102 Writing Tips for Writers


Writing your first novel is a wonderful, incredible journey – taking you on an expedition through your subconscious and out on to the page.

Along the way, there are a ton of insights, ah-ha moments and discoveries. Each one will hopefully make you a better writer for your second novel or whatever else you want to do.

Here, I detail out 102 quick ideas, tips and tricks for any first time writers or novelists out there. Hints and tips to help you get through from the first fiction draft to publication. The ideas and insights aren’t in any particular order, so feel free to dip in and out.



  1. Your first book is therapy.


  1. Focus on people and conflict.


  1. Remember – Hook. Catalyst. Complications. Hopelessness. Climax. Denouement.


  1. Ignore your inner demons until the first draft is written.


  1. Kill the adverbs. They really, truly, incredibly, bizarrely are normally unnecessary.


  1. Successful stories have a structure supporting them.


  1. Watch out for –ing words. Trying, coming, going, eating, drinking.


  1. Decide your point of view quickly – first person, third person, omniscient.


  1. Write a six word story when you’re stressed.


  1. Minimise your similies – as sad as a sausage, like a dirty beekeeper, choose your similies and metaphors with care.


  1. Know a cliché and a trope. They are hiding everywhere.


  1. If you don’t start writing, you’ll never finish.


  1. Verbs are awesome. Choose one. Swipe another. Select a third. Gnaw at a forth. Bask in a fifth.


  1. Pick a tense. Did you character fly, is he flying or will he fly?


  1. Set a target length for your novel – 50,000, 80,000,120,000.


  1. If a 1000 words takes an hour to get a draft right, you’ll need 10 working days to write your 80,000.


  1. Life conspires to stop you writing. Fight for your right to write.


  1. All creation is a mash-up (almost) – know who/what your influences are and use them.


  1. Don’t multitask – are you writing, researching, editing, promoting right now?


  1. Choose your genre – you’ll thank me when you try to sell you work.


  1. There’s more to writing software than Microsoft Word – try Scriviner like the pros.


  1. Don’t start with the weather. Nobody cares


  1. Cut your first paragraph.


  1. Dot, dot, dot is not an ending…


  1. Writing a novel takes a lot of time – a lot more if you procrastinate.


  1. (Writing all day isn’t fantastic for your waistline).


  1. Don’t use famous characters unless you’re writing fan fiction.


  1. Some love outlines, some drafting, some editing, some publishing. If you don’t love any of these, don’t do it.


  1. If every paragraph begins with the same word, shake up your sentence structure.


  1. You can write any sentence in multiple ways. Try a few.


  1. Your brain will tell you to stop, to give up, to do something else.


  1. Audiobooks are great, except you don’t see how the words are written.


  1. When you first receive you book in paperback, you’ll hug it to your chest.


  1. Asking a friend to read your book is like asking them to mow your lawn.


  1. In self-publishing, all you get is a cover and a blurb.


  1. Amazon will become your employer – understand and respect it.


  1. Writers podcasts like The Creative Penn and The Self-Publishing Podcast will become the only people who understand you.


  1. You’ll choose to write over anything – friends, family, leaving the apartment.


  1. You can lose an hour choosing a characters name.


  1. You’ll try voice dictation software like Dragon Dictation – but then give up and go back to typing.


  1. If you have an Email List, you are so jammy.


  1. You’ll learn to obsess over data and charts after your book is published.


  1. Anybody can publish a paperback – don’t be just anybody.


  1. Save up: You’ll be spending on an editor, a cover, marketing and promotion before you are through.


  1. One exclamation mark per 10,000 words!


  1. Watch out for useless go-to words: Just, Really, That.


  1. Use some grammar software like Grammarly to highlight your most obvious writing sins.


  1. If things got bad for your character, make them worse.


  1. A simple word is better than an enormously overcomplex one.


  1. Give every character at least two traits or behaviours. If they don’t deserve two, cut them.


  1. Don’t forget you can smell, touch, feel as well as see and hear.


  1. Don’t say Diana felt tired – say Diana’s propped her eyelids open


  1. Be specific. Is it a cold day, or a November evening, cold as icecubes?


  1. Avoid hitting the thesaurus whilst in your first draft – just say what feels natural.


  1. The middle section of a novel is half the book.


  1. Magic tricks have a pledge, turn and prestige – so do stories.


  1. Understand the obligatory scenes of your genre – google them.


  1. If you reader doesn’t care about your protagonist, they better hate them instead.


  1. Read a Hemmingway short story before you type another word.


  1. Nobody who reads your draft will have the same opinion. But if three of them agree on something, fix it.


  1. If you haven’t reached draft twenty, you probably aren’t finished.


  1. If you can sum up your story in twenty five words, you don’t understand what you’ve written.


  1. You’ll only know if you can write a novel, by writing a novel.


  1. If you readers aren’t asking questions, they won’t keep turning the page.


  1. Take notes whenever you have an idea – your mobile phone is perfect for this – otherwise the ideas will drift away.


  1. If you don’t know what to write next, have a shower.


  1. Your novel has themes – find them and enhance them.


  1. If your novel doesn’t contain a catastrophe (or two), nobody will get to the end.


  1. You book won’t ever be finished. Publish and be damned.


  1. Your characters actions will show us how they are thinking and feeling.


  1. If your sentence doesn’t contain an active verb, your character isn’t doing anything!


  1. Read your book out loud. Don’t intonate if your reader wouldn’t.


  1. Your ambition will outweigh your talent. Don’t give up.


  1. List the things that distract you – partner, kids, friends, internet. Hide from them all.



  1. Have a pre-prepared answer to the question: “What is your book about?”


  1. Read everything you can on writing craft. You can ignore it later.


  1. Try to fit writing around reading. How did the other writer solve the problem you are facing in your story?


  1. Books aren’t films or photographs. You can’t even describe one frame of a movie.


  1. Use your reader’s imagination more than your own.


  1. The Hero’s Journey will steer you through most challenges.


  1. Your draft still has typos in it.


  1. Delete is the most powerful key on your keyboard.


  1. Write, and you’ll find your voice. It’s whatever comes through your fingers.


  1. Understand stereotypes and archetypes. Play with them.


  1. A memorable quirk saves hours of character development.


  1. Your draft is 20% too long.


  1. Flashbacks can kill your story. Unless you are a time traveller, keep the momentum forward.


  1. Don’t head-hop. Only access one brain at a time.


  1. Keep your cut scenes – they could be giveaways or bonus chapters for your biggest fans.


  1. Try not too hard to explain. If it’s not clear, try another approach.


  1. Change a character from male to female, or young to old, or white to black.


  1. Make sure your female characters couldn’t be replaced by a sexy lamp.


  1. Employ an editor. After a few drafts, you are blind to your flaws.


  1. Your book will outlive you if you let it.


  1. Writing 101 tips lists are easier than starting your second novel.


  1. Once the first book is written, start the second. Even Harper Lee wrote two.


  1. Don’t wait for the ideas to come. If you write, they will appear from nowhere.


  1. Keep your day job. Better still, find a patron.


  1. You’ve been putting in your 10,000 hours on writing since the day you picked up a pen.


  1. Use flash fiction practice to learn the art of succinct prose.


  1. If you’re bored with a scene, imagine how your readers will feel.



I hope this list of quick writing ideas gives you some inspiration and energy to keep going with your novel. If you’ve got more hints and tips, please add them in the comments section. See you soon.






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