introduce the idea that the First Lady (Dr. Channing) was a medical doctor. And the way I did it was by giving Bartlet MS.

David Mamet have written some excellent essays on this subject. You can get lost in the weeds if you sit down and try to create an entire biography for your character. If this is what they were like when they were six years old, and this is what they did when they were seven years old, and they scraped their knee when they were eight years old. Your character, assuming your character is 50 years old, was never six years old, or seven years old or eight years old. Your character was born the moment the curtain goes up, the moment the movie begins, the moment the television show begins, and your character dies as soon as it’s over. Your character only becomes seven years old when they say, “Well when I was seven years old, I fell in a well, and ever since then I’ve had terrible claustrophobia. Okay?

Characters and people aren’t the same thing. They only look alike.

I write a lot of drafts of screenplays and plays. I keep writing and I keep writing; what I try to do at the beginning is just get to the end. Once I’ve gotten to the end, I know a lot more about the piece, and I’m able to go back to the beginning and touch stuff that never turned into anything, and highlight things that are going to become important later on. And I go back, and I keep doing that, and I keep doing that, and I’ll retype the whole script, over and over again, just to make things sharper and sharper. That’s for movies and plays. In television, there just isn’t that kind of time. In television, I have to write a 55-minute movie every nine days, so we shoot my first draft.

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A post by Rebecca Makkai

You probably knew, when you started writing, that you’d signed on for murder. I was warned well in advance: One of my favorite childhood books was Lois Lowry’s The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline, in which the title character finds the notebook of the man her mother is dating. “Eliminate the kids,” one note says. She and her brother swing into crime-fighting mode, only to discover in the end that this man, a writer, was talking about editing characters out of his work-in-progress.

Later, as I studied writing, I’d hear authors lament the characters they’d had to erase from draft two, the ones who “felt like real people” to them. Or they’d talk about the ones they kept around because, despite the fact that they served no real purpose in the narrative, they’d become old friends.

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Image by Tess Follett Photography

Image by Tess Follett Photography

A review by Shu-Ling Chua

Encouragement, at its heart, represents an attempt to make others feel that they have the strength, wisdom, courage, and ability to solve their problems themselves: it aims not to provide specific solutions but to make others believe that they can find those solutions on their own.

Alex Lickerman, The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self

Use Your Words is all about encouraging others to see themselves as writers and more importantly, to actually write. It doesn’t matter whether you show your writing to anyone; you just need to write. Those who already write may itch to skip ‘Part one: The truth about writing’ but it’s worth being reminded that even writers as prolific as Catherine Deveny – eight books, over 1000 newspaper columns, hundreds of stand-up comedy gigs and counting – share our struggles.

The actual writing is easier than you think. It’s dealing with the emotional stuff around the writing that’s tough. But I’ll give you some reality pills to help you handle it. I’ll bust the myths.

And bust the myths she does, with panache. Deveny knows her stuff and having taught Gunnas Writing Masterclasses for over two years, she addresses the obstacles you’re mostly likely to face.

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A post by By Kenechi Uzor

The philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) is considered to be one of the greatest minds that ever lived. He was so revered during his life time that a student wrote to a friend after spotting Nietzsche on a train: “I just saw god on the 5 o’clock train.”

Along with the Bible, Nietzsche’s book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (free eBook) was a standard issue for all German soldiers during World War 1.

Friedrich Nietzsche thought and wrote on practically everything. His ten rules of writing were written in letters to his unrequited love, Lou Andreas-Salomé.

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“Breakthroughs come from putting an inordinate amount of pressure on yourself and seeing what you can take and hoping that you grow some new muscles. It’s not really this mystical – it’s like repeated practice over and over and over again, and suddenly you become something you had no idea you could really be… .”

In this video produced by The Atlantic, acclaimed writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates provides an insight into his early struggles as a writer and shares the best advice he received in his early career.

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Joanne Harris started her working life as a teacher, writing three novels during her fifteen years in the classroom. This included the international bestseller Chocolat (1999), the success of which made Harris a member of the exclusive Millionaire Authors’ Club, a list of UK authors whose books have sold more than one million copies. Since becoming a full-time writer Harris has written a further twenty books including two cookbooks and a Dr Who novella.

Last month Harris, a witty and wise Tweeter, shared the following tips for writers using the hashtag #TenWaysToKickstartYourWriting.

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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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