Robert A. Magarian

Writer’s Tips

  1. In her introduction to Shannon Ocork’s book, How To Write Mysteries, Hillary Waugh states that Ocork stresses the all-important point that is etched upon the Holy Grail of all aspiring writers: Never Say Die. Never mind teachings, critiques, praise, rejection, hope or despair. If you would become a writer, you must WRITE, WRITE, WRITE, and never stop. The prime requisite for the writer isn’t talent, it isn’t desire, it’s guts. As long as you keep going, no matter how rocky the road, no matter how many rejections you get, no matter how often you may lose heart, there still remains ahead of you the chance of success. The moment you stop writing, the chance is gone.
  2. Read, read, and read! Know the difference between good and bad reads.
  3. Be prepared. Agents, publishers and television interviewers frequently ask:
    • What is your book about?
    • Why would anyone want to read your book?
    • What will your book do for the reader?
    • What is so special about your book?
    • What message do you want the reader to get from your novel?
    • Why would radio or TV audiences want to hear about your book?
    • Who will read your book? (That is, what is the composition of your audience?)
    • How does your book compare to others? Think genre. (What can you compare your book to?)
    • What research did you find interesting that you didn’t use in your novel?
  4. “It is the mark of the best writing to be able to look beneath the actual account of what happened and discover the real truth that lay underneath, like a buried jewel” –Gail Godwin
  5. “The Most Important Principle of Fiction is: Show don’t tell.
  6. “Engage Your Readers with Action, Dialogue and Scenes”
  7. The best way to arouse and hold your reader’s attention is to be specific, definite and concrete. Make your words appeal to the senses.
  8. Point of view must be determined before you write a paragraph.
  9. Leave out the adjectives and adverbs. Use powerful verbs.
  10. NEVER use in your writing: “He noticed; He looked; He could see; He knew; He remembered; As he….”
  11. Dialogue is action, expresses character, and drives the plot. The most effective way to make the character come alive is through words. Keep sentences short and one thought at a time.
  12. Characters are what the reader is interested in. Characters reveal themselves to the author, materializing and being felt in the course of the writing.
  13. Characters can set the plot in motion.
  14. How desperately do your characters want something?
  15. A character without inner struggle or contradictions does not belong in the story.
  16. Many great stories contain key principles: conflict, crisis and resolution.
  17. Outline is the novel in miniature.
  18. There are two kinds of fear: fear of success and fear of failure.
  19. Never let the fear of failure stop you from capturing your story in words. Some writers get to the middle of their novels and fear stops the work.
  20. Follow your heart and gut; let your writing find its own way.
  21. Sit down every day and write. Unless you approach writing as a discipline, you’ll never see the end.
  22. Sharpen your craft by analyzing a few paragraphs of a writer you respect. Once done you’ll probably never read novels the same way again.
  23. Do not be afraid to let your writing travel into untested waters.
  24. I always think when writing, my readers are smarter than I am.
  25. When you “finish” your novel, edit, edit and edit some more.
  26. Read your work aloud after each draft and when you edit.
  27. Writing classes, teachers and workshops can reach from superb to harmful.
  28. Feedback on your writing should be from those you trust.

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