You work hard to write your best story—and if you’re honest, you’re pretty sure it’s amazing. You share it with other writers to get their feedback, and they agree. You work up your courage and hit the “Submit” button, sending it off to a mysterious panel of writing contest judges.
And then . . . you wait. What will the judges think? Will they agree your story deserves to win it all? Did you write the kind of story that will catch the judges’ eye? What kind of story is that, anyway?
I’m going to take you behind the scenes and reveal exactly what judges are looking for when they choose the winners of writing contests.
Some of you may have noticed that the esteemed Mr. Gaiman is my favorite living author. Even if he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s hard not to notice him: books, graphic novels, award after award—the man is prolific and very good at what he does. So when I realized he had eight rules of writing, you better believe I beelined to read them. And guess what? They’re fantastic … with a few explanations. Read on for more.
A couple weeks ago, I attended an author talk with Colson Whitehead at Politics & Prose in D.C.
The author has been writing novels for 18 years, but recently he’s been getting a lot of attention because his new book, The Underground Railroad, was inducted into Oprah’s coveted Book Club. The book is about the escape from slavery to freedom in the antebellum south, but it also has fantastical elements—a literal underground railroad that exposes the protagonist to different worlds at each station.
Here are five tips I gleaned from his talk.
Writing isn’t easy, and writing a good story is even harder.
I used to wonder how Pixar came out with such great movies, year after year. Then, I found out a normal Pixar film takes six years to develop, most of it on the story.
How do you write a story, and more importantly, how do you write one that’s good?
We all know that feeling. You’ve been slaving over a story. You’re twitchy with caffeine. Your family hasn’t heard from you for hours, or even days.
But then you finish!
If you’re like most writers, you’re thrilled. You’ve just poured your heart and soul into this and you want some sweet affirmation after all your hard work.
So as you share your work, you ask a seemingly innocent question: “Is it good?”
This question may seem harmless enough. But this is a dangerous question, and if you want to become a better storyteller and write stories that actually ARE good, you need to stop asking if your work is “good” and pursue a much different route.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’re excited for our Audible Giveaway. One lucky writer will win a $100 gift card to find amazing books to listen to on Audible.
As writers, there is no replacement for reading as a practice to become a better writer, but studying film or television can be just as instructive.
Ultimately we’re building models for our own work by asking one critical question. What if that one question could make you a stronger reader, viewer, and ultimately writer?
This is a question I hear a lot: How do I start my story? The answer is simple, but not easy. Got your diving mask on? Here we go!
It’s fall! Students are back at school, football is on, and if you’re a Northeasterner like me, the weather is perfectly cool and sunny.
I don’t know about you, but I love this season. It feels like a writer’s season. It’s time bring a blanket and computer to your balcony, porch, or favorite coffee shop and just write. Recharge. Begin a new and productive period.
As always, at The Write Practice, we love to give you opportunities to jump into writing again. Use the fall-inspired writing prompts to get you going.
Have you ever used a word for years — like, maybe during your thesis defense or in a high-profile report for work — then realized one day that you had it totally wrong? That big word you thought was making you look so erudite was, in fact, working against you. Turns out, coif is not the same as coiffure, and you never even realized it.
No one is immune from this, neither journalists nor poets, essayists nor novelists. The problem often stems from our natural inclination as writers to grab hold of an exciting new word and just run with it. Not only do we end up using words just plain wrong, our enthusiasm leads to overuse as well.
By slowing down just a little bit, recognizing common pitfalls, and inserting some deliberate practice into your vocabulary usage, you can turn this trend around.