Writing Advice to Self

relationshipFor better of worse, I sometimes think maybe I could write fiction.

So my ears perked up when I heard this how-to information on the radio:

  1. Give the reader at least one character she can root for.
  2. Every character should want something—even if it’s only a glass of water
  3. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  4. Start as close to the end as possible.
  5. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your main characters, make awful things happen to them in order that the reader will know what they’re made of.
  6. Write to please just one person.
  7. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible.

Elements of the short story:

  • Exposition
  • Conflict
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Denouement

Write no more than 10,000 words.


Notes from Octavia E. Butler:

  1. Read.
  2. Take classes and go to workshops.
  3. Write every day.
  4. Revise.
  5. Submit for publication.
  6. Forget about inspiration and talent; persistence and stubbornness are the keys.
  7.  Don’t worry about imagination – your journal writing will take care of that.


Features of Best Sellers:

  1. Address hot-button social issue (unresolved conflict of national consciousness)
  2. Show fractured families
  3. Feature protagonists who are outsiders
  4. Describe American Dream (dream deferred, dream perverted) is a motif
  5. Reveal secret societies (Think Twilight)
  6. Connect with readers (heart, gut)


7 thoughts on “Writing Advice to Self”

  1. I love number six from Octavia E. Butler. I find inspiration everywhere…I don’t know about talent 😉 but you DO have to be persistant and stubborn, it’s too easy to get several dozen rejection letters and quit.


    1. I think my goal for 2014 might be to see how many rejection letters I can get. At least that would show I’m getting out there and giving it a shot. Right now, I’m working on a stubborn idea that’s fighting back. 🙂


  2. I love the advice you’ve heard on the radio and especially number 6 (“Write to please just one person”) and I also love number 6 from Octavia E. Butler. I’m gonna copy these lists into my little notebook:)


    1. Thanks! It’s funny when I first heard number 6, I kind of had someone in mind, but then after I thought about it for a while, if you write to please one person, shouldn’t that one person be yourself?


      1. That this person should be me was my first thought, actually;) Because that makes the most sense… But my largest piece of writing (can’t really call it a novel yet) is definitely directed at one person, a bit like a long letter…


      2. Whenever I do art, without reservation it’s always been for myself. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I wouldn’t have the same approach to writing.

        Good luck on your novel! Let me know how it goes.


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