I shared some writing advice with a friend from high school and thought it would be nice to also share that out here.  One thing I like to do when I learn something useful is making it memorable by shortening it to a small, catchy phrase.  That way, I possess a mnemonic device for remembering stuff with practical applications.

Then I write those phrases down and keep them nearby to keep those lessons fresh in my head until they become second nature.

Here are examples pulled from some of my favorite writing tips:

  1. “Know how it ends.” This doesn’t mean you need to know everything about the story, but you should have an idea how you’d like it to end.  It gives you a goal to work toward and allows you to keep the story (mostly) on track.  The end of a story should have a lot of thought put into it.  Why?  You could have pages and pages of awesome smothered with gravy, but if your ending sucks, you’ll hit that audience gag reflex.  And that can lead to them regurgitating bad stuff from your story all over the place.
  2. “Finish what you start.” Every time you start a chapter or scene or sequence or bit of dueling dialogue… it needs to have an ending.  It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular–just something to tie up that loose end.  If you pose a question or start a mystery or start anything in your story, you need to wrap it up at some point.  Anything left unresolved will subconsciously drive readers crazy.  Here, let me give you a really great example…
  3. “Flaws speak louder than coolness.” What makes a character memorable isn’t always the “cool factor” about him or her… it’s their flaws.  The little quirks or phobias or eccentricities that help humanize them in a sense.  It brings them down to a level readers understand.  Everybody has flaws… and if you have a character without any, people will notice and their instincts will alert them there’s something unnatural about that.  “Look over there!  That guy’s absolutely perfect!”  “Grab the pitchfork boys.  That there ain’t natural.”
  4. “Put your characters through hell.” Easy is boring.  If something is a walk through the park, it’s boring.  Piece of cake?  Boring.  Roller coaster ride with a broken track and car full of explosives, puppies, nuns and only your character to save them?  Probably done before… but not boring.  Remember, your characters are secretly daring you to give them your best shot.  Don’t make them beg for it.  Or do.
  5. “Read it and weep.” That lovely piece of dialogue that sounds perfect in your head can drive you to tears once it’s read out loud.  Don’t wait for someone else to make you cry.  Just go through and read all that dialogue out loud to get it sounding right.  Get into character.  Make funny voices.  Use sound effects.  Okay, maybe not the sound effects, but feel free to go crazy with the make believe voices.  Personally, I like making my tough guys sound like Elmer Fudd.