Some Words for Writers

1. Stop measuring your work by word or page count. Write until you've said something and said it well.

2. Study grammar in your spare time. Put down the Sunday morning crossword and start diagramming sentences.

3. Only steal ideas from the Greeks.

4. Write with a fine pen on beautiful paper. Your words will be better. Guaranteed.

5. Don't sacrifice good storytelling for accuracy. Unless you're writing non-fiction, of course.

6. There are few books (The Idiot, the Bible) that can get away with a protagonist who has no flaws. Your book probably isn't one of them.

7. There is no substitute for reading a good book. If you write but do not read, you're doing something wrong.

8. Be nice to people.

9. If everyone followed the rule "write what you know," our libraries would be very small indeed.

10. Every writer starts with people-watching.

11. Be careful pulling stories from your past. You may begin to confuse your memories with your manuscript.

12. Know your calling. Just because Flannery O'Conner changed your life doesn't mean you're meant to follow in her footsteps. (Though it might.)

13. There's nothing wrong with writing a rip-off*. There's something very wrong with publishing it.

14. There's no shame in following a paradigm. In other words, please do.

15. Never publicly criticize another author. Unless you review books for a living, in which case, you might want to write your novels under a pen name.

16. There's nothing like the realization, after you've spent your college years writing dozens of short stories, that you have no idea how a novel works.

17. All writing should happen with hot tea or coffee and warm butter croissants at the ready.

18. Keep pen and paper on your person at all times. This is a life requirement.

19. Don't set your story in Beaumont just because you happen to live there. Setting should be as necessary as character. If your setting doesn't influence your story, something's off.

20. If you just want to write about yourself, forget the novel and keep a journal. Though...keep a journal anyway.

21. When in doubt, involve a phoenix, an old woman in the woods, or Pandora's box.

22. Learn to portray conflict through setting alone.

23. Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, and Leonard Cohen do more to inspire than all the Bird by Birds and MFA programs combined.

*Yes, fan fiction, I'm talking to you.

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