Writing tips

Think like a reader.

Just as your readers won’t stick around for long stretches of self-indulgent introspection (in agonizing detail), you probably wouldn’t either. And as picturesque as a beach can be, does anyone really want to read five pages about a piece of driftwood and its origin story? Probably not. Sometimes we writers get stuck trying to make our writing more “literary” and profound. Do what the reader does: focus on the story.

Give your story plenty of conflict.

This is how you hold onto your reader’s attention. Keep them guessing. Keep them on the edge of their seats — wondering, fearing, anticipating. Give them a reason to keep reading. You don’t do this by describing in minute detail a group of best friends enjoying their wine and chips on the beach while everyone gets along splendidly and all the couples are blissfully in love and never argue. It’s when the stakes are high that your reader is compelled to wonder “What will happen next?”

Give your story a strong opening.

Stiff competition isn’t the only reason you’ll want to hook your reader right from the beginning of your story. A great opening makes your book instantly memorable and sets it apart from the legions of books with weak beginnings. Related: A great cover can only do so much to earn your book an honored place on someone’s shelf. Hook them quickly with your words, and then hold on tight.

Write something (anything) every day.

It’s important that you develop the habit of writing every single day. It can help to subscribe to an email list that provides daily writing tips not only to remind you of your daily writing commitment but to help you improve your writing along the way.

Establish a writing space and time.

Time and space are critical elements in forming a daily writing habit. If you develop the habit of writing in a specific spot at a specific, scheduled time, you associate that spot and that time of day with writing — and vice versa. Make a point of scheduling a time to write each day, and keep it sacred. If you’re going to write a book, daily writing deserves a place on your schedule.

Assemble your writing tools.

You’ll need a reliable computer with a word processing program, at least to create your final draft. The publishing world uses Microsoft Word, so stick with this or a program that allows you to export your work as a Word document. Other tools might include the following:

  • Pens and a notebook
  • Sticky notes
  • Index cards
  • Paper clips
  • Highlighter pen/s
  • A planner or planning pages (unless you do your planning on your computer)

Map out your book idea.

There’s more than one way to do this:

  • Sketch out a mind map on a large piece of paper.
  • Write notes about each scene or idea on a sticky note and arrange them on a planning wall or whiteboard.
  • Fill out an index card for every idea you want to include in your book and rearrange them in an order that makes sense. However you map out your book, it helps to not only see your project as a whole made up of smaller pieces but also to see how all the scenes and ideas relate to each other and join to form a cohesive whole.

Write in smaller chunks.

One of these most useful writing tips and tricks is learning how to chunk down your writing into shorter time segments. A timer — like this Pomodoro app — is helpful with this. If you write for smaller chunks of time (25 minutes each) and take small breaks (5 minutes) between them, you’ll return to each writing session better-prepared to focus your creative energy on writing for the next 25 minutes.

Summarize your book — and break it into smaller pieces.

It helps to start by summarizing your book. Just write to yourself about what your book is about, who would benefit from reading it (if it’s nonfiction), what problem would it solve, etc.

Break your book into smaller pieces.

To make your book project less overwhelming and to help you keep moving from one step to the next, break the whole thing down into smaller, more manageable pieces. And focus on one piece at a time.