Young’s Ten Tips

Susanne Lambdin and I do a regular panel we call “Strategy and Tactics of Novel Writing.”  Inevitably we figure some poor sods come in thinking we’re going to talk military stuff.  For you folks, we are sorry.  For everyone else, don’t be fooled–we really do talk about how to write a novel.  We usually start of with talking about Elmore Leonard’s Ten Tips for Writers (most of which we disagree with).  Susanne then does her ten tips for writers (which I will get from her later), while I have mine:

Young’s Ten Tips For Writing

1.) Butt in seat, words on screen. You will not get writing done unless you actually sit down to do it.

2.) Yes someone has “done it before.”  Do it anyway.  Every story, when you get down to it, has been done by someone, somewhere.  You have an original spin on the “same old story”—tell it.

3.) Develop your own style of “write fu.  There are things you will do that make sense to no one else but work for you.  There will be things that work exceedingly well for others that will have your muses abandon you like rats from a sinking ship.  Figure these things out early, stick with those that work.

4.) The Shining is a cautionary tale.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play also makes Jack batspit crazy, cranky, and increasingly likely to be a homicide victim.  Take a break from writing every once in a while in order to stay fresh.

5.) Research or experience.  You do not get many chances to convince a reader you are competent.  There are boundless opportunities to persuade them you are an idiot.  Check something before committing it to paper unless you experienced it firsthand or are well-versed in it academically.

6.) Have fun.  Self-explanatory.  If you do not like your writing, your readers will not either.

7.) Join a writing group.  A good writing group is worth its weight in gold, both for critiques and for friendships.

8.) Series Bible.  You can do it early, or you can do it when you’re trying to write the sequel to the first book.  Guess which one hurts less.

9.) Nanowrimo.  It is good to get in the habit of attempting to write quickly, and Nanowrimo helps you do this.  It can also help develop good daily habits that will carry over going forward.  Finally, we’re all lab rats and reward oriented—so it’s great getting to 50,000 with your friends.

10.) Learn to find the good in every criticism.  This is not “develop a thick skin.”  Likely by this point in life you have whatever skin you’re going to get whether it’s tissue paper or ablative armor.  Instead, even if something crushes you, go have a good cry, smash a dinner plate, or burn a building down (okay, that’s excessive)…then figure out what you can learn from the shot you just took.  Odds are you’ll find something useful even in the most banal criticism someone gives you.

6 thoughts on “Young’s Ten Tips

  1. I like your tips, but I’m not sure they can be compared to Mr. Leonard’s, which are specifically about style on page. Yours are, however, solid tips.

    I like that (in the full version of the rules) he admits upfront and repeatedly that there are exceptions to every rule. A rule which is declared to have no exceptions is probably batspit (new favorite word); one which has exceptions may well have value when applied as written.

    His rules 3, 4, and 8 are, I think, not in line with current tastes, so I expect most people would disagree with them. But then again current writing styles could also *use* that advice. I hate it when an author gives me a line of dialogue which is fairly obvious and clearly shows how the person feels. Then the author immediately breaks rules 3 and 4 and follows it all up with telling us the character’s inner thoughts, and what you end up with is,

    “Why do we have to see your parents again? Why can’t we do something fun this weekend?” he grumbled petulantly. He hated spending time with his in-laws.

    Kill. Me. Now. And it’s everywhere.

    (What, by the way, would your style tips be?)


    • I’m still having trouble posting comments, btw. I log in with the little button under the comment field, hit post, and it demands I log in again because “you’re not logged in.” Just posted that other comment, and now I can see I’m going to have to go through the whole process again for this one, using the same tab in the same browser.


      • There’s no reason you should have to log in. Not only are you an approved commenter, but the only thing I require is a name and e-mail to keep folks honest. Grr. Let me fiddle with it a bit more.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Suddenly I’m all sheepish and wondering if I’ve done something like that. Yikes.

      I’m not sure I’d have style tips. Half the time I hear my style has quirks. Not bad, per se, but things that tell someone in about four sentences “Oh, look, James wrote this.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you’re feeling sheepish. It means there’s hope for you even if you have (and if you have, you’re in very good company – even Julian Fellowes’ latest was so full of this sort of thing I had to force myself to the end of the first chapter before giving up). 🙂

        Intrigued that people think you have such distinct quirks. I haven’t seen anything that stands out in that regard – guess I’ll have to keep reading!


  2. Pingback: Writing Tips–Some Research – Colfax Den

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