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12 Novel Writing Tips From the Pros

12 Novel Writing Tips from the Pros

There are novel writing tips, and then there are novel writing tips from the the legends in the field. Here are some novel writing nuggets of awesomeness from 12 of the biggies in paperback writer game:

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #1: Research with live people and real places (Carl Zimmer)

Carl Zimmer (A Planet of Viruses) advises doing research by talking to real people and visiting real places. It'll inspire new ideas, greater characters, and provide a feel for a scene and a person that you'll be able to write from real experience and real observations.

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #2: Don't over-write (J.D. Salinger)

One of J.D. Salinger's few words of wisdom to aspiring writers is not to over-write. He advises that it's always better to leave something for the reader to fill in the blank on. Analyze an emotion, get it down on paper in a pure, succinct way, and leave the reader to imagine the rest.

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #3: Organize, Organize, Organize! (J.K. Rowling)

Whether it's a chart, an outline, diagrams, a wall of scribbled words or an app, J.K Rowling advises to plan your writing beforehand. What may seem like a mess to others, is actually the organization of your novel. It's important to get the shape of it before you write.

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #4: Have Thick Skin! (Harper Lee)

As Harper Lee advises, any aspiring writer needs to "develop a thick hide." You will inevitably encounter some criticism. Your very favorite pages may be the ones most misunderstood by your reader. Take criticism well, make changes even when the need to do so is hard to hear, and don't let criticism get you down.

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #5: Don't underestimate the value of feedback (David Shenk)

David Shenk (The Genius of All of Us) suggests showing your work to as many people and kinds of people as possible. Pry them for answers. Find out what's working, what's not, what's convincing or what isn't interpreted correctly.

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #6: Read! (Mario Vargas Llosa)

Mario Vargas Llosa says to read constantly in order to learn what rich language sounds like, but don't imitate. Find your own style and voice.

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #7: Eliminate Passive Voice (Stephen King)

If there's one style-choice Stephen King advises against, it's the use of the passive voice. He says, "Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #8: Be observant (Ernest Hemingway)

Hemingway advised young writers to perfect their listening skills. Great characters come out of these observations. He wrote, "When people talk listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling."

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #9: Write every day, even your bad days (Cory Doctorow)

Cory Doctorow (For the Win) follows the philosophy many authors do-- WRITE EVERY DAY. On you bad days, on your moody days, on the days when everything that comes out is complete garbage. Set a time limit, a word limit, whatever you want, but make sure to write every single day.

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #10: Don't overthink! (Judy Blume)

Your mind can be your worst enemy! Judy Blume advises not to think too much about what you're doing, where it's going, whether or not you've got what it takes. Write what comes naturally and figure out everything else later.

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #11: Don’t write to your audience (Joan Didion)

Joan Didion says she writes to a reader, but that the reader is always her. If you too hung up on the audience and who you're writing to, the voice won't be authentic, honest, or human. Don't listen to the reader as you write, write for yourself.

Novel Writing Tips From the Pros #12: Write a story you'd want to read (Mark Frauenfelder)

It sounds simple, but when you're writing a novel, Mark Frauenfelder (The Mad Professor) says you have to make sure it's something that you would pick up off the shelf and read yourself. If you're not interested in it, you can't expect anyone else to be. A topic you're not passionate about will be that much harder to write too.

Michael Rogan

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