We’ve curated our best editorial secrets and industry insights into a series of articles. They range from getting started through staying on track and grasping the publishing business. Put those fuzzy slippers on your feet, pull up a cushy armchair, and enjoy.
How to Write Something Good
“So many things have happened to you, you should write a book!” Has anyone ever said that to you? Or how about this one, “Write what you know.”
Unfortunately, writing what you know won’t be that interesting to you. It won’t be that interesting for us readers either unless we feel you gleaning what’s up ahead in your life. Writing doesn’t possess the same sense of immediacy as the theater or the movies, or even the visual arts or music for that matter. Engaging the reader’s sense of immediacy is best done by engaging your own sense of immediacy.
Writing brings the past into the future through the lens of the present.
Below are seven ways to engage the present so first you as a writer and later your readers will feel the continuous unfolding of the moment in your work.
- Ask yourself questions you don’t know the answer to. Being the expert is boring. Confidence comes from having a question then finding the answer. But you got to start with the question.
- Retype each word from a previous draft while you are writing your next draft. This may seem like living in the past; actually it’s the best way to eliminate the stale and misdirected elements from your piece.
- Don’t mouth platitudes. Any time you want to use a cliche is a signal that you are not in the moment describing the very quality of existence that is transpiring right now. Come back; we’re waiting for you.
- Don’t repurpose material. Unless something you have done before is summoned as if magically don’t dig through your files trying to find paper to throw at a problem. Something can only be new once.
- Don’t look back. You don’t have to fix what might have gone wrong in a previous paragraph because you are planning on doing more than one draft, right?! So keep it moving; that was then, this is now.
- Skip the parts that bore you. We might try this in life too. No matter whether you’re working from a full draft or an outline or just a few notes, nothing has to go in there. You’re making the rules here.
- Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. We can train ourselves to become attuned to the whiff of a new idea, and to investigate that idea and keep investigating to see if it turns into two or ten ideas or was just that one.
That’s how I think you write something good. Not something that will endure for centuries maybe, but something authentic, something you can be proud of, and something that just might inspire.