Writing Tips for Everybody


Tips from three books about writing

Book Freak is the third newsletter from Cool Tools Lab (our other two are the Cool Tools Newsletter and Recomendo). In each weekly issue, we offer three short pieces of advice from books. Here’s the advice from our second issue.

Make it simple for the reader
“There’ll be no incentive to turn the page if there’s no expectation of a destination. No matter how extraordinary the event described, it will only be ordinary if it’s not consolidated within a plight of a character whose action concerns us. What is it that impedes, compromises, jeopardizes the concerns of the character? Locate the actionable conflict. The trick is to impede the character, not the reader. Make it difficult for the character, simple for the reader.” – The Wall Will Tell You: The Forensics of Screenwriting, by Hampton Fancher

Think small
“Every writing project must be reduced before you start to write. Therefore think small. Decide what corner of your subject you’re going to bite off, and be content to cover it well and stop.” – On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser

When you’re stuck for an ending
“When you’re stuck for an ending, go back to your beginning. When stymied for a way to end your piece, go back to the first line, the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter, and reread it several times. Since opposites tend to meet in some mysterious way, you will often discover that the ending is somehow logically implied in the beginning and that your very first ideas somehow also contain a logical conclusion.” – A Manual of Writer’s Tricks, by David L. Carroll

-- Mark Frauenfelder 05/8/19