Monday, 14 May 2012

Some Proper Good Writing Tips from a Proper Clever Writer*

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty.

Recently, a bunch of pretty useful writing tips landed on my desk. They were collected by a proper clever writer (let’s call him Ernie), who gave them to my ‘friend’ (let’s call him Bert) who shared them with me (let’s call me Mildred Huxtetter). And I thought, Super! We should share these with the entire human race.

So I asked Bert, “Would you mind me putting them on my blog?”
And Bert said, “Mmm, I’m not sure Ernie would like it, Mildred Huxtetter.”
So I said, “I would give you both a credit of course.”
And Bert went off to think about it.

After a while, Bert said, “I don’t think we should share this with the world because Ernie might not like it.”

 Don't waft your IPR at me.
I debated long and hard with myself. “Is it right to hide one’s genius under a bush?" I said. “Where would we be if Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci or Einstein had hidden their greatness under a fragrant pile of Intellectual Property Rights? Shouldn't we be fostering a more co-operative approach to life if we want a more harmonious and creative world?” 

And before very many minutes were spent, I came to the following conclusion:

Publish and be dammed!

These writing tips are not new. They will not change the world. They probably won’t blow your mind. But they are useful and relevant, and to have them all in one place will help you think constructively about your writing, and more particularly your re-writing.

So here they are.

1. Read your work aloud. This allows you to see where it’s stumbling. If your breath runs out at the end of a sentence, it’s probably too long!

2. Don’t try and explain everything. Trust the reader to get the imagery and detail.

3. Don’t be suspicious of simplicity; complicated writing doesn’t mean it’s better.

4. Look at your manuscript from a distance, what are the words that stand out? Are they too passive? Blurred manuscripts will have long sections with nothing in them; good ones will have lots happening.

5. Move swiftly from scene to scene, as in the movies.

6. When you are shaping your work, you need to be two kinds of editor. One is the fiddly one that focuses on things like punctuation. The second is the samurai, who comes and slashes everything with a sword!

7. If a section does not improve no matter how hard you try, you probably need to get rid of it!

8. Surround yourself with objects that apply to the book you are writing at the time.

9. Let your story grow, it doesn’t all need to be planned right at the beginning.

10. Allow yourself to be influenced by writers you love.

11. Don’t send something out too early and try and start something new before sending out your finished manuscript.

12. Draw inspiration from why you write, allow yourself to feel stupid at times and remember, a part of your brain has to not give a damn!

With grateful thanks to Ernie, and apologies to Bert.

Yours humbly,

Mildred Huxtetter, BA, MA, PhD, OBE and RSVP


  1. Lookin' damned good Mildred! - Glad you shared (as they say)

  2. Fabulous, Mildred, thank you!

    1. I hope you are now fiddling and slashing to your heart's content.

  3. Dear Mildred, This is all stirling stuff. I am dreading finishing my first draft and reading it through because I am a rubbish samurai. But I will try my best. Thanks to Bert and Ernie. I admire their haircuts muchly.

    1. Dear Marnie,
      I am sure you will be an excellent samurai when you reach the point of needing to be. I will pass on your thanks and haircut comments to B&E. Have a nice day.
      Mildred H. xxx

  4. Great tips Mildred- just need to try to apply them!I'm at the samurai slashing stage at the moment with my WIP and finding it hard to be ruthless.
    P.S. Loved the housewife pic!

    1. Thank you Helen. I fear there will be a sudden growth in samurai sword sales this week...

  5. Replies
    1. Am feeling like such a fraud, because this really isn't my advice and it really did come from a proper clever writer who my 'friend' does not want me to name. I am merely the conduit of said advice, but I'm glad it's getting a good reception out there in the world.


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