1) Don’t wait for the muse to strike. Go to work. Write regularly. The muse visits those whose fingers are tapping keys.
2) Trust your creative mind and your material. You don’t have to know everything about the characters or how the story will end. Writing is exploration, and the process is organic; characters do come alive and the story will grow itself.
3) Writing is rewriting. Crappy first drafts are common. First, let your wild mind roam. Later, put your editor (analytical/critical mind) to task, improving story structure and refining the prose.
4) Nouns and verbs tell the story; adjectives and adverbs bog it down. Nouns and verbs are the power words in every language. Select specific nouns and potent verbs. (Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly: A tiny dose boosts the story’s vitality, but overdosing is deadly.)
5) Use all five senses. Sights, sounds, smells, textures, flavors—on every page.
6) Reveal the setting subjectively, through a character’s perceptions and reaction. How does the character experience the environment of objects, architecture, furniture, clothing, landscape, weather, etc.? This technique delivers the setting and reveals the character at the same time.
7) When to show, tell and ignore. Understand what to include and what to leave out, and your story will zoom along.
8) One scene at a time. Scenes are the building blocks of the story. As you write, focus within the frame of the individual scene. “Be here now.”
9) Don’t write about emotions; write about people in situations. Writing about fear or anger or sadness creates melodrama. Focusing on characters in situations creates emotion.
10) “Omit needless words; make every word tell.” (William Strunk) Cut flab and echoes. The DELETE bin is a writer’s best friend.
11) Forget about “style.” Write to communicate, not to impress. Concentrate on effective storytelling. Focus on who, what, when, where, why and how (also, Why should we care?). Style develops itself. You are a unique human being, and you will naturally give birth to your own style.
12) Get us to care about your characters from the outset, or the story will fail.