Advice to a Writer

“I never know how to give advice to a writer because there’s so much you could say, and it’s hard to translate your own experience. But of course, I always try. The main thing that I usually end up saying is to read a lot. To read a great deal and to learn from that.”

— Sue Monk Kidd


Webinar: Meet the Editor



Editing Addict’s Billi Joy Carson is joining A Book’s Mind in a free webinar on June 19, 7pm (AZ time). Come join her as she shares about the editing process, and discusses its value in the publishing industry.



    • Thursday, June 19, 2014

    • 7:00 PM – 7:30 PM (Mountain Time – Arizona)


Grammar Up, It’s Important

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“Read up on Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation

Before you get offended for me saying such a suggestion, let me elaborate. There are some common misspellings found on the internet; two such lists are found here and here. “It’s and its”, “there and their”, “loose and lose” and so on. So if you make such a common mistake, people will see you as an amateur.

Grammar mistakes are as common as spelling mistakes. Some new school people say go ahead and break the grammar rules. That may be good advice for a few of them (for example, you should break the no sentence ending with a preposition rule and you’re perfectly free to begin a sentence with ‘and’ and ‘but’ if it appeals to you).

But not all grammar rules were made by stodgy people, and most make sense. If it appeals to you to break them, go ahead, but you must know the reason why you broke it in the first place, and why it wasn’t appropriate. If you don’t know that you broke a rule or why, your credibility goes out of the window.

In the same way, people make punctuation mistakes often without realizing that they did it. The confusion between “me, myself and I”, the improper and incorrect use of the apostrophe (some people have campaigned for its being banned since it causes so much confusion among people) etc has become rapidly larger and larger.

So that is why, if you really want to become a credible writer who is not governed by the rules, go read up on grammar, spelling and punctuation. A single book or two will clear confusions, enable to break rules knowing why you broke them, consciously following sensible rules and more.

Tip: – Don’t rely on Microsoft Word’s Grammar Checker. Its spell check is all right, but the grammar tool is atrocious. Many has been the time that it shows up its infamous green line under my words and calls out for incorrect and so called grammatically correct changes. Have you ever seen a “Fragment (consider revising)” call to change? It’s perfectly all right to ignore that, because you’re not writing a textbook, you’re a creative writer.”

For more excellent tips on writing from Writers’ Treasure, click here.

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Learning To Write

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On Learning The Craft of Writing:


First, there are entire books written on this subject, and it’s important to realize that any information provided here will be in greatly abbreviated form. With that in mind, the first step would be to read a variety of books on the craft of writing. On Writing by Stephen King, The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White, Creating Fiction edited by Julie Checkoway, and A Dangerous Profession by Frederick Busch, are but a few that I would recommend.  I also like Screenplay by Sid Field, which isn’t about novel writing, but has a lot of useful information. These titles are enough to get you started and there are countless other books on the topic that will help as well, for everything from creating characters to coming up with plots.


Second, you must read, and read a lot. Did I say A LOT? I read over a hundred books a year and have done so since I was fifteen years old, and every book I’ve read has taught me something. I’ve learned that some authors are incredible at building suspense (see The Firm by John Grisham), I’ve read others that scare the jeepers out of me (see The Shining by Stephen King). Some authors can weave an incredible number of story lines into a single, coherent novel, with all parts coming together at the end that makes it impossible to stop turning the pages (see The Sum of all Fears by Tom Clancy), while other authors make me laugh out loud (seeBloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore). I’ve also learned that many, many authors fail when attempting to do these things. By reading a lot of novels in a variety of genres, and asking questions, it’s possible to learn how things are done—the mechanics of writing, so to speak—and which genres and authors excel in various areas.

Next, focus in on the genre you want to write, and read books in that genre. A LOT of books by a variety of authors. And read with questions in your mind. In a thriller, for instance, you might ask: how many characters were there? Too many or too few? How long was the novel? How many chapters were there? Was that too few, too many or just right? How did the author build suspense? Did the author come out of nowhere with a surprise? Or did the author drop hints earlier? If so, how many hints? Where in the novel did he put them? Was the suspenseful scene primarily narrative or dialogue? Or a combination of both? Did that work? Would it have been better another way? Where did the bad guys come in? In the beginning? The middle? When did they first meet the good guy? What happened? Did the reader know they were bad? Did they do something bad right off, or was it something that seemed good at the time?

Then, read another thriller and ask yourself those questions again. Then read another and another and another and ask those same questions. And keep reading your entire life and asking questions.

Little by little, you’ll learn the process.


The final step is to write. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write, it’s just that simple. I wrote two complete novels and another book before I even attempted to write The Notebook. Those two novels are unpublished, but they taught me that I not only liked to write, but that I had it in me to finish a novel once I’d started it. Those lessons were important when I sat down to write The Notebook.

I write five or six days a week, usually a minimum of 2000 words, sometimes more. This section of the website, for instance, which took about four days to write, is about 20,000 words. When it’s finished, I’ll start writing something else. All people who regard writing as a profession write consistently. Those who regard it as a hobby usually don’t.

2000 words can take anywhere from three to eight hours. (I love those three-hour days, by the way, but my average is probably closer to five hours.) The actual time spent writing depends on a number of factors, including what I’m writing, whether the scene is difficult or easy, etc. No matter what, I try to maintain consistency in my work habits. And I’m always trying to improve, to try new things, to write a new story that is better than anything else I’ve written.”

To read more from Nicholas Sparks (including how to write query letters, and how to find agents, click HERE.

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Vocabulary? Can’t I just write how I talk?

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“Why is a Strong Vocabulary Important?

We use spoken and written words every single day to communicate ideas, thoughts, and emotions to those around us. Sometimes we communicate successfully, and sometimes we’re not quite so successful. “That’s not what I meant!” becomes our mantra (an often repeated word or phrase). However, a good vocabulary can help us say what we mean.

For example, let’s say that you are outside in your yard and see a large black car stop in the road. You can see four tinted windows on one side of the car, and you assume there are four tinted windows on the other side, too. Just then, the driver’s door opens, and a man wearing white gloves steps out. He walks to the back of the car and looks underneath. He shrugs his shoulders, climbs back into the car, and drives away. After you remember to close your mouth, which has been hanging open, you run next door to tell your friend what you saw. What do you say? If you know a couple of key words, you can quickly explain to this person what you saw. Instead of describing the number of windows and the length of the car, you could simply say that you saw a black limousine (a long, luxurious car). Then, instead of describing the man with the white gloves, you could say you saw the chauffeur (someone paid to drive a car or limousine) walk to the back of the car. Knowing these key words can help you quickly and effectively communicate your meaning.

When you’re faced with a writing assignment, a good vocabulary is an indispensable (very important or necessary) tool. If you have several synonyms (words with similar meanings) in your repertoire (“toolbox”), you’ll be able to choose the best word for the job. Avoid vague words like “stuff” or “things” when you write. These words do not give the reader a good sense of your meaning. Also, use strong verbs that give the reader good information.

Here’s an example:

    • POOR: People do a lot of things.
    • BETTER: People perform a lot of tasks.

Work on building your vocabulary so that you can choose the stronger, more descriptive words in your writing.

You may also want to vary your vocabulary depending on your audience. Are you writing for children? Then stick with simpler words. Are you writing for college students? Then pull the more difficult words out of your “toolbox” to avoid talking down to them. It’s important to consider your audience when writing.

You may also find it difficult to choose the best word for a sentence when you’re writing. If you have a strong vocabulary, these choices will be easier!”

For more great tips on writing from Time4Writing, click HERE.

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