Tag Archives: Tips


A2All serious writers continually strive to improve their craft.  The best upcoming authors look to the best established writers, historic and current, for advice. Here are 26 timeless, eye-opening tips from some of the most successful authors ever to put words on paper.

The first draft of everything is shit. – Ernest Hemingway

Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, and judgementally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass. – David Ogilvy

If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker

A3If you intend to write as honestly as you can then your days as a member of polite society are numbered. – Stephen King

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. – Harper Lee

A4Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. – Paul Theroux

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. – Jack London

My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip. – Elmore Leonard

A5Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. – George Orwell

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. – W. Somerset Maugham

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman

A15Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die. – Anne Enright

If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser

Write the book the way it should be written, then give it to somebody to put in the commas and shit. – Elmore Leonard

A8Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. – Ernest Hemingway

Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly. – Joshua Wolf Shenk

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain

A1If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. – Elmore Leonard

Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. – Neil Gaiman

The scariest moment in writing is just before the start. – Stephen King

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. – Ray Bradbury

A13Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway

Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman

It’ s okay to write shitty first drafts – Anne Lamott

And here’s a bonus that I forgot to put in the original post to make it 27 tips:

A16When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope. – Stephen King 


To receive your FREE PDF with 95 Killer Tips On Writing Deadly Crime Fiction, enter your email address on the header or sidebar form. Read on for a sample of the first 12. All images are attributed to the TV series ‘The Simpsons’.

Writing crime fiction is like investigating murders. You deal with lies.

PolygraphEveryone lies to the police. Complainants lie. Witnesses lie. Lawyers lie. Believe it or not, even the crooks lie to the cops.

Homicide investigators get extremely good at detecting lies. They’re human lie detectors. And they know that to get people to co-operate in investigations, there has to be something in it for them. Just like there has to be something in this for you.

page-0To get you to co-operate with me, I’m giving you 95 Killer Tips on how to lie to people. Because as a fiction writer, that’s what you do. You lie to your reader. Your reader signs-up for a pack of lies when she buys into your story and you owe her an excellent load of excrement in return.

It’s called the suspension of disbelief. That’s what your fiction writing has to do. Your reader has to get so immersed in the story that she forgets it’s all lies. The best stories string her along so well that she can’t put it down and that’s the best compliment you, as a writer, can ever get. So you have to be really good at telling lies.

Yes, I do want something from you and I snuck it in one of the tips. You have to read them to find out what I want.

Simpsons lyingAnd no, I won’t bullshit you. I used to be a cop, for God’s sakes.

It’s just that I wasn’t a very good one.

Here’s a sample of Dead Write – A No BS Guide To Writing Deadly Crime Fiction.

To receive your FREE PDF with 95 Killer Tips On Writing Deadly Crime Fiction, enter your email address on the header or sidebar form.

Part 1 – The Science of Story

Tip #1 – Understand Story

A story is about what happens (Plot) that affects people (Characters) who are trying to achieve a difficult goal (Conflict) and how they change as a result (Resolution).

Tip #2 – Understand Story-Telling

Story-telling is about communicating what’s happening. Humans are inherently curious creatures and, to keep your reader in the story, you have to keep her constantly wondering what’s coming next.

Tip #3 – Understand Crime Stories

Homer ShotgunCrime Fiction involves murders. People are fascinated about murders for the same reason they can’t avoid looking at gruesome accident scenes. Like they say in the news business ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ Being killed is the worst thing that could happen and it’s your reader’s instinct to want to know what might happen.

Tip #4 – Understand Cops & Crimes

Joseph Wambaugh, one of the best crime writers, says “The best stories aren’t about how cops work on cases, but about how cases work on cops.”

Tip #5 – Activate Your Reader’s Brain

Humans are hardwired for story. We think and learn in stories. We have a primal need to know in order to work our flight or fight survival instinct. Stimulating your reader’s desire to know what’s happening subconsciously fires neurons in her brain and this releases dopamine, nature’s crack, which chemically sucks her into the story. She gets immense pleasure from going along for the ride.

Tip #6 – Give Your Reader What She Needs

Stories allow your reader to simulate intense experiences without actually having to live through them. It’s like being shot at – without worrying about getting hit. Stories give vital instructions on how to survive in life, allowing your reader to become the characters without ever leaving the safety of home. She needs to feel what the people in the story feel – for her entertainment – and her protection.

Tip #7 – Balance Right & Left Brain

Homer BrainStories engage the left side of the brain to process words and sequence of plot. The right brain handles imagination and visualization. The best told stories balance the brain’s natural ability to look for, recognize, and match patterns giving your reader those critical and so-satisfying Ah-Ha! moments.

Tip #8 – Study Neuro-Linguistics

Mind language is an amazing science that underlies story-telling. Neuro refers to what’s happening in the mind. Linguistics is how communicating through words influences the mind. It’s the art and science of communicating. The best form of getting a message across is by stimulating your reader’s senses.

Tip #9 – Apply Neuro-Linguistics

The right words, and the right sequence of words, activate your reader’s neurological system. This affects her physiology, emotions, and behavior. When she makes sense of your story, she believes in its world. She captures and conceptualizes the experience. It’s what makes her say “I couldn’t put it down.”

Tip #10 – Give Pleasure, Avoid Pain

Humans are pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding animals. We go to extreme lengths to achieve this in life. It’s the same for your reader. She expects a pleasurable experience from your story, even when it opens with blood & guts. If she doesn’t enjoy a pleasurable state quickly into it, she’s going to put-it-down and forget about it. If it becomes painful, she’s going to slam-it-down and then go slam you on Goodreads. 

Part 2 – Telling the Story 

Tip #11 – Do Not Come Lightly To The Page

Homer MooningBe honest. Be original. Be brutally in their face. Your job is to tell it like it is. To hell with offending anyone. Say what the story’s message is. The best stories challenge social norms.

Tip #12 – Write For One; Publish For A Million

To be authentic, you have to quit giving a shit what anyone thinks of your work while you write. Let it come right from the depths of your bowels as if…

Dead Write ThumbnailIf you’d like the next 83 Killer Tips in Dead Write – A No BS Guide To Writing Deadly Crime Fictiondownload the FREE PDF by entering your email address in the header, sidebar, or on the form below. 

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