King’s On Writing is my favorite non-fiction book because it comes from a successful writer and contains proven advice. This rule jotted below stayed with me exceptionally. I immediately implemented it.
Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft — 10%.
I write my first draft without editing. I thrust as many words and mistakes in it without caring. After leaving my work for a few days, I revisit it to kill my darlings — or my words.
Take this example King provides:
Mike sat down in one of the chairs in front of the desk. He expected Ostermeyer to sit behind the desk, where he could draw authority from it, but Ostermeyer surprised him. He sat in the other chair on what he probably thought of as the employees’ side of the desk.
After applying the 10% rule:
Mike sat down in front of the desk. He expected Olin to sit behind the desk, but Olin surprised him. He took the chair beside Mike.
This act exterminates useless words, helping to add value to the remaining ones. Mark Twain also said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Readers enjoy better when they have to figure a 2+2 than read a mundane 4.
However, this tip can also backfire. King writes:
‘Hello, ex-wife,’ Tom said to Doris as she entered the room.
This sentence gives a lackluster vibe by only “telling”. Not that telling is bad in all cases, but here he wants readers to feel Tom’s state of heart. He expands the sentence as:
‘Hi, Doris,’ Tom said. His voice sounded natural enough — to his own ears, at least — but the fingers of his right hand crept to the place where his wedding ring had been until six months ago.
See what I mean?
Tip 2: On ‘Writer’s Block’ by Jerry Jenkins
Probably the most common illness that hits every writer is Writer’s Block. I am no exception. Whenever I couldn’t write, I would throw my pen, curse the Muses and blame the Block for ambushing me again. Then Jenkins threw this truth on my face:
I treat Writer’s Block as the myth it is.
I am grateful to him to confirm what the angel on my shoulder had kept saying. Okay, don’t bash me in the comments — I know what you feel because I was in your shoes once. After grasping the truth about the Block, however, I never suffered from it.
Writer’s Block is majorly a result of unreliable motivation, fear of failure, and cluelessness.
Do not fall into the inspiration trap — write as a habit. Also, even if you fail, you learn an invaluable lesson. Outlining is a way to combat cluelessness; make points about what you are going to write before picking your pen.
If you are serious about your writing career, kill this demon.
Tip 3: The message by Neil Gaiman
I had written three drafts of my fantasy-fiction novel, and only then this advice of Gaiman reached my ears.
The story isn’t about the facts, it’s about the message.
I knew why my story seemed so out of depth. I was focused too much on making logic rather than providing my message. I wasn’t clear about my message — a big mistake.
Both the readers and the characters experience a change if the story is good.
What is the essence I care to convey? — I asked myself. There were too many and there were none. In the next draft, I promised to keep the message in my mind, because it connected with the lie, conflict, and theme.
People love ASoIaF because of the brutal truths present.
Sansa Stark’s lie of a utopian society gets busted when her blind love gets her father beheaded. Ned Stark refutes how rotten people can get… and he dies. The Red Wedding is an unpleasant reminder of how unexpected life is.
What value can you provide the world? How can you make life/writing/working easier for others by sharing your lessons?
Keep the moral in mind even when you write anything, because, dear readers, the world is won by givers than takers.
Tip 4: The cliché (modified) by J. K. Rowling
I don’t think I need to remind this to all writers who are serious about their career. This is the talk you need to walk upon by Rowling.
You can’t be a good writer without being a devoted reader.
If you don’t read enough, I can’t expect you to provide anything beneficial gracefully. Get your hands on any book — crap or great — and read it. But wait! The task doesn’t end here. Rowling adds:
Reading is the best way of analyzing what makes a good book. Notice what works and what doesn’t, what you enjoyed, and why.
Don’t just read a book; attempt to study it. What makes it good or bad?
I was awed by — among other authors — Tolkien’s and Hemingway’s prose structure. I studied it and found out that they had used excessive Parataxis and Hypotaxis. The results made me write an article on how to improve one’s manuscript.
Writing is not a child’s play where you can excel in one go.
Analyze what you like the best and try to apply it in your own works to improve. One technique is “Imitation” where you have to copy the most appealing sentences from your favorite novel for five minutes and then write your thoughts using the author’s style.
Read like a writer.
Tip 5: 3/1/3 by Nicolas Cole and Dickie Bush
This rule transformed my style in writing online.
I used to edit thoroughly before posting my blog. It would have the required tags and be for a broader audience. That’s why it hurt, when — even after so much effort — it didn’t garner the expected views and upvotes. I sighed up for The Ship 30 for 30 Ultimate Guide by Nicolas Cole and Dickie Bush and its one piece of advice profoundly impacted me.
If your writing isn’t “skimmable,” your writing isn’t readable.
That hit at the gut. I had focused more on the content than the presentation. I had never realized that I should cut my thick paragraphs into parts and add pictures because online readers are lazy.
To apply this, one of the frameworks they suggested was 1/3/1, explaining:
This first sentence is your opener.This second sentence clarifies your opener. This third sentence reinforces the point you’re making with some sort of credibility or amplified description. And this fourth sentence rounds out your argument, guiding the reader toward your conclusion.This fifth sentence is your strong conclusion.
The post further elucidates its logic:
What makes this 1/3/1 sequence “work” is that the first sentence and the last sentence act as bookends to the bulk of the content in the middle. These single-sentence lines make the reader feel as though they’ve reached a checkpoint, which acts as a small dopamine hit encouraging them to continue reading.
When I applied 3/1/3, I noticed how my posts had better views, and I enjoyed reading them too! If you analyze my writing style here, I have used the technique. Also, when I observed newsletters and articles of some other famous authors, I found they are using it also.
Give full comfort to your audience.
TakeawaysCut down your words by at least 10% to make your writing concise and words valuable.Writer’s Block is just the result of procrastination, fear, and unclarity.Consider focusing on the value/message you provide to the readers.Read. Then analyze the work and imply the results.Make your articles skimmable and focus on the presentation.
Tips by 5 Successful Authors About Writing I Wish I Knew Earlier was originally published in The Writing Cooperative on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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