Resources » Suggestions for Writers

For Writers

Aspiring writers frequently ask me what it takes to finish a full-length novel. A lot of work goes into a book-length manuscript, and the following are the practices that I have found helpful. My novel is in print, because I:

  • experienced enough of life’s challenges to make my writing worth reading;
  • built stories based on my life experiences;
  • wrote to entertain myself, without worrying about who might like my story;
  • read New York Times Best Selling novels in the genre I was writing;
  • analyzed plot lines in both books and movies;
  • wrote something six days a week;
  • rested from my work one day a week;
  • disciplined myself to set aside as much time as possible for writing each day;
  • gave up TV;
  • quit chatting endlessly on the phone;
  • limited social engagements;
  • moved to a quiet cottage to reduce distractions;
  • took several classes on the writing process;
  • continually studied the writing process, even when I thought I knew it all;
  • spent much more time on character development than plot planning, because characters drive the story;
  • devised a plot plan before beginning to write;
  • altered my original plot plan if the characters took me in another direction;
  • didn’t attempt to write a novel using stream of consciousness writing sessions, which waste a lot of time and paper;
  • did my own housework and gardening, because mindless activities provided excellent opportunities for devising plot twists and new characters;
  • got out in the world to experience everything my five senses could absorb to keep myself in touch with my characters’ feelings;
  • eavesdropped in coffee shops and wrote down conversations verbatim to improve my characters’ dialogue;
  • observed people and their mannerisms to create well-rounded characters;
  • took notes on conversations I had with others, which later found their way into my stories;
  • wrote my characters’ back stories before I inserted them into my books;
  • researched any details from real life which I used to make sure they were accurate;
  • avoided groups made up of other unpublished authors who don’t know how to critique my work;
  • found a published author to mentor me and provide constructive criticism;
  • made sure my hero’s story goal is a big enough one with plenty of conflict to carry him through an entire novel;
  • revised my story 20 or 30 times after receiving feedback from a team of experienced copy editors; and
  • listened to my story read aloud on computer to catch errors and unnatural dialogue.

Suggested Reading for Aspiring Authors

Some of the Books I Read to Become a Better Writer

  1. Bickham, Jack M. "The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes"
  2. Browne, Renni and King, Dave. "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers"
  3. Card, Orson Scott. "Characters and Viewpoint"
  4. Dibell, Ansen. "Plot"
  5. Kenyon, Sherrilyn. "The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook"
  6. Kress, Nancy. "Dynamic Characters"
  7. Lukeman, Noah. "The Plot Thickens"
  8. Lukeman, Noah. "The First Five Pages"
  9. Marshall, Evan. "The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing"
  10. Ray, Robert J. "The Weekend Novelist"
  11. Swain, Dwight V. "Creating Characters"
  12. Wheat, Carolyn. "How to Write Killer Fiction"
  13. Zuckerman, Albert. "Writing the Block Buster Novel"
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