Why not a “Top 10” list? I’m just that lazy… You get NINE!
In “Matt order” of importance (you might recognize some names):
1. Write with passion
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
My task…is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see. That – and no more – and it is everything. ~Joseph Conrad
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. ~George Moore
Reading and weeping opens the door to one’s heart, but writing and weeping opens the window to one’s soul. ~M. K. Simmons
Storytelling is a personal, emotional and spiritual affair. If it isn’t? Then you’re not a storyteller.
2. Do it for love… and DO IT!
Writing is its own reward. ~Henry Miller
Write without pay until somebody offers to pay. ~Mark Twain
Action is eloquence. ~William Shakespeare
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Don’t write to get paid. Write because you must or because you enjoy it. And – START WRITING!
3. Paint a picture
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov
Poetry creates myth, the prose writer draws its portrait. ~Jean-Paul Sartre
To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything. ~Anatole France
Characterization is an accident that flows out of action and dialogue. ~Jack Woodford
Simply stating something is easy enough. Sometimes you want to capture the reader’s attention and heart, however. In those cases open your toolbox and make use of similes, metaphors, and vivid imagery.
4. Write (and revise) with every spare moment
Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~Ray Bradbury
Half my life is an act of revision. ~John Irving
If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor. ~Edgar Rice Burroughs
And a word on revising until your tombstone epitaph reads “Never published anything”:
The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with. ~William Faulkner
Write, write, write! Revise, revise, revise! But at a certain point, push the baby bird from the nest.
5. Keep it simple
Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.
Find out what your hero wants, then just follow him. ~Ray Bradbury
[Or HER, Mr. Bradbury]
Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret. ~Matthew Arnold
PLOT is a four-letter word in my house. ~Matthew C. Plourde
You know what’s not simple? A grandiose outline with a hundred different story arcs all asking for attention and conclusion. Fifty characters all with their own POV. Plotting has no place in Storytelling either – let it go.
Write simply and from the heart – I know of no better advice for an author.
6. Cut the boring parts
I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
Tediousness is the most fatal of all faults. ~Samuel Johnson
Don’t start at the beginning – how boring was your life of poop and formula/breasts (okay, the breasts may have been interesting) during the first year of your life? /thumbsdownfartnoise
I don’t want to read about the main character’s home, work life or how they got to where they are in the first few chapters/prologue. I want to start right in the middle of some crazy shit!
“But, Matt, I need the reader to understand-”
NO! STOP! The reader will understand through dialog and action as the story unfolds.
“But I want to show-”
NO! YOU’RE NOT LISTENING! As a reader, if I don’t immediately know a) who’s story this is, b) what’s at stake and sometimes c) why I should care — I STOP READING. I don’t give a tiny turd about why the High elves of ForestyPlaceWithFlowers are at war with the Humans of GeneroMedievalCity… Sprinkle that shit amongst the dialog and action. I want to know what’s going on, who it’s happening to and why I care. That’s it.
Same too goes for the middle. Don’t let it drag. Don’t show every little thing that happens or explain every little detail. Keep the narrative flowing like a majestic river.
Yeah, I sometimes take this stuff seriously 🙂
7. Eliminate unnecessary words
Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. ~Thomas Jefferson
The adjective is the enemy of the noun. ~Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire
Other offenders: “mostly”, “really”, “actually”, “extremely”. Take these words out back and do them like they did Old Yeller.
8. Learn to thrive on criticism (and some things to make you laugh)
You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury
There is probably no hell for authors in the next world — they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this. ~C. N. Bovee
Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs. ~Christopher Hampton
Don’t be dismayed by the opinions of editors, or critics. They are only the traffic cops of the arts. ~Gene Fowler
Publishing your work puts it at the mercy of the unwashed masses – and they are massive… And unwashed. Safe with their shield of anonymity, hecklers & trolls will assault your castle walls. Ignore the bad, ignore the good, ignore it all. And remember this quote when pondering why someone tagged your book as garbage:
It is easy to be brave from a safe distance. ~Aesop
… The internet provides such a great, safe distance. /bowtoAesop
9. Be unique, extraordinary, unpredictable
I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. ~G.K. Chesterton
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ~Oscar Wilde
There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are. ~Somerset Maugham
This one is marked as #9, but it’s not necessarily least on my list here. Instead, read the list, learn from writers who have come before you, hone your craft, be a sponge for writing advice… BUT ignore it all when the time is right. All these tips (from myself and others) paint a wide picture on how to tell a story. However, only YOU can tell YOUR story. Leverage what you need, use what you want and then add your personality into the mix to make it wholly yours.