To learn to write well, you must first write poorly.
Remember the upstream theory of problem-solving: If your 17th graph isn’t working, the problem is probably in the 12th graph. If your writing isn’t working, the issue is probably the reporting. If the reporting isn’t working, the issue is probably the story idea.
h/t Lex Alexander
Find co-readers: people who will look at your writing and not make you feel like throwing your computer out the window. People who can help make your writing better.
Before writing, put away your notes. The story’s in your head and heart.
h/t Lane DeGregory
Quotes have to earn their way into a story. They should occupy a place of honor. Rule of thumb: if it takes more than one breath to read a quote out loud, it’s too long.
h/t Lex Alexander/Kevin Maney
Read to write.
Writing teacher Donald M. Murray liked to say that when he read something that inspired him, “my hand itches for a pen.” “Writers,” he once wrote, “read to be inspired, to see the possibilities of language. They learn most about writing by writing, but they learn a great deal by reading.” If you’re having trouble finding inspiration or are stuck in place, choose a “sacred text.” It could be anything from Shakespeare’s plays or sonnets or the King James Bible to a novel or short story collection by one of your favorite authors. Read for pleasure. When something strikes you as wonderful, copy it out. See if you can apply its lessons to your own work. As I mentioned in the last issue, I’ve steeped myself in the “Collected Stories of John Cheever.” His diction has inspired me to work harder on my own word choices. His carefully woven sentences prod me to write with greater complexity. Reading writers whose work I admire helps me see what works in my own writing and what needs work. It can do the same for you.