Writing Tips

A few folks have asked me for tips to help them write more. This is my first attempt at helping, so it’s a bit rough and will likely change.

I usually start with a few options for a book, chapter, short-story, or even a paragraph. Even if one option really feels right, I still take time to develop a few options. After picking the best, I have a topic that I’m especially excited to write about, and ideas from the other options usually show up.

Finding Options for Your Stories

  1. Find several moments from your life that made you happy, sad, angry, or loved. They could also be the stories you tell most often to friends. Write a few phrases about them. At this point, you’re looking for options, breadth not depth, so try to resist the urge to elaborate.
  2. Take a break, have a treat.
  3. Look at your list of topics and write a few sentences about the ones you like the most, which are likely the ones you can’t resist writing more about. Exactly no criticism is allowed in the step—of any kind. No rules of writing apply. That includes rules of grammar, punctuation, clarity, unkind English teachers, or other unkind people. Have fun, by writing a little bit about your best topics.
  4. Take a break, have a treat.
  5. Return to step 1 or 2 until no more exciting options come up.

Get Friends Involved

The next steps are about getting friends involved. I hope you include me, please.

  1. Talk with friends about the topics that stay with you. You could tell them that you want to write more and want their thoughts on which topics are most engaging, most entertaining, or most important, for you or others.
  2. Think about what your friends said and write a few more phrases about the topics that have stayed with you.
  3. Take a break, have a treat.

Elaborate on One or Two Options

In this section, you finally write some of your story, but just as before, this part should be fun. No rules of grammar, punctuation, or other rules of writing apply.

  1. Expand on your best one or two options in whatever way you want. That could be in an outline, hand-written notes, or even talking into a microphone.
  2. Finally, write the shortest version of your story, 500-1,000 words. If part of the story gets too long, write only the best parts. You can put the other parts into future drafts.
  3. Share the story with friends.
    1. Even close friends of mine have quickly made many comments about grammar and style, as if they’re now in the role of a determined English teacher.
    2. To get the right kind of review from friends, I give them guidelines, like:
      • The comments I need most are which parts of the story held your attention and which ones made your attention fade.
      • Right now, I don’t need comments on grammar, style, word-choice, or similar stuff.

I hope these steps help you have fun with writing. Any fully-developed story takes a lot of time, so it’s important to pick a topic you enjoy writing about. If any part of it gets frustrating, focus on the fun parts and write a shorter story, for now. Then, take a break and have a treat.

Let me know if have any questions.