Tom's Tips for Writers

1. First of all, understand there is no secret code

...or magic wand that will suddenly turn you into a writer. It takes time, and patience, and -- yes, you guessed it -- plenty of practice (in other words: hard work). But what's new about that? The same is true for anything you want to get good at: basketball, piano, gymnastics, art, spelling (yuck!), you name it. The key is to relax and enjoy the process.

2. Read everything you can get your hands on:

novels, poetry, picture books, essays, articles, comics, signs, even cereal boxes. The more you read, the more you will soak up a sense of how language can be used to communicate. (Which, after all, is the point of writing.) Swim in words and their meaning as if you were a fish. Make them a part of who you are.

3. Be observant.

Pay attention to the world around you. Don't be satisfied with first impressions. Try to figure out what's going on beneath the surface. A writer is one who is always asking, "What? How? Why?"

4. Or, "What if?"

Don't limit yourself to what actually happens. Let your mind wander, creating spin-offs, sequels, prequels, alternate possibilities. Cultivate your imagination.

5. Keep a notebook or a journal.

Keep a notebook or a journal. Write in it every day if possible. Record ideas, observations, bits of dialogue you overhear, details you notice in the way people behave/speak, events that might make good scenes, anything that you think you might possibly use in your writing. (Hint: If something you see or hear or remember brings out an emotional reaction of some kind in you -- for example, a giggle, or a cringe of embarrassment -- pay special attention. If it brings out that reaction in you, it may well bring out the same in a reader, and emotional involvement in your story is what you want to strive for.)

6. Write from the heart.

Explore things that matter to you, that you care deeply about. This process will often produce your best work.

7. Expect to rewrite.

Although there is generally no mention in published books of the number of rewrites the author slogged through, you can be sure things did not come out perfect the first time. (I have rewritten as many as 52 times!)

8. Accept help.

Accept help. I would not be where I am today as a writer if I had not been willing to learn from others. Listen to advice from teachers, other writers, readers. There is much about writing that can be taught.

9. However, don't lose your uniqueness.

Experiment, try different types of writing, and writing styles, but be true to who you are, seek your own voice and hold onto it.

10. Be stubborn.

As I said before, it takes time, patience, and practice to achieve your goal. Hang in there! Don't give up! Everyone has a story to tell, and that includes YOU!

1. First of all, understand there is no secret code

...or magic wand that will suddenly turn you into a writer. It takes time, and patience, and -- yes, you guessed it -- plenty of practice (in other words: hard work). But what's new about that? The same is true for anything you want to get good at: basketball, piano, gymnastics, art, spelling (yuck!), you name it. The key is to relax and enjoy the process.

2. Read everything you can get your hands on:

novels, poetry, picture books, essays, articles, comics, signs, even cereal boxes. The more you read, the more you will soak up a sense of how language can be used to communicate. (Which, after all, is the point of writing.) Swim in words and their meaning as if you were a fish. Make them a part of who you are.

3. Be observant.

Pay attention to the world around you. Don't be satisfied with first impressions. Try to figure out what's going on beneath the surface. A writer is one who is always asking, "What? How? Why?"

4. Or, "What if?"

Don't limit yourself to what actually happens. Let your mind wander, creating spin-offs, sequels, prequels, alternate possibilities. Cultivate your imagination.

5. Keep a notebook or a journal.

Keep a notebook or a journal. Write in it every day if possible. Record ideas, observations, bits of dialogue you overhear, details you notice in the way people behave/speak, events that might make good scenes, anything that you think you might possibly use in your writing. (Hint: If something you see or hear or remember brings out an emotional reaction of some kind in you -- for example, a giggle, or a cringe of embarrassment -- pay special attention. If it brings out that reaction in you, it may well bring out the same in a reader, and emotional involvement in your story is what you want to strive for.)

6. Write from the heart.

Explore things that matter to you, that you care deeply about. This process will often produce your best work.

7. Expect to rewrite.

Although there is generally no mention in published books of the number of rewrites the author slogged through, you can be sure things did not come out perfect the first time. (I have rewritten as many as 52 times!)

8. Accept help.

Accept help. I would not be where I am today as a writer if I had not been willing to learn from others. Listen to advice from teachers, other writers, readers. There is much about writing that can be taught.

9. However, don't lose your uniqueness.

Experiment, try different types of writing, and writing styles, but be true to who you are, seek your own voice and hold onto it.

10. Be stubborn.

As I said before, it takes time, patience, and practice to achieve your goal. Hang in there! Don't give up! Everyone has a story to tell, and that includes YOU!