10 Writing Tips

I’ve read many books about how to write fiction and non-fiction, gathering ideas and good tips as I read. I’m still working on many of these ideas (and will be forever), but here are a few of my favorites from my two favorite writing books:

1. Vivid detail is the life blood of fiction. The reader is regularly presented with proofs—in the form of closely observed details—that what is said to be happening is really happening. (Gardner, The Art of Fiction)

2. One does not simply describe a barn. One describes a barn as seen by someone in some particular mood. (Gardner, The Art of Fiction)

3. We care about what we know and might possibly lose. We dislike that which threatens what we care about. We are indifferent toward that which has no visible bearing on our safety or the safety of what we love. (Gardner, The Art of Fiction)

4. No fiction can have real interest if the central character is not an agent struggling for his own goals but victim, subject to the will of others. The central character must act, not simply be acted upon. (Gardner, The Art of Fiction)

5. Use simple Anglo-Saxon language wherever possible. He didn’t “survey the area,” he “looked around.” (Gardner, The Art of Fiction)

6. In great fiction we are moved by what happens, not by the whimpering and bawling of the writer’s presentation of what happens. (Gardner, The Art of Fiction)

7. Action that continues without pause ceases to hold our attention. (McClanahan, Word Painting)

8. Ideas and emotions must be embodied in sensory, concrete detail before they become weighty, substantive. (McClanahan, Word Painting)

9. Factual information is never sufficient for description, no matter how accurate it may be. The details must appeal to our senses. (McClanahan, Word Painting)

10. Activity is not action. Action is motion that is going somewhere; that pushes the story along. (McClanahan, Word Painting)