Top Ten Writing Tips from 23 Authors

There was a great post last week on the PLoSBLOGS site. They gathered writing tips from a group of 23 accomplished authors and compiled them in one huge post. We picked out the top ten tips listed in the article and added some of our own advice to them.
1. Write Every Day. This is valuable advice, and something that anyone can use to get started. Commit to writing just 50 words a day at first if you have to, then move on from there. Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity, suggests aiming for 1,000 words a day eventually.

2. Be Ready to Amputate. The hardest thing for an author to do is to cut down their work, but it is necessary for a book to be great. Authors make the mistake of writing too much far more often then the mistake of writing too little.

3.  Leave a Rough Edge. Stop writing in the middle of a chapter, a paragraph, or even a sentence. Make it easy for you to get started the next day. It’s easier to continue a thought then stare at a blank page trying to decide what you should write next.

4. Use A Detailed Outline. Authors should always try to map out where they are going before getting started. Sometimes the route will change, but at least get started in the right direction. For more information on brainstorming oultines, see our post on Mind Maps.

5. Just One Sentence. What is the one sentence that describes your book? In marketing lingo, it is calld the Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. If you had to describe your book in one sentence, and you will, what would it say? Every paragraph of every chapter should point back to that one sentence description.

6. Start Marketing Now. Start a blog, test your ideas with your close friends, seek endorsements from the right people, and prepare to market your book in person. Brush up on your presentation skills, craft a mailing list of people likely to review your book positively, and get ready. The real work starts once the book is on the shelves, not once the manuscript is handed in to the publisher.

7. Be Passionate, Not Promotional. Let your passion shine through your work and your communication. There is a tendency to use social media as a promotional blitzing tool, but it often comes across as nothing more than cheap publicity. That kind of thinking will get you nowhere fast. Instead, talk about your subject and why you love it. Promotion will come automatically when others can see your passion.

8. Use Technology. All too often, technology is an easy distraction for writers. Turn the tables on technology, and use it. Try using Scrivener to write your book. Download time management software to curb your bad internet habits. Use the editing tools in Word to improve your book. There are many great tools out there. Use your favorites, and tell others about them.

9. Get Through Your First Draft Fast. Just do it, even if its bad. Its hard to tell where you are going to go until you get this first draft down on paper. Then the real writing will begin. Or as Nancy Cooper says, “You just start working and you keep working til it’s done. That’s all there is to it; no mystery.”

10. Write A Book You Want To Read. Your first goal should be to write an interesting book, not to write a bestseller. If your book really connects with your audience, it is more likely it will be a success commercially. Write for someone who is passionate about the subject, write a book that you would want to read.

What other tips do you think authors should know before they write a book? What practical things have you done to finish the job? Which of these tips will be the most helpful for you in the future?