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Lilah Sturges @lilah_sturges
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Okay, here are some actual writing tips:

1. Write whatever you want and don't write what you don't want.

When you sit down to write something, feel free to ignore absolutely every rule about writing you have ever learned. It's a first draft; fuck it! You can always fix it...
... in the editing stage. Some of my best writing has started this way. When you get some crazy idea just run with it and see what happens, even if it seems stupid or impractical. At the very least you'll learn something and you can always trash it if it doesn't work.
As to the not writing what you don't want, there are two parts to this. Sometimes you feel like there's something you should do for the sake of form, like revealing the killer in a murder mystery. But what if you don't feel like it?... Then don't! It might suck but maybe not!
The other part is that sometimes you'll get to a part of your outline or whatever that you don't feel like writing when you actually get there. Here's a big secret: you don't have to. Either ignore it completely or just summarize it in a paragraph. Nobody will know.
This leads to tip 2: if you're bored, your audience probably is too. Skip the boring parts! Just skip them! When Frank Herbert got to the part of DUNE where Muad'Dib's army took over the galaxy, he must have realized that it wasn't really part of the story, so he didn't write it.
The whole war literally takes place in like a paragraph or two. It's wild. But it works!
Tip 3: write like you're getting paid by the word; edit life you're getting charged by the word.

A lot of editing is getting rid of unnecessary or uninteresting stuff. Lengthy diversions often get whacked. Conversations get truncated. When you're editing your work, ask...
... yourself if any given thing is actually necessary to the story. Does it advance the story? Does it tell you something about the character? If not, why is it there? Readers are mostly there to find out what happens, and to whom. They get bored when they're not learning...
... those things. Boring your reader is really the only categorically bad thing you can do in writing. Because bored readers STOP READING.
Which leads to

4. Think about how you want your reader to FEEL.

A story that doesn't make a reader feel anything is a hard sell. We mostly come to stories because we want them to make us feel something.

Think about the Harry Potter books. The characters are often...
... two-dimensional and the plots are sometimes downright stupid. But it's fine because Rowling isn't trying to wow you with her plot development. She is primarily interested in getting you to feel for Harry as a person and she is very very good at it. Often she is trying...
... to stir up indignation. Almost everything that happens to Harry is really unfair, so when Harry succeeds, even if by accident or unearned prowess, we cheer. Rowling is very very good at this.

When you're stuck in writing, or if a scene doesn't seem to be working,...
... try asking yourself, "How do I want the reader to feel right now? What would have to happen in the story to make them feel that way. Asking that question can not only lead you to new ideas, but it can help you fix problems that might seem vague or indistinct.
Say you're writing a horror story and you've been ratcheting up the tension for fifty pages. Do you now want the reader to keep feeling tense? If the next scene is a birthday party and it feels wrong, ask yourself how you want the reader to feel at that party.
If you want the reader to keep feeling tense, there are a hundred ways to make a birthday party feel tense. Maybe two of the characters at the party are seething mad at other. Maybe the protagonist is terrified that the ghost will make an appearance there. You get the idea.
5. Here is a plot: a character wants something really badly. They do lots of things to try to get it but meet growing resistance at every turn. In the process they realize that what they really wanted was something else.

This is a plot you can use forever.
You can use that plot forever because people FUCKING LOVE IT. People in general will never tire of it. It's the plot of so many stories that it beggars description. It's the plot of everything from A Christmas Carol to The Matrix. It's the Hero's Journey and it works.
6. Here's another plot. Something terrible happens to a good person. They persevere through the many repercussions of that terrible event and finally overcome them, often by being transformed by them. It's another one that Always Works.
This plot encompasses everything from The Scarlett Letter to Harry Potter to John Wick. I call it the Cinderella plot (it's also the plot of Cinderella) but it may have a real name I don't know.
7. Don't worry so much about writing WHAT you know; it is infinitely more important to write WHO you know. You don't know what it's actually like to be on Mars; you just have to know how it would *feel* and to whom. The rest is just research.
Who do you know? Mainly you know you. You know how you would feel in most situations. You can imagine who you'd be if something about you were different, or if you had a different life. Look at all the real, multidimensional characters you just created! Now send them to Mars.
8. Differences in status are interesting. Bosses have higher status than employees. Kings have higher status than serfs. Strong-willed people have higher status than weak-willed people. Every relationship has a power imbalance, often more than one, in different directions.
Differences in status are so fundamental to human interaction that we often take them for granted. Lean into them. Exploit them. And always understand who has the power in every interaction.
9. Small things are just as important as big things. How a person eats a hot dog can tell you as much about them as how they react when their house is on fire. People have huge concerns about small things. An emperor can be as worried about the wart on his foot as the fate...
... of the empire. What we are concerned about and when speaks volumes and humans are concerned with all kinds of things.
10. Love. Love with your whole heart. Love ferociously. Love with abandon. The more you love, the stronger your work will be. Love generates passion. Love generates pain. Love generates empathy. Love generates hope. Love profoundly and your writing will sing.
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