Five Tips for Aspiring Writers

When I first started writing, I bought all the books, read all the blogs, and took all the classes I could. It was overwhelming. So for those of you just starting out in this bizarre world of self-expression/self-promotion, here are a few tips:

1. Believe in yourself.

It is said that there are only a limited number of plots. That may be true, but there is only one you. Your point-of-view is a combination of genetic makeup and your life experiences that give you unique insight and a unique ability to convey your story. Make that story yours.

2. Don’t worry about *the rules* in your first draft.

Just get it down on paper. After you have your story down, you can go back and polish it.

3. Let the story rest between drafts.

Write some short fiction, perhaps a backstory for one of your characters. Or write something completely new. Watch the convention requests for submissions. Learning to write short fiction is a discipline that will greatly advance your book writing. Telling a story in 5,000 words or less teaches you to focus and to make every word count.

4. Buy a used copy of your favorite book.

Annotate it and highlight it for the stuff you love. When you’re done, look at those notes for general trends. If something resonates with you, chances are it will resonate with your readers. Try to emulate what you love about the book. For instance, I love how Benjamin Black saturates subtle character movements with nuanced emotion. I try to do that too. Not sure if I have pull it off but I strive for it.

5. Listen to good audiobooks.

Pick a book that has thousands of great reviews for the narration. Study the speech patterns. Imagine how the copy is typed up. (You might get a used copy of the book to check.) Also, listening to a book rather than reading it will give you a different insight into the pattern of exposition vs dialogue vs setting. 


  1. You speak the truth, sister. I never thought about a short story helping you in novel writing. Thanks for these.

    1. You’re welcome. Short fiction is intense. It’s like working out in the gym to get stronger. It taught me the principle that every sentence needs to move the plot or develop character and best if it’s both.

  2. All excellent points, starting with number one.
    I’d add: connect with a writing group. Facing that sea of white is daunting; shared experiences, and later on, editing, can provide support if you choose wisely~

    1. Choosing a group wisely is key. If the group isn’t working for you, leave. After leaving two prior groups, I’m in a terrific group now which was part of International Thriller Writers program.

  3. Yes! all true! I’ll add that it’s also useful to literally reverse engineer popular novels that you love. Popular because it’s important to understand what people respond to, and the ones you love because it’s hard to devote time to a book you dislike. But I did this for multiple novels–I read them, and then outlined them. Very useful exercise.

  4. Good tips, Keenan. I don’t listen to audiobooks so I haven’t done that one but I might try it.

    I might add a seventh. Learning to write is not a finite process. Keep working to Improve your craft.

  5. These are great, Keenan. I find listening to audio books so helpful. I pay much more attention to them because it’s impossible to skim.

  6. This absolutely solidifies the things I have learned in Ellie Alexander’s (Bakeshop Mysteries, Sloan Krause Mysteries, etc.) Author’s Academy. And your notes about short story work is TOTALLY spot on! I found that when I started entering a sort, short story contest (ShtoryTime –1000 words!) it make me have to super focus on clarity, brevity, and finding that PERFECT word. It is such good practice that I don’t care if I win or not! The hardest bit? Not doing mental editing while writing the first draft! Just steamroller on through. Finishing up my LAST edit! Whoo Hoo!

    1. Glad to be of assistance. I’m sure the brain experts would tell us that reading and listening involve different parts of the brain. The nice thing with listening is that I don’t hear everything in my voice. It’s particularly good for English, Scottish and Irish books as the narrator will bring life to humor and subtle inferences that I would miss.

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