Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing

Writer's Blog

zadiesmith5 Zadie Smith (Photograph: Francesco Guidicini)

In the winter of 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing published in The New York Times nearly a decade earlier, The Guardian reached out to some of today’s most celebrated authors and asked them to each offer his or her rules. My favourite is Zadie Smith’s list — an exquisite balance of the practical, the philosophical, and the poetic, and a fine addition to this ongoing omnibus of great writers’ advice on the craft.

Smith counsels:

  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
  3. Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation.’ You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle.’ All that matters is what you leave on the…

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The Benefits of Dictation

Story Empire

Hello Story Empire readers! I’d like to fly – at least when it comes to writing – rather than plodding along. There’s one tool I now use to do just that: Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Good thing you don’t have to train this dragon to dictate well.

When it comes to writing a book, there is a faster way without a huge expense which also feels like flying. In my last post, I described how I was working to clear my own logjam with available time and one of those changes was to spend a little money to address my constricted writing time. I purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking and set out to dictate so I could produce more words per hour than typing. To dictate well, it requires training Dragon – which sounds like the title of a couple of movies.

Training a Dragon is simple, especially when compared to the movie…

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The Types of Writing Advice You Should (and Shouldn’t) Take to Heart

Novelty Revisions

How do you know if the writing advice you’re being given is worth listening to?

Does it matter if someone is a published author or not?

Who is “qualified” to give the best advice?

These are all tricky questions. So here are some of the types of advice you’ll generally get about writing, who they tend to come from, and how to apply them (if at all) to your own writing life.

From a well-meaning acquaintance

“I never, ever do it that way. I always do it like this, and it’s definitely going to help you too.”

Unfortunately, there are a lot of (I suppose) well-meaning people out there who don’t know how to think outside their own mindset. They see the world only from their perspective. So even though they might want to genuinely help someone by offering advice, it’s usually very one-sided and closed-minded. But you should never…

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Announcing *You CAN Format Your Print-on-Demand Book!* Live at Amazon!

Just Can't Help Writing

The Beginner’s Cheat Sheet for Formatting with Adobe InDesign™

I announce with great pride that my ebook,

*You CAN Format Your Print-on-Demand Book: The Beginner’s Cheat Sheet to Formatting with Adobe InDesign(tm)*

is live at Amazon!

I trace my own journey formatting with InDesign, stripping that scary interface down to the essentials you actually need to format a paperback interior. It’s a lot easier than it looks! And with Adobe’s free trial, you can find out whether InDesign will work for you without spending a cent on software.

indd cover 1v2 Check it out! Only $2.99

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Writing to Give Shape to Our Lives

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz slavinBy Nancy Slavin

“I write because writing helps bring life into clearer focus and give shape to what I might otherwise experience as disconnected shards.”  – Joyce Thomas

I read the Joyce Thomas quote above in a 2011 issue of Poets & Writers and practically hummed out loud in my attraction to it. The urge to write for me is a primordial need to make sense of experiences that often happen in pieces. The way I make sense of the pieces is by creating the story, which hopefully turns out whole. Certainly in the case my daughter’s birth, the pieces of a fifty-four hour labor are disconnected, fragmenting more and more with each passing year, making me wonder which pieces are important enough to keep? And yet, long as the labor was and as bloody the outcome, I don’t use warfare metaphors to discuss that birth or write about my…

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Tension and Conflict. What’s the Difference?

KRISTINA STANLEY

Tension and conflict will keep your reader engaged in every scene. Knowing the difference and when to use each will drive your story forward.

Tension

Tension is the threat of something bad happening. This creates suspense.

Tension can be subtle or in-your-face.

Subtle Tension: Imagine one character is hiding a secret that could destroy his life and another character is about to accidentally spill the secret. The reader will feel the tension if you’ve set up the scene so that the reader knows the second character can’t keep a secret.

In-your-face Tension: A woman is thrown off a boat at sea. The tension comes if the reader cares about the character and wants her to survive. Or the tension could be she’s an evil woman who is about to destroy the world, and the reader doesn’t want her to survive.


Conflict

Conflict is the fight that is actually happening. A…

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Creating Tension in Fiction and Memoir

A Writer's Path

by Michael Mohr

One of the toughest things to do in fiction or creative nonfiction writing, in my professional opinion, is to create strong, believable tension. Without tension—between the protagonist and a villain, the protagonist and him/herself, the protagonist and the environment, etc—you really don’t have much of a story. And it’s unlikely readers will want to follow you far through the jungle of your narrative.

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How To Plan Your Novel Using The Three-Act Structure

Writer's Blog

Three-act-structure_1

Writing a novel is hard, especially if you’ve never done it before. You’ve spent hours researching, building your world and becoming an expert on your characters. Now you’re ready for the next step: planning (also known as plotting).

While some people like to write organically (letting the story take you in whatever direction feels right), having a detailed outline can help make the novel-writing process a lot less daunting and overwhelming. But how exactly do you plan a novel?

Essentially, there is no right or wrong way to outline your novel. Each story is different and needs to be told in a different way.

However, if you need a bit more guidance on how to plot out the next bestseller you know you have inside you, the three-act structure might be for you.

Defining The Three-Act Structure

The three-act structure is a popular screenwriting technique that revolves around constantly creating set-ups, conflicts and resolutions. With this structure…

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