1. Write Every Day. The most important thing for a writer to do is to write. Write every day.

It’s best to set aside a particular time of the day (or night) for your writing time. Find the time that is best for you, and then write during that time every day. Let nothing interfere with your writing time. It may be as little as one single hour. You may produce only a page or two. But if you stick with it every day, week after week, your output of pages will mount up inevitably. Don’t worry if you have an occasional day when you can’t produce even one decent page. Stay at it! Try your best every day. The words will come. It is so easy to find a reason for not writing. Writing is hard work. It’s much easier to do something else. Especially if you have a “real” job that demands eight hours a day or more, it is difficult to make time for writing. Yet that is precisely what you must do. Make the time. Writers don’t “find” time for writing; they make the time for their writing and they do so every day. Family, friends, job, all the other pleasures and obligations of your life must take second place to your writing. If you are going to be a successful writer you must write. Every day. Preferably at the same time every day. 2. Read Widely. The most important thing a writer can do, aside of writing, is reading. Books are the memory of the human race. Thanks to our invention of writing you can share the thoughts of the greatest minds that ever lived. Not that you should restrict yourself to someone else’s idea of what the Great Books are. Read what you enjoy. But make certain that you don’t confine yourself to one narrow type of book. Read as widely as you can: fiction, history, biographies, travel tales, books about science, religion, philosophy – read everything and anything that interests you. Your imagination will be enriched. Your curiosity will be excited. Your knowledge will grow. Once you’ve read a book and particularly enjoyed it, go back and read it again. This time, though, try to discover how the author tackled the problems of telling his or her story. Whether the work is fiction or fact, the author had to make hundreds of choices about constructing that story. Read carefully and see where

in fact – to write about who you know. Just as a painter or a sculptor uses models. That’s quite natural. Nothing more. Without strong. you’re not trying to draw a portrait. . moved a segment closer to the beginning or farther back toward the end.” This is good advice.you might have made a different choice. unless your story is built around interesting characters you will end with a travelogue. not a salable piece of fiction. Characters are all around you. The protagonists of your stories – the main characters – will have a large dose of your own personality in them. And nothing less. Knowledge – not first-hand experience. A fictional story consists of a character struggling to solve a problem. 3. your chief model will be yourself. It’s difficult to make a believable story about trekking across the Sahara if you’ve never been on a desert journey. their loves and hates. Most likely you will find yourself blending individuals you know into a composite character.) You will find that. After all. hopes and fears are the raw material for your stories. Write About WHO You Know. After all. “Writer about what you know. you’re trying to create a fictional character. using several different models to serve as the basis for a character in your story. joys and sorrows. (Of course. characters are the heart of fiction. emphasized a different facet of the tale. It is equally important – more important. shaded things a bit brighter or darker. believable story. 4. diverse people around you. Their problems. They are a rich and endless bounty of models for the characters you will write about. inevitably. Who do you know better than yourself? But keep on studying all those wonderful. believable characters you cannot build a strong. a writer can and should develop story characters from real. although to some extent you can acquire knowledge from reading. then stick to your model as closely as you can. living men and women. if you are trying to draw a word portrait. Even if you actually have trekked across the Sahara and can write with first-hand experience. You can learn a lot by reading and then analyzing what you’ve read. Beginning writers are always told. Character + Problem = Story.

” “Not “bad guy. No matter how beautifully the sentences are constructed. Every tyrant in history was convinced that he had to do the things he did for his own good and for the good of the people around him. Let your protagonist struggle as hard as he can to resolve his conflict with the antagonist. as Clauswitz said about war. That’s what a story is all about. Notice that I used the term “antagonist.It constantly surprises me how few fledgling writers understand this simple fact. No Villains. Your protagonist should have an internal problem. No one actually sets out to do evil.” In the real world there are no villains. Superhuman heroes belong in comic strips. The main character in a story is called the protagonist. Or. If you do not have a character struggling to solve a problem. it makes him sympathetic. This not only makes the protagonist believable. the antagonist. shudder when he’s frightened and exult when she triumphs. Take your protagonist’s internal problem and externalize it by putting her into conflict with another character. more accurately. a crisis within her soul. but give him a powerful weakness. you do not have a story. unless that character is struggling to solve a problem your story will be rejected by any commercial editor. even the simplest things can be very difficult. laughs when she laughs. Not “villain. the reader will bleed when he bleeds. Nobody can feel very much for a person who has no weaknesses. But. a potentially fatal flaw. Make your protagonist as wonderful as you can. fiction serves as a lens to focus what we know of life and bring its realities into sharper. Create a strong protagonist. Remember that the reader wants to be the protagonist. Make that conflict amplify the protagonist’s internal problem. 5. the protagonist will also resolve her internal problem. . Fiction mirrors life. Yes. clearer understanding for us. there are madmen and murderers and rapists and crooked politicians and greedy land developers and all sorts of villainous behaviors. not in serious fiction. If your protagonist is really memorable.” above. It’s that simple.” Not “black hat. and maybe even good. By resolving this conflict. no matter how lovely the background or how fascinating the character you are describing. But each of those people believes that he is doing what is necessary.

your antagonist is struggling to solve his. On the first line. Hook the reader right away or you won’t hook him at all. and dared to what he did to win her.” explain the protagonist’s background. It is vitally important to capture the reader’s interest on the first page of your story. Show what they are doing. Just as your protagonist is struggling to solve her problems. Particularly in a novel.There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. the king who murdered Hamlet’s father (his own brother) and married his widow. 7. Start in the middle! Don’t waste time telling the reader how your protagonist got into the pickle he’s in. 6. You want to hook that reader so thoroughly that she can’t let go of your story until it’s ended. from the viewpoint of Claudius. preferably. Cut all that out. But he wouldn’t be a villain. struggling to solve them. Do not . This is called “the narrative hook. Show the protagonist struggling to get free. You might even make a truly powerful story about a man who loved his brother’s wife too much. how do you keep her turning pages. the reader wants to find out who this fascinating character is and why he’s in such desperate trouble. exciting action. don’t tell what they did. Or at least save it for later. for example. it’s tempting to “set the scene. In a short story there simply isn’t time for static explanations. The best way to do this is by starting your story in the midst of brisk. The “narrative hook” of your opening is an implicit promise to your reader. Start in the midst of action. It’s all a matter of viewpoint. Something exciting is happening to your protagonist. In other words. You can always fill in the background details later. You could write Hamlet.” It’s like fishing. describe how she got to where she is. Start in the Middle. There are only people with problems. The answer is simple. you start out with a problem for the protagonist to solve. All the background details have to be worked in through action or dialogue. Once you have the reader hooked with your opening. The Chain of Promises.

Your story should be a chain of promises. At the climax of the story all the problems must be resolved. In fact. too. eager to see how your protagonist solves her latest set of problems. If you have paragraph after paragraph of nothing but vision. If you give your protagonist a problem on page one and then solve it on page two without other problems immediately on hand. the rough bark of a tree. One of the best ways to make your writing come alive is to use all your characters’ five sense in the story’s scenes: vision. But if you make certain that there are always more problems propelling the protagonist (and the reader) deeper into the story. for that matter. But too often a writer will describe only what the characters see. try to work in a line here or there about what the character is feeling: cold. How does the forest smell? Or a garage. keep turning pages. Does the morning air have a special tang to it? Is the coffee your protagonist is drinking hot and bitter. All the major problems. or cold and overly sweetened? Use all five senses in your stories. You may still leave a few minor problems unsolved. Each problem you present to the protagonist is a promise to the reader that there will be suspense. that is. the silky folds of an evening gown. a series of interlinked problems that the protagonist must solve. you can put in all the background details your story needs and the reader will keep reading. adventure in the solving of that problem. that gives the reader the impression that your characters go on living even after the last page of the story. and your scenes will be much more “alive.” . Make them want to come back for more. 8. excitement.solve that opening problem until you have created at least two more. the reader will stop reading. taste and smell. Try this simple exercise. It adds to the depth of the scene if the other senses are used. Read a few pages of your story and note in the margin which of the five senses are being used by your characters in each paragraph. touch. hearing. That is a good feeling to impart to your readers. warm. I don’t mean that you should have your characters sniffing and nibbling and fondling the scenery on every page. Use All Five Senses. intrigue. or what they hear.

Often. allows you.V. But writing in the first person limits you to scenes in which your P. Every story is about someone. to assume an almost godlike power. but you must take great care to make certain that the reader understands these shifts in P. she’s the one the story is about. You can show what’s going on inside characters’ minds.V.V. though. if and when you must. why not tell it through her eyes? (And ears.? “George woke up precisely thirty seconds…” There are strengths and drawbacks to each. and often more dramatic. I have found a way to combine the strengths of both techniques.” Or should you use the third-person P. you can shift across time and space to show things happening even when your protagonist isn’t present to witness them. that the entire scene is shown only through the senses of that scene’s chosen viewpoint character. is more immediate. In a short story.9.O. Be very careful about shifting from one viewpoint character to another. In a novel it is possible to shift from one viewpoint character to another.O. A third-person P.V. the author. Every story has to be told from someone’s point of view. . whether it’s the protagonist or someone else. After all. This way you can have the immediacy and dramatic impact of a first-person P.O.V.O. and her other senses. it is usually best to stick with one single viewpoint character.V.O.) Should you tell your story from a first-person point of view? “I woke up precisely thirty seconds before the alarm was set to go off.O. Write each scene from one character’s viewpoint.V. too. though. character is present.O. The first-person P.V. and is not confused by them. Point of View. the viewpoint character is the protagonist. character has to be there in every scene. You can’t flit across the world or backward in time because the P.O. but you can leave that P. Make certain.

You do not want to challenge her patience with fancy type faces or faded print on colored paper. together with the page number. Computers allow you to use many different type faces. Be plain. When you sit down to write a story. It is the mark of an unknowing amateur. it has to compete with hundreds of others. You can use italics where they are called for in the story. most likely. Magazines are specialized for specific audiences of readers. think about where you want it to be published. Each subsequent page should be numbered and “slugged” with the story’s title and your last name. Remember. Make Your Manuscript Readable. Her eyes are weary from reading. So make certain that your manuscript is: Printed in strong black letters on clean white paper. Do not cover the whole page with print. Stick to a simple Roman font.10. She reads dozens per day. top and bottom. address. 11. The first thing an editor asks himself when he picks up a manuscript is: Will this story be in the category that my readers are . Study the Markets. Identified with your name. You want your manuscript to be as easy as possible for her to read. Double-spaced. That makes the pages difficult to read. Generous margins on the left and right. Think about that person who will read your manuscript. Make your manuscript as easy and pleasant to read as possible. Once you’ve finished your story you will send it to an editor of script-reader. Is it a mystery? A romance? Science fiction? Publishers think in categories. phone number and e-mail address in the upper left corner of the front page. or underline words that should be italicized. hundreds per month. not fancy.