Tip of the Day, Creative Writing Tips

Our creative writing tips are short, helpful tidbits of information that you can apply to your writing right away. Use our Tip of the Day for easy-to-apply advice that you can use to improve your writing or help you get published.

Are there different types of literary agents?

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book edited by Jane Friedman It’s possible to categorize agents in terms of the material they handle. Sometimes agents deal only in certain genres, or in nonfiction (or fiction), or in scripts. Dramatic agents who handle plays are usually located in New York, whereas those agents handling scripts for films and...

What are the various advantages of writing in first and third person?

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book edited by Jane Friedman First-person viewpoint involves only one character (presumably your protagonist) and permits close reader identification. The disadvantage is that all other characters must be developed strictly through their actions and dialogue as observed by the protagonist, which can be difficult and limiting. Third-person omniscient viewpoint allows you...

Thought as Action

The Daily Writer by Fred White We are the authors of our own lives as much as we are of the stories we write. Our lives are steadily unfolding narratives which would generally make for rather tedious reading. But the more we do with our lives, the more we enrich them, and the more...

Why do I have to revise according to an editor’s suggestions? My work is written exactly how I want it. How do I know an editor’s criticism is valid?

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book edited by Jane Friedman Writers who are new to the business sometimes consider an editor’s requests for revision a personal affront, when in reality the editor is only trying to get the best possible manuscript for her market. Editors know what works for their audience, and have the experience and...

Mistake 20: Telling, Not Showing

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: This is the classic writing instructor’s line: “Show, don’t tell.” Telling is easy. It’s appropriate if you are a newspaper reporter or a technical writer, or if you are writing an instruction manual. If...

On Motivation

The Daily Writer by Fred White What drives us writers to devote countless hours, arduous more than easy-going, to fashioning stories and essays and poems? Some of the motives for doing so are noble: Rebecca West said she wrote books in order to find out about things. In other words, regardless of how much...

Honesty and Authenticity

The Daily Writer by Fred White Writing represents carefully directed thought, the fruit of hours of reflection, of searching for the most exact language to convey the veracity of an experience or the complexity of an idea. If your thinking is half-baked or insincere, you may not even realize it until you’ve begun writing...

Mistake 18: Playing Out Your Personal Demons on the Page

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Many psychologists and counselors advise their patients to keep a journal. To record their day-to-day activities and the way they feel about what happens. To delve into their life and their past and record...

Mistake 19: Not Having a Hook

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: If you don’t hook the reader, she will stop reading, which means your career as a writer will be a short one. It doesn’t matter what kind of writing you do. A newspaper reporter...

Be Prepared to Fight Your Demons

The Writer’s Book of Wisdom by Steven Taylor Goldsberry Writing is seduction. Writing is war. Writing is scary and sublime. Even if you don’t get published, writing will help you figure out almost everything: subject, emotion, and spirit. We scribblers can help ourselves. Whatever comes into our heads we put on paper. The good...

Writing Offers Hope

The Writer’s Little Book of Wisdom by Steven Taylor Goldsberry You can write about blood and fire, human bodies scorched like forgotten cookies, about misery, torture, the lost infant with his throat slit, a family seed snuffed out, the extinction of a rare and elegant species (and we think in our atavistic arrogance that...

The Better Story

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words by Phillip Sexton As writers, we tend to fall in love with specific story ideas—teh ones that hit us in a flash, providing all sorts of energy, excitement, and inspiration. And in the beginning, when everything is shiny and new, those ideas often seem brilliant. Sometimes they are....

Grand Designs

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words by Phillip Sexton The term “set piece” denotes a virtuosic scene in a story. Something designed by its creator specifically to impress his audience. Even if you’ve never heard the term before, you’ve seen it played out many times. Think of the aria from Aida, a Harry Potter...

Mistake 17: Not Knowing Who Your Audience Is

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Too often writers disconnect from the people on the other side of the writing (the readers); there’s a breakdown in effective communication. Every type of written material is geared toward a certain type of...

Mistake 16: Not Knowing What Your Theme/Intent Is

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Theme or intent is the emotion you want readers to feel when they are finished with whatever you have written. No matter how objective you are, even if you are writing a newspaper article,...

Anatomy of a Story

Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds by George Singleton, with illustrations by Daniel Wallace If you compare a novel of short story to the human body—or to the body of any mammal—then you need a spleen (for clean sentences), a liver (the toxin detector), lungs (to take in the fresh and vital, and expel the...

The Peculiar

Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds by George Singleton, with illustrations by Daniel Wallace A good story is all about something foreign thrown in the midst of the usual. It’s about something peculiar shoved into a normal environment. It’s not so much about cream being poured into coffee as it is kerosene being lollopped in....

How long does it take to become a competent, professional freelancer?

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book edited by Jane Friedman There’s no good answer to this question. Writers, even established ones, are continuously developing their skills, improving their style, and learning more about their writing, their markets, and the world. In that sense, you’ll never stop striving to better yourself. A good test of your competence...

Contemplating Art

The Daily Writer by Fred White A great painting, drawing, photograph, sculpture, or tapestry, can profoundly stir our emotions, heighten our perceptions, and stimulate our imagination—often inspiring us to create our own works of art. Contemplating works of art, then, is an excellent way for writers to pique their aesthetic perceptions. Images powerfully rendered—think...

Uses of Allegory

The Daily Writer by Fred White Every aspiring writer should read an allegory now and then because it illustrates in a vivid, compact way the essence of storytelling. An allegory is a narrative in which abstract principles are represented by persons, places, objects. Thus gluttony might be represented by a foul-smelling swamp, or by...