Tips For Writers By Dave Chesson Have you ever been truly inspired by another writer? It’s natural as an aspiring writer to want to write like your heroes. There’s something incredibly powerful about the way we can feel a creative connection with those we admire. But how do we go from admiration to emulation? Thankfully, we are blessed with a wealth of writing advice from some of the best authors to ever pick up a pen. Today, I’d like to share five actionable ideas from superstar authors. I hope you feel inspired to start experimenting with them in your own writing. Margaret Atwood About Margaret Margaret Atwood is enjoying a new wave of popularity thanks to the runaway success of The Handmaid’s Tale adaptation. Long admired for her principled tales rooted in social injustice, Atwood also has valuable words of wisdom for writers of all types. Margaret Atwood’s Writing Advice “If you really do want to write, and you’re struggling to get started, you’re afraid of something. Remember, it’s only you and the page. The wastepaper basket is your friend. It was invented for you, by God!” How To Write Like Margaret Atwood So how can you put this into practice? Margaret Atwood’s comments about the relationship between fear and writing are likely to hit home for any writer reading them. I know they do for me, and I’m sure you’ve also experienced the anxiety of self-judgement slowing your work and crippling your confidence. So how do we apply Atwood’s advice and stop our fear from holding back our writing? Margaret Atwood’s point about “it’s only you and the page” is powerful. You’re not singing live in front of judges. You can make mistakes. No-one is watching until you want them to. Realize your fear of getting started comes from a place of desire. You’re only scared of this because you want it to go well. Once you understand that your fear stems from a positive place, you can use it to push you in a productive direction. Don’t cripple yourself with comparison. Don’t compare yourself to others or where you think you ‘should’ be. If you can compare your own writing favorably to where it was a year ago, you’re moving in the right direction. Stephen King About Stephen Stephen King has been a prolific author of engaging American fiction for decades. King has also released one of the most-loved guides to writing in recent times, ‘On Writing’. Stephen King’s Writing Advice “So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.” How To Write Like Stephen King So how does this help your work as an author? King’s advice builds on Atwood’s in the sense it gives you permission to feel creatively liberated. It also emphasizes the importance of creating an environment which is conducive to your best writing. So how can we apply these concepts? Create the proper environment for you to write in. Creativity isn’t a closed system. Everything going in outside and inside of us influences our output. Seeing as your writing environment is under your control, you owe it to yourself to create the best one possible. What if your problem isn’t feeling free to write what you want, but not knowing what to write? In this case, you might want to give your inspiration a little prod in the right direction. Realize the full scope of King’s advice. During his career, he’s written everything from High School horror with feminist undertones to time travel fiction with a strong political message. You can write whatever you think is fun, or you can go with a more meaningful message if you choose. Judy Blume About Judy Judy Blume’s work has been loved by generations of younger readers. She’s known for exploring topics that are often considered inappropriate within young adult fiction, and doing so in a way which seems honest and helpful for her audience. Judy Blume’s Writing Advice “There’s nothing more important than character. You’re living with these people for years. You had better feel for them. Do some exercises. Have your character write a letter…to you!” How To Write Like Judy Blume It’s good to have a spotlight put on the importance of character. Often, memorable characters live on in the hearts and minds of readers long after the book is finished. So how can we strengthen our characters to the point that as authors, and readers, we want to ‘live with them for years?’. Engage in the type of character exercises that Blume mentions. Write To Done has a powerful questions exercise for characters to help with this objective. Deploy the power of surprise to make your characters memorable. If you’ve read the entire Harry Potter series, you’ll understand this. Did any of us really predict his character arc back in the Sorcerer’s Stone? Give your character a unique voice. The real people in your life aren’t all the same. Your characters shouldn’t be either. Work on their unique qualities so they are distinct and memorable in the mind of the reader. R.L Stine About Bob R.L Stine, or Bob as he is known to his fans, is famous for his series of spooky Goosebumps books for young readers. He also offers epic advice for writers, no matter their genre. R.L Stine’s Writing Advice “When you start to write, do a complete outline. I start generally with the ending. If I know the ending, then I can spend the whole book fooling the reader.” How To Write Like R.L Stine Stine’s writing tip focuses on two key elements – the importance of outlining, and the power of surprise. This isn’t the place to discuss the merits of outlining. Instead, how do we put Stine’s ideas into practice? Understand that outlining can take different forms, so take the time to find the one which works well for you. Fooling your reader isn’t merely smart, it’s also scientific. Understanding the reasons behind effective storytelling allows you to steer your readers’ emotional journey with precision. Creating surprise and shock in your stories is a practiced skill. Take the time to learn the practical techniques that produce this result. James Patterson About James To call James Patterson prolific would be an insult to his output. Patterson has perfected a process of collaborating with ghostwriters in order to almost continuously release high-performing books that readers love. James Patterson’s Writing Advice “Be careful of oh, I’ve got it figured out, I don’t want to read anymore. That’s death!” How To Write Like James Patterson James Patterson hits the nail on the head with this advice. It’s also a concept backed up by Stephen King. Essentially, to be a great writer, you have to be a dedicated reader. So how can this idea from James Patterson benefit your own work? Read often, but read well. Don’t just read for pleasure. Read with an analytical eye that stands a strong chance of benefiting your own work. Consider taking this to the next level by joining a book club. You’ll have the added benefit of seeing how real readers react to various literary techniques. If you’re out of the habit of reading, it will take work to reestablish it. Thankfully, this is a lot more fun than many other habits! Write Like Your Heroes – A Summary Hopefully you’ve been inspired by at least one of these tips and are eager to put it into practice. In a nutshell: Overcome your fear Feel creatively free Concentrate on character Shock and surprise Never stop reading Which piece of writing advice resonated with you? Which of your writing heroes would you most like to learn from? Please let me know in the comments!