The other day I stumbled across a new blog – Neuro Tribes, which discusses diverse perspectives on science and medicine. I hear you, what has this got to do with writing… but don’t turn away just yet.
What drew me to the blog was the heading ‘Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors.’ Wow I thought, I need to read this, and I found myself nodding as I read recommendations I hadn’t heard elsewhere, so I’m listing a few of those tips here to prod myself along. While most of these authors write non-fiction, the general rules applies to fiction writing as well.
A huge thanks to Steve Silberman for collating such a fantastic source of writing tips.
Here we go…
Something I’ve started doing more often of late.
Let some of you come through. You’re obviously not writing a memoir here, but this book is still partly about you — the world you see, the way you think, the experiences you have with people. And trust me, readers are interested in who you are. So don’t be afraid to let bits and pieces of your personality and even life details seep into the text. It will breathe a lot of life into the book. David Shenk Author of The Forgetting and The Genius in All of Us
Love this idea – I’m implementing it right away.
Stop in the middle of a sentence, leaving a rough edge for you to start from the next day — that way, you can write three or five words without being “creative” and before you know it, you’re writing. Cory Doctorow Author of With a Little Help, For the Win, Makers, and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
Okay, a few people had recommended this to me, so it’s now officially on my shopping list.
Use Scrivener to write your book. Awesome organizing tool as well as word processor. Mark Frauenfelder Author of The Mad Professor and Rule the Web
Completely agree with throwing your protag into deep water and then submerging them deeper and deeper as the story progresses. It’s all about how they deal with the situation and what they do about it.
The best advice i got in writing narrative non-fiction was to get my hero in trouble and keep him there. this was with my first narrative book, love at goon park. my editor suggested that as the over all arc — how is harry harlow ever going to persuade the scientific community that love matters? — and within that to have him confront an obstacle in every chapter. i’m a little looser with that now, not an obstacle in EVERY chapter, but it’s still a great way to think about structure. for instance, in poisoner’s handbook, every chapter is a poison. so my heroes must confront arsenic in one chapter and thallium in another…
I let my first draft suck. kind of the anne lamott advice on “shitty first drafts.” to me my first draft is just an attempt to start unfolding the flow and logic of the story. if i get stuck, i just put xxx in the draft (for figure this out later.) with one of my books (sex on the brain) i did this so often that i had literal nightmares about it, that people were coming up to me and asking me if i had adopted an avant garde writing style.
Deborah Blum Author of The Poisoner’s Handbook and Ghost Hunters
My biggest problem yet… distractions, especially when the email chimes each time a new message pops in. Thank you Ben, I’ll be adopting the Self-Control app on my Mac.
Develop a very serious plan for dealing with internet distractions. I use an app called Self-Control on my Mac. Ben Casnocha Entrepreneur and author of My Start-Up Life
What tips do you live by when it comes to writing?