Three steps to a smoother writing style — Nail Your Novel

This week Joanna Penn invited me to her podcast to talk about writing style and voice, which you can see in a few weeks’ time. We got so involved in the subject that we didn’t finish her question list and this point didn’t make the cut. So I thought it would make a useful post. […]

via Three steps to a smoother writing style — Nail Your Novel


JCU Admissions: 6 Writing Hacks for Your First Fall Term Paper

Fall semester is just around the corner.  For most students, if not all, this means writing, writing and more writing.  Yes, that’s right.  It’s not just creative writing and English literature and language students who have to pour over grammar, deal with writer’s block, and seek help from the masters.

To get you through these challenges, JCU Admissions offers 6 very useful tips. Read about them here: 6 Writing Hacks for Your First Fall Term Paper.

Need Writing Advice? Writer Jennifer Chen Has Got You Covered

pin write what you wish

Los Angeles-based journalist, author, playwright and editor Jennifer Chen has experienced the writing world on multiple levels and, as a result, has some words of wisdom for beginning writers.  Chen has written for some of the most recognizable magazines:  O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Cosmopolitan, Natural Health, and The Writer.   She holds a BFA and MFA in playwriting from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is an alumnae of Hedgebrook, one of the few women-only writers residency.   On her website,, Chen has dedicated a page, Writing Advice, to offers advice on topics such as:

  • Balancing Work & Writing,
  • How Not to Be Jealous of Other Writers,
  • A Writer’s Guide to Rejection,
  • Allowing Yourself to Suck at Writing,
  • 5 Tips for Dealing with Fear as a Creative Person.

The list goes on.  Still, Chen goes one step further on her Writing Advice page and offers specific tips on:

  • Artist Residencies
  • Getting a BFA/MFA in Writing
  • Freelance Writing
  • Magazine Writing
  • Young Adult & Middle-Grade Writing

Of course, reading the advice of one writer might not be enough for some.  Don’t worry. Chen has got this equally covered through guest blogging, book reviews by and interviews with writers, from television writers to book editors to authors.

In other words, Chen’s Writing Advice is an impressive page that includes many of the topics that writers of all levels would find interesting.

Do you know of a writing website that offers advice?  Send us a message or leave a comment!

Happy Writing!



Don’t Write What You Know: Toni Morrison Interview with NEA on Writing (Article)

Image found on Google Images

Image found on Google Images

It is a statement that possibly every creative writing student has heard and every creative writing teacher has uttered: write what you know.  Whether the class is fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, the writing edict remains the same.  Students are often told to delve into their past and present experiences to find the basis for their work.  For the most part, it would seem that with this advice students have an easier time approaching the task of putting thoughts to paper.

Still, Toni Morrison has other ideas.

In a 2014 interview with Rebecca Gross for NEA Arts Magazine, Morrison explains that one of the first pieces of advice that she gave to her students about “writing what they knew” was “Don’t pay attention to any of that.”

Morrison explained that her students lacked the experience to write what they know, specifically she stated, “First, because you don’t know anything and second, because I don’t want to hear about your true love and your mama and your papa and your friends.” Instead Morrison advised her students to imagine someone they didn’t know, a place they had never been.

Why take this approach? For Morrison, it was important that her students stepped outside the confines of their realities, i.e., to think outside of the box.

Interested in reading more of Morrison’s advice on writing? Visit NEA Arts Magazine: “Write, Erase, Do It Over.”

Article | Washington Post: Laura Giovanelli’s “On being a writing teacher struggling with writer’s block”

Image from linked article: “On being a writing teacher struggling with writer’s block.” Click to read.

Professor Laura Giovanelli’s article “On being a writing teacher struggling with writer’s block”  should bring comfort to many aspiring writers.  Writer’s block is the bane of a writer’s existence.  It’s like an impenetrable roadblock that cuts the writer off from the dream of arriving to conclusion of a story…or even beginning the journey.

It’s a long read, but a worthy one. Below is an excerpt:

It’s hard for me to even admit that I have writer’s block or anxiety about writing, but here I go. I consider the people—generous, kind people, people much smarter than me, including from my own university—who have given me money to research and write this book. I recall the very good writers who haven’t gotten anywhere on this journey. To write does not guarantee to publish. This project, the longest I have ever worked on anything, including each of my degrees, might ultimately not see the light of day but end as a digital relic taking up space in my Dropbox account.  Read More

Writer’s block happens to the best of us.  It’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad writer.  In fact, if you are struggling with writer’s block, then it means one really important thing:  you are really trying to write.  Writers write and writers have writer’s block. End of story.

Happy Writing & Unblocking!

Article | Business Insider: 22 Lessons from Stephen King

Stephen King. Image from Wikipedia. Click to read Business Insider article by Maggie Zhang

Author Stephen King has broken down the need to know lessons for writers into 22 pieces of advice.  In her article “Stephen King On How to Write”, journalist Maggie Zhang shares with her readers not only King’s thoughts on writing, but those of writers Kurt Vonnegut and Susan Sontag. Read the Article.

Don’t have time to read the article? Well, here are the lessons a nutshell:

  1. Read, don’t watch television.
  2. Prepare for possible failure and tons of criticism.
  3. People-pleasing is a waste of time.
  4. Write for you first.
  5. Write what you find most difficult.
  6. Disconnect from the world when writing. (When rewriting, reconnect with the world.)
  7. Don’t be pretentious.
  8. Avoid adverbs and long paragraphs.
  9. Don’t be ruled by grammar.
  10. Master describing your environment.
  11. Give only as much backstory as is needed
  12. Create 3-d characters, not polarized ones.
  13. Challenge yourself, use the active voice.
  14. Drugs/alcohol are not required for a creative mind.
  15. Imitation isn’t the best form of flattery (it denies you your unique voice).
  16. Writing is a telepathic connection between writer and reader.
  17. Take your writing seriously.
  18. Write every day.
  19. Write your first draft in 3 months.
  20. Take a 6-week (or longer) break after writing your first draft
  21. Be ruthless in your editing.  Cut what doesn’t work (no matter how precious to you).
  22. Maintain good relationships and great health.

Article | The New Yorker’s “The Middle of Things: Advice for Young Writers”

Image from The New Yorker. Click to read related article.

A wonderful and inspiring article by Andrew Solomon–a must-read for aspiring writers of any age.

An Excerpt from “The Middle of Things: Advice for Young Writers”

 The deeper you look into other souls—and writing is primarily an exercise in doing just that—the clearer people’s inherent dignity becomes. So I would like to be young again—for the obvious dermatological advantages, and because I would like to recapture who I was before the clutter of experience made me a bit more sagacious and exhausted. What I’d really like, in fact, is to be young and middle-aged, and perhaps even very old, all at the same time—and to be dark- and fair-skinned, deaf and hearing, gay and straight, male and female. I can’t do that in life, but I can do it in writing, and so can you. Click to read more.

Article | Author Elizabeth Gilbert Shares Her “Thoughts on Writing”

Author Elizabeth Gilbert. Image from her Official Website. Click to visit.

Writing can be challenging business. There are moments when you write and feel on top of the world.  There are moments  when even thinking about writing makes you wish you never even began your writer’s journey.

It is in those latter moment that we must find courage to continue on our path.  Luckily, as young writers, we can look to those who have traveled ahead of us to provide us with encouragement and wisdom.  Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert shares her story on how she came to writing and took steps to develop her craft.

Excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert “Thoughts on Writing”

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling…I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began. Click here to continue reading.

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

Planning to work on your manuscript today? Below are the 10 words of wisdom when writing fiction by crime novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard. Although, many of these rules have been broken time and again by successful authors, the advice remains tried-and-true!

Leonard was the author of Get Shorty. He died almost one year ago (August 20,2013) at the age of 87.

Happy Writing!

The Daily Post

“I always refer to style as sound,” says Leonard. “The sound of the writing.” Some of Leonard’s suggestions appeared in a 2001 New York Times article that became the basis of his 2007 book, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. Here are those rules in outline form:

  1. Never open a book with the weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control!
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Same for places and things.
  10. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.

These are Leonard’s rules in point form. For context on each rule, check out this piece in the Detroit Free Press.

Source: Open Culture

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