09 August 2009

Writing Tips

Following are some tips for new writers; also a checklist for myself. I collected them over a period from various sources. Hence I cannot take any credit for the article. I hope these points will give some hope and direction for aspiring writers.

I will update the article as I find new points. Also update the sources for these points as I recollect them. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

· Read, Read and Read (If you don’t follow this rule, then you can’t become a writer. You can as well discontinue reading further.)

· Write daily (Keep a daily schedule. I don‘t write on weekends.
  Note: Sept 2012 
  I do write on weekends now. This change has happened after my daughter. In the past, I used to write in the evenings. Daughter doesn't allow that anymore. Now I write in the mornings. Daily. 6:30AM to 7:30AM. 

· Maintain a diary or a folder on the desktop to write your ideas (I get ideas all the time, I use post-its, sometimes I write on my hand. I have small book-lets everywhere. Ideas come rarely; You can't afford to lose them. )

· Read a Dictionary (Or do something to improve your vocabulary.)

· Read 500 books before writing your first short story. (I did)

· Write 50 short stories/articles before writing a book. - Further information by Alex Keegan

· Write for yourself (Ignore the critics; There are no statues for the critics!)

· Observe how your favorite writers create characters and situations.

· Avoid slang, flowery language and big words (The goal is to tell a story, not to show your readers how smart you are.)

· Don’t tell them, show them (be practical. Don't fall for this trap.)

· Know your readers

· Re read the drafts

· Cut the length by 10% in the second draft. (On Writing by Stephen King)

· Observe people in real life (they will be your future characters)

· One central theme

· Use a good grammar book 

· Be passionate about your characters (R K Narayan, Gogol)

· Once finished, don’t publish the story immediately, take a one week break, reread the draft once again after a week, do the changes and submit for publishing

· Reread your old published articles and find out what changes you could have made

· Do research on your subject (Write a bit less than what you know. Ice-berg theory. Hemingway.)

· Avoid technical terms and jargon

· In a short story start very close to the ending (Kurt Vonnegut)

· In a short story use minimum characters

· Don't be afraid of mistakes; Veterans make less mistakes,  beginners more. Many of your readers won't even notice the mistakes.

· Read War and Peace
· Concentrate on small characters, make them interesting
· Don't be afraid of having the setting of your story in your small town

· Read the kind of books you want to write 

· Avoid big words (but use the right words) 

· Read your favorite book sentence by sentence and, understand the mechanics of writing 

· Avoid adverbs--ly words. 

· The good story has a conflict: Hero wants something, bad-guy wants exactly opposite. 

· End of the story, the main character (and readers!) should have some transformation. 

· Don't kill your main character 

· In the initial stages write stories with plot 

· Use clear, unambiguous prose 

· Every scene should move forward the plot 

· Avoid describing anatomy in a sexual scene. (Avoid sexual scenes, if they are irrelevant to the main theme.) 

· Avoid colloquialism

Books on writing
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephen King
Writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg 

Articles on writing
Fiction Writing Articles

Books on Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Books on style 

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman

Grammar reference
Online english grammar
Whose grammar is it anyway? by C. Edward Good 
Handbook of English Grammar and Usage by Mark Lester and Larry Beason 

Advanced books on writing 
Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver 
Characters and viewpoint by Orson Scott Card 

Books on Editing 

Self-Editing for fiction writers by Rennie Browne and Dave King


  1. I will keep them in mind!
    SO from the next time onwards I'll use ZERO slang!
    It's after a long time you published Ravi, good to have you back!

  2. Simple but effective.I think I agree with most of them except 'Cut the length to 10% in the second draft'.Have you tried doing it with success ? or may be you meant Cut the length by 10 % ?
    Please explain as I hardly edit my stories.

  3. [Pawan]
    Thank you. You may find it difficult to have zero slang!

    I meant the second one. Cut the length by 10 %. A small word (to/by) made such a big difference.

    It's a good suggestion. I found that one in - [On Writing] by Stephen King

  4. Thank you for this article I am bookmarking it... Infact I have read Stephen King's On Writing ... and as far 500 books is concerned I am guilty on that count but I am on my way to achieve that feat...

  5. Thank you, Dhiman.

    500 is the limit, I set to myself; keep reading as you write. All the best.

  6. Thank you Lobo for that wonderful post. It is a checklist that I will remember.

  7. Thank you, Pramathesh. That was a checklist for myself. But then I thought it might help new writers, like myself.

  8. Hi Ravi
    Really nice post. Thank you for sharing it,i think it will help me in improving a lot.

  9. Thank you, Harsha. I am glad you found it useful. Thank you for stopping by.

  10. Nice article. Thanks for the favour.

    You have made a greater favour by asking me to read Anne Lamotte's book, I treat it as my bible and always keep it near me.

  11. Thanks a lot mate! I got a checklist now before i can continue my short story..sigh!

  12. You are welcome Farhan. Let me know when you finish that story.

  13. Dear Ravi,

    Thank you very much for the tips. Hope and am confident these tips would be helpful for small time beginners like myself.

    Best Regards,
    Renjith P Sarada
    Kingdom of Bahrain

  14. Thank you, Renjith. I created the list for myself. Interestingly it is helping others too. It is a nice feeling.

    Thank you. All the best for your writing.

  15. Hi Ravi.
    This is a really great article. Very nice tips. Will try to put them to use immediately!

  16. Thank you, Srividya. Good luck for your writing.