20 Tips for New Writers | Len Vlahos | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

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Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (45m)
    • 1. 20 Tips: Introduction

      2:24
    • 2. Class Projects

      1:24
    • 3. Before You Start: Creating Good Habits

      4:41
    • 4. Before You Start: Observing & Outlining

      7:32
    • 5. Tips for Writing Your First Draft

      7:07
    • 6. Revising: Cut THAT Out & More

      5:46
    • 7. Revising: Word Echoes, Dialogue, & More

      10:09
    • 8. What to Do When You're Done

      5:02
    • 9. Thank You and Quick Reminders

      0:51
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About This Class

Have you ever sat down to write a story, or perhaps to start the novel that’s been burning inside you for years, and you don’t quite know where to start? Then 20 Tips for New Writers is for you. 

Developed for new writers of long form narrative fiction (or intermediate writers just starting to take their craft seriously), 20 Tips will provide foundational advice to help you start and finish your manuscript. Pulling from best practices I’ve learned over the course of in my writing career, I’ll give you fun, bite-sized, actionable tips on: 

  1. What to do before you start writing 
  2. How to approach your first draft 
  3. The rewriting/editing process 
  4. What to do when you’re finished 

The course will help you create good writing habits, address the myth of writer's block, examine the “plotter vs. panster” argument, and provide real-world techniques --how to structure dialogue, identifying "word echoes,” and more --  to make your writing hum. 

Students will come away from the class with a good framework on how to approach writing, as well as real-word advice on how to make your work stand out. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Len Vlahos

Writer, Teacher, Very Bad Hockey Player

Teacher


Hi everyone! I'm teaching creative writing on Skill Share, sharing best practices I've learned in my career as a published author.  

My published works include: The Scar Boys, a finalist for ALA's award for best debut teen fiction; its sequel, Scar Girl; Life in a Fishbowl, which was published 12 langauges and 18 countries, and Hard Wired, a Kentucky Bluegrass Award nominee for best teen fiction. I also co-authored The Girl on the Ferris Wheel with bestselling author Julie Halpern.

After dropping out of NYU Film School in the mid-1980s to go on the road playing guitar in a punk-pop band (Woofing Cookies), I spent most of my career working on the book publishing industry. I'm now a full-time writer living in Colorado with my wife, two sons, one dog, and t... See full profile

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Transcripts

1. 20 Tips: Introduction: The first time I sat down to write, I just let the words flow. Sentence after sentence ran across the screen. The characters came to life and spoke to me. When I looked up an hour later and read what I had, I realized it was absolute trash. That wasn't the problem. The problem was I didn't know what to do next. Hi, my name is Len Vlahos and I'm the author of five traditionally published novels for young adults. One of my books was a finalist for ALA's Award for best debut teen fiction and another was translated into 12 languages. I've received positive reviews in the New York Times and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly. In other words, I've been really fortunate in my writing career. But I've also worked hard to get here. As someone who dropped out of NYU Film School in the mid-1980s to go on the road playing guitar and punk band, that was me, I had very little formal training as a writer. I learned my craft by talking with other writers, by workshopping my stories, and by reading, a lot of reading. Whether you're a new writer or a more seasoned writer just starting to take your craft more seriously, this course will provide foundational advice to help you start and finish your long-form narrative fiction project. I'll discuss the plotter versus pantser argument, the myth of writer's block, provide tips and techniques to make your writing hum, and more. While publishing is a collaborative process, writing can be a very solitary endeavor. Sometimes it can feel like you're talking to yourself. This is just a bit to meta, don't you think? Yes, but we're trying to prove a point. That is? Even though you may feel like you're alone, you're not. There's a big community of writers out there, including all of you taking this class. Collectively, we're all here to help. We'll break our advice down into 20 bite-sized, actionable, fun pieces of information. You know, that reminds me of a story. One. Nice guy, but he can be a bit long-winded. Stay right where you are. Coming up next is a short video to describe our class projects, and after that, lesson 1, things to consider before you start writing. 2. Class Projects: Before we get to the mid of the course, I wanted to take a very brief moment, and describe our four class projects. Because this course is aimed at writers of long-form narrative fiction, which can be anywhere from 20,000-100,000 words or more. In other words, too long for a class project. Our projects will focus on specific skills to help in the development of your finished work. It's best if you complete each project immediately after we cover the related material. In Tip 4, there's a short project designed to help you better develop your five senses, and to make you think critically about the words you choose. At the end of Tip 5, you'll create an outline for your story. Tip 13 features a short project, and writing first-person narratives. In Tip 14, there's a short exercise on writing dialogue. Instructions for each project can be found at the end of the relevant lesson. Please post your projects as Word Docs, PDFs, or links to Google Docs in double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font. I'll be sure to review each one and provide feedback. Now, onto our first lesson, things to consider before you start writing. 3. Before You Start: Creating Good Habits: You want to be a writer, well the big secret is if you write, you're already a writer, but you want to be a good writer, what's the difference between good writing and writing that's less good? Well, the truth is some folks are naturally gifted writers the way others are naturally gifted athletes, it just comes to them more easily. But natural ability aside, anyone who devotes the time and effort to learn the craft of writing can learn to write well and everyone, no matter your level, can improve. In this first section of our course, which is broken into two videos, I'll provide five tips on things to consider before you start your writing project. Trying to be a good writer without also being a good reader is a lot like trying to be a good hockey player without being a good skater, it won't work. Good writing is built on a foundation of good reading. How can you be a good reader? Well, in addition to reading every day or almost every day, you should read outside your comfort zone. If you're writing science fiction, of course, you should read science fiction, but you should read other genres too. Read a screenplay, read a contemporary novel, read a memoir, and importantly, read poetry. Reading poetry will infuse your writing with meter, pace, and rhythm. There are a wealth of contemporary poetry collections you could be looking at, one of my favorites is Said the Shotgun to the Head by Saul Williams, but I also recommend you go back and read or reread Shakespeare's sonnets, like the character Mr. Morgan says in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, "I know Shakespeare's a dead white guy, but he knows his shit," truth. Now, turn off your TV, put down your phone and read, hey, I wrote this. I have friends who bend right. They'll bang up material over a 10 or 12 hour stretch and then not right again for two weeks. I suppose you can make this work, but if you're a new writer, you should develop good habits from the start. This would include writing a minimum of 30 minutes, four or five days a week. If your schedule allows, and you can write an hour or two rather than 30 minutes, all the better but even 30 minutes can make a difference. Plus, it's hard to make an excuse not to write when you're only committing to half an hour. There is no better guard against writer's block than writing consistently. In the same way that daily stretching and exercise builds muscle memory, daily writing strengthens and develops the tools you need to advance the work you're doing. If you write often enough, you will say goodbye to writer's block for ever. Give yourself a desired word count, maybe 250 or 500 words and grow from there. If you do hit a wall, take a couple of days off from that specific project and write something else. Cleansing the pallet usually helps, but don't take a few days off or more from writing altogether, if you do, you'll find it hard to go back. If your goal is to get published, your manuscript needs to be double-spaced and the font you use should be Times New Roman 12 point. This is what agents and editors expect and to deviate from the standard may make you seem amateurish. Your finished project should be done in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, but that doesn't mean you have to draft and edit in Word or Google. They're fine programs, but there are alternatives. My favorite is something called Scrivener. It has robust organizational tools and can export your project in any format you want. It's especially useful for seeing your outline more on outlines and tip number 5, visually. I would strongly encourage you not to write with a pen or pencil. There are writers who do this successfully. They say the physical act of writing makes them feel more immersed in the project and closer to the words but the truth is it's going to slow you down and it's going to make editing hard, and hey, it's the 21st century, we should use modern tools. I'll see you in the next video where we will continue our conversation of things to consider before you start writing, starting with tip number 4, the power of observation. 4. Before You Start: Observing & Outlining: We're still focused on what to do before you start writing. Now we'll dive deeper on the power of observation and we'll create an outline for your story. This section also features two of our four class projects. A writer's job is to chronicle the human condition. Whether you're writing satire or romantic comedy, noir or thriller, you're translating your observations about what it means to be human and the struggles of one particular human, your protagonist in a way that will resonate with readers. To that end, the most important tool for a writer is the power of observation. This isn't just how you see the world around you, it's how you hear, taste, touch, and smell the world around you. Consider the room you're sitting in. If you're outside, consider the view in front of you. But if you're in a room, are the walls white, off-white, do they have scuff marks? Is there anything? A clock, art, photographs hanging on the wall? What sounds do you hear? Is there an HVAC system? Maybe a nearby dishwasher? Is it eerily silent? The point is, the more you train yourself to observe, the richer your writing will become. There's an underlying message here too. In order to observe the world, you need to be an active participant in it. When you're done reading and writing every day, go for a bike ride, learn how to cook. That's not how you boil water. Learn to play a musical instrument. The point is, to observe the world you need to experience it. It's also time for our first class project. Write a description of the room in which you're sitting. It should be at least 100 words and not more than 200 words. Make it interesting. When you're done, go back and write it again, but use none of the same adjectives as in the first draft. The idea is to hone your powers of observation and to make you think critically about the words you choose. I encourage you to upload both paragraphs in a single document, a PDF, a Word doc, a link to a Google Doc in the class project section of the course. Please make sure it's in 12 point double-spaced Times New Roman. Now it's time to answer the age-old question of the plotter versus the pantser. Are you a plotter or are you a pantser? In other words, do you create your outline before you start writing your story? Or do you start with a colony of an idea and wing it, writing by the seat of your pants? I'll be honest, I started my journey as a pantser and I found over time how difficult that path is. If you're just starting out as a writer or if you're just starting to take your writing more seriously, don't be a pantser. How do you become a plotter? How do you create your outline? Well, start by asking yourself a few simple questions first. Number 1, who is your main character? In order to get to know your protagonist better, consider writing a one or two page character biography. It's basically everything about their life. What's their backstory? What has shaped this person outside of the story you're about to tell? Are they an introvert or an extrovert? Are they funny, confident, awkward? Do they have some special skill that will help or maybe hinder them on their journey. Knowing your character intimately will be immensely helpful in the crafting of your story. Number 2, what is your protagonist story arc? Every protagonist in every good story has a character arc. That is, they change and grow from the beginning to the end of the story. An obvious example is Frodo Baggins. He's an unassuming habit in a little known part of Middle Earth when the Lord of the Rings opens, By the time the story ends, spoiler alert, he's a hero on the scale of legends. At his core, he's still Frodo, but he's now so much more. Know how your character will grow and change before you start. What is it about them that will be different from the beginning of the story to the end and don't worry, you can change your mind on this. We'll talk more about that when we talk about first drafts. Number 3, what are the major plot points or beats in your story? This topic is dealt with in great detail in Jessica Brody's excellent Save the Cat Writes a Novel and in Joseph Campbell's fascinating Hero With a Thousand Faces, so I'll only scratch the surface here. Almost every good story follows a certain pattern. A common person is called to action. They refused that call, and then often on the advice of a wise counselor, accept the challenge. They crossed from their known universe into an unknown world where they face many obstacles, reap their reward, and come home changed. This is a map of the hero's journey in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo Baggins is asked to leave the Shire with the ring of power. He tries to refuse the call, but Gandalf, his wise counselor, is persuasive. Frodo leaves the Shire, his known world with the ring. Along the way, he encounters one obstacle after another before finally destroying the ring. He returns home changed. He now has a broad worldview along with newfound wisdom and courage. This is a very dumbed down version of the Hero's journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell and as applied to JRR Tolkien but you get the gist. The point is, you need to think about your story, the plot points and the beats before you start to write. You need to know what's going to happen as much as you can. Who are the major characters? How will they propel or impede your protagonist? What else happens? You want to create that outline. One tip for creating an outline is to write a one paragraph summary of what you think each chapter will be? Then when you start to write an earnest, you'll have something to write to. That brings us to our second class project. Write an outline for your story. Once you have that outline, map it to the Hero's journey or to Brody's beat map. If you find that you're missing a key plot point or a beat, maybe the Hero didn't refuse the call, consider adding it. Once you have a finished outline that's been mapped, upload it to the class project section of this course as a Word doc, a PDF, or a link to a Google doc. Now look, I know this can sound kind of formulaic, but really it's not. The entire thesis of Campbell's book is that humans relate to stories that follow a predictable paradigm. In fact, the European stories that we find so familiar here in the West have similar counterparts in cultures around the world and they grew up in those cultures independently. This is not a coincidence. It speaks volumes to how we create and ingest stories. Storytelling and story listening are in our DNA. Embrace that as you create your outline and as we move on to Chapter 2, writing your first draft. 5. Tips for Writing Your First Draft: You're reading and writing every day, you've chosen the right tools, you're honing your powers of observation, and you've got a killer outline, now it's time to start writing. In this section, we'll look at four simple tips to help you get through your 1st draft. Working with your outline, you write 500 words on your 1st day. Good for you. On your 2nd day, you want to see how well you did, so you go back and reread those 500 words. They're good, you think, but they could be better, so you rewrite them. On day 3, you realize that some of what you had on day on 1 was actually better than the edit, so you rewrite again. By the time you get to day 4, you've still only written 500 words and you haven't advanced the story at all. Given your track record on days 2 and 3, you're probably going to edit again now. Stop. If you're writing long-form narrative fiction, you need to push through to the end of the story. Generally, I'll only look at the last few paragraphs I wrote yesterday just to get my mind back into the story today and never further than that. I never edit those paragraphs, that will come later. At this point in the process there are no bad ideas, no bad sentences, no bad characters, no bad scenes. This is much harder than it sounds. Those 500 words are going to be calling to you, begging for you to reread them. Don't do it. You'll fall into an endless loop of revising and editing and your project will never get finished. But, Lane, I introduced a character on page 6 that now on page 39 I realize doesn't help the story. First, good for you for realizing that. Second, don't worry about it. You're going to do a substantial rewrite, maybe more than one substantial rewrite when you're done. But you can only do that when you're done. Keep track of changes you might want to make right in the document or in a separate file, but don't make those changes now, push through to the end. A very wise author named Amie Kaufman of Illuminae theme once noted that the distance between writing zero books and one book is infinitely greater than the distance between writing one book and two books. I'm paraphrasing, but it's true. Finish your first draft and the rest will come more easily. You can't finish that draft if you keep going back and revising. Push through to the end and don't look back. Several very clever authors, far more clever than I, use this trick to ward off writer's block. I learned it from bestselling novelist Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars and The River, and several other wonderful works of fiction and non-fiction. Like most writers, I had been stopping for the day when I completed a thought. Maybe it was a full chapter, maybe just a scene. Either way, when I sensed I'd written all I could, I made sure to get to the end of that particular thought, wrapping it up neatly in a bow. When I would come back the next day, it would take me a little while to get back into the rhythm of the story. If this is how you write, try stopping in the middle of a thought instead. If you've just completed a scene, start another scene, getting the first few sentences down on paper or screen, maybe even stop in the middle of a sentence. You'll find that when you return the next day, your brain will immediately pick up the thread of what you were writing and writer's block will have been obliterated. It's a simple technique, but it really works. In tip number 5, I discussed the benefit of outlines. I urge you to be a plotter, not a pantser. Why the hell am I telling you to blow up your outline now? I'm not. In fact, when you begin, you really should write to your outline. If your outline calls for an opening scene in which your main character sleeps to their alarm and then scrambles to get dressed and out of the apartment, then by all means that's where you should start. But I am saying don't be afraid to blow up your outline. No matter how much planning you do in advance, your characters and story won't come to life until you begin to write. When you do, those characters will speak to you. The plot will to a certain extent start to drive itself. You'll find it's like a kind of magic. Sometimes your story can show you a new and better direction forward. Stephen King famously advised aspiring writers to kill your darlings. He said this in my favorite book on writing simply called On Writing. It's part memoir and part manifesto on how to be a good writer. He was cautioning us not to fall so in love with the character or a scene that we couldn't part with that character or scene if it wasn't advancing the story. This is similar to that. Yes. Write to your outline, but don't let it be a prison of your own making. You can be both deliberate and bold at the same time. Don't be afraid to change direction if changing direction is what your story needs. Many new writers will use a variety of tricks outside of the actual writing to bring their stories to life. They'll use different fonts in different situations or maybe even experiment with page layout. Consider the following paragraph laid out two different ways. James read Elsie's note with horror. The color drained from his face and his jaw went slack. He knew without any doubt she was already dead. The 2nd version of this paragraph is what might euphemistically be called putting lipstick on a pig. It's an extreme example, but you get the idea. Don't try to dress up your writing with page layout and styling tricks. The writing needs to succeed on its own merits. Even bold and italicized text along with exclamation points should be used very sparingly. You've pushed through to the end, you've let the work speak for itself, and you have a completed 1st draft, congratulations. I'll see you in the next video where we'll begin our discussion of the most important part of the writing process, revising and editing. 6. Revising: Cut THAT Out & More: Your first draft is done. Congratulations, time to get it published. Sit back, put your feet up and bask in the warm glow of your first New York Times review. Not so fast. All good writing is rewriting. Let me say that again. All good writing is rewriting. No one's first draft is ready for prime time, not yours, not mine, not anyone's. Now that you've reached the end of your story and pause for a minute to celebrate that achievement, the real work begins. Most writers will go through at least one full rewrite of their work, often more than one. What follows broken into two videos or some tangible tips and techniques to help you in the process of revising and editing your manuscript. After you write the end on your draft. You should do that. Actually write the words the end, it'll make you feel really good. Take a few days off, let the work sit for a week or two before you come back to it. Start another writing project, draft a blog post, write a letter to your grandmother. Do something to put distance between you and the manuscript. When you do come back, read it all the way through making editorial comments as you go. But don't start editing just yet. Ask yourself these questions first. One is there are definable character arc? Did your protagonist change from the beginning of the story to the end? Two, did you root for your protagonist to succeed? Even if you have an anti-hero, you want your readers invested in the main character success. Three, did your story hit the key plot points or beats? Even if you blew up your outline, especially if you blow up your outline, you'll still want your story to engage your readers if there's no conflict, no call to action, no obstacles to overcome, no character arc, it will fall flat. Four, is the story well paced? Did you want to keep reading? Was there a point where you lost interest for reading? If so, you either need more coffee or you found a place where the writing needs help. When you've answered those macro questions, it's time to go through with your red pen and start editing and earnest, start reading and start making those changes. With each successive read through, take notes, take copious notes. No idea is too small. The best way to do this is through the comments functionality of Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Most word processing programs have a mechanism for making inline comments. Learn how to use this and use it a lot. You'll probably throw many of the comments away, but you never know when you're going to have a hidden gem that really improves your work. You should also save the bits you discard the darlings you've killed. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone back and reused a sentence, a turn of phrase, a character, even a whole scene later on that same work, or sometimes in an entirely different work. When it comes to ideas, be a pack rat. This is different than being a member of the Rat Pack but that's beside the point. After you've done an on-screen edit, print out your manuscript, and do a paper edit. I tend to catch more when editing on paper, and I definitely see a whole new set of edits that I wasn't seeing on screen. Be your own worst critic. Really push yourself hard to make sure the story and writing resonate with you. If you don't love it, I doubt, others won't either and don't get discouraged. Editing is really hard work. It's the chance you have to make your story shine. But the good news is you can go back and do it as many times as you need. That is one of the most overused and misused words in manuscripts. You can improve the quality of your writing by using this word sparingly. Consider this sentence from my third book, Life in a Fishbowl, was the part of his brain that he was using at that very moment, the part with a brain tumor, the word, that, appears twice in the sentence. Now read the sentence again. This time omitting the first use of the word that, was the part of his brain he was using at that very moment, the part with the brain tumor. Now read it a third time, omitting the second use of the word that, was the part of his brain that he was using at very moment, the part with a brain tumor. You'll find the first use of the word, while grammatically correct is unnecessary, where the second use of that is needed. The sentence should read, was the part of his brain, he was using at that very moment the part with the brain tumor, it still hurts me that it didn't catch this during the editing process. I mean, it still hurts me I didn't catch this during the editing process. See what I did there. Do a search in your document for the word that, you'll likely find hundreds of instances, read each one aloud, and delete the ones that aren't absolutely necessary. It will make your writing flow more smoothly. That's a fact. Onto the next video where we will continue our conversation about revising and editing, and we'll cover word echoes, dialogue and more. 7. Revising: Word Echoes, Dialogue, & More: We're continuing our discussion of the most important part of the writing process, revising and editing. In this video, we'll cover writing in the first-person, dialogue structure, word echoes, line breaks, and listening, in addition to reading. We'll also tackle our next two class projects. Buckle up and let's get to it. Many novels are told from a first-person perspective. It's a great way to bring your reader and your character closer together. If you choose to write from a first-person point of view, be careful not to fall into the I, me, mine trap. It's very easy to start a sentence or a paragraph with an I statement. I went here, I did this, and it will be very repetitive if you do. Starting too many sentences with I, will annoy your readers and ruin the flow of your pros. This is true, a first-person pronouns in general. Overusing I, me, my, and mine might also suggest you're focusing too much on your character and maybe not enough on the world around them. Be careful not to make your hero a narcissist unless it's by design. This also brings us to our next class project. Write a first-person story of at least 200 words and only use the words "I" and "me" once, each. Upload your double-spaced 12.0 Times New Roman font document to the class project section of this course. This is harder than it sounds, almost Kobayashi Maru hard, but it's very good practice. Here are a few simple guidelines for writing dialogue. If there are two people and only two people speaking, you do not need to attribute each statement to one speaker or the other. As a general rule, make sure to include an attribution every three or four statements, but not every statement. For example, let's look at this conversation. "I have a lot of issues," Henry said, "with Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the top 500 albums of all time." "You do?'' asked Jean. "Yeah. How is Pet Sounds number 2?" Henry said. "I mean, it's the Beach Boys." "What's wrong with the Beach Boys?" Jean asked. "What's wrong with the" Henry began, "How old are you? Six hundred and twelve?" "Don't be a smart ass," Jean answered. There are only two people here. We know at least one of them is speaking, we don't need attribution with each statement. Just remind us who was who every so often. See if this sounds better. "I have a lot of issues, " Henry said "with Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the top 500 albums of all time." "You do?" asked Jean. "Yeah. How is Pet Sounds, number 2? I mean, it's the Beach Boys." "What's wrong with the Beach Boys?" "What's wrong with the" Henry began. "How old are you? Six hundred and twelve?" "Don't be a smart ass." This flows better and is easier on your reader, and at no point are we confused about who's speaking. With more than two speakers, however, it's a different ballgame. When there are three or more people in the conversation, you need attribution unless it's really obvious who's speaking. Let's see how that same dialog looks with three speakers. I have lots of issues with Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the top 500 albums of all time. I have lots of issues with you. You do? I thought we were talking about Rolling Stone. We were. No, you were. Then you are probably going to snap me out of existence again. Me? I would never. Come on. Where do you even go when he does that? Nowhere. It's horrible. Nowhere like Guardians of the Galaxy? No, nowhere as in out of existence. One minute I'm here, and then the next minute I'm someplace else completely different. Dude, that's cold. How would you like it if someone did that? Let's see how that dialogue looks on paper. You'll notice a few things here. First, almost every statement here is attributed to a speaker. Remove any of those attributions and the reader who will not have seen a video of the conversation first will be confused. Second, in two of the instances where there is attribution, the attribution is implied through a statement of action. Screen Len shaking his head, signals to the reader that it is, he, Screen Len, who is speaking. This technique also helps break up the monotony of having to read through a plethora of attributions. One final note on dialogue. There are many ways to indicate a character is speaking, Henry said, Henry offered, Henry interjected. Henry exclaimed, Henry whispered, Henry asked, Henry answered, and on and on and on. Avoid repetition in your writing. Variety is after all, the spice of life. This brings us to our final class project. Write a scene of no less than 200 and no more than 300 words in which three or four characters are having a conversation. Share the document to the class project section of this course as a Word doc, PDF, or a link to a Google Doc, and as always, make sure it's double-spaced Times New Roman 12.0 type. Be mindful of how you use attribution. In a previous tip, I cautioned you to be wary of repetition in your writing in particular with dialogue. With repetition in mind, let's discuss word echoes. What is a word echo? Let's look at an example. Allison woke up at 5:00 AM each morning, stretched the sleep out of her muscles, had a half cup of artisan coffee and settled in to write in her journal. The exercise of writing stretched her mind in ways the monotony of her job never could. Did you spot the word echo? If you said stretched, pat yourself on the back. Word echoes are words that are repeated in close succession to one another, and will cause your readers to mentally stumble, pulling them out of the story. Be mindful of word echoes as you write and change them when you find them while editing. Write and writing are also word echoes in this example, but they're here by design. As a general rule, it's okay to use a word echo if you do so intentionally. In this case, we might rewrite the paragraph to read, Allison woke at 05:00 AM each morning, stretched the sleep out of her muscles, had a half cup of artisan coffee and settled in to write in her journal. The act of writing exercised her mind in ways the monotony of her job never could. Tune your mind to noticing word echoes while you're editing. We'll have a trick to help with that in tip number 17. Catching these will make your writing tighter and more lean. In the second chapter, I talked about not using layout tricks to punch up your writing, different fonts, fancy styles, even bold and italics. Your writing needs to stand on its own merits. There is an exception to this, however, notably, when and how you break a line or start a new paragraph. Line breaks are elements that add emphasis to your writing. To show you what I'm talking about, I'll use another example from my work, this from a book called Hard-wired. There are 19,989 unique magic cards in existence, and in this tournament, we play with a deck of exactly 73 cards, so the number of permutations, while large, is knowable. I have a photographic memory. Boom. Now let's look at how it appeared in the published book. Those two line breaks are there by design as they add emphasis. Think about what you're trying to communicate and how you want to drive a particular thought home. There's an underlying message here too, a notion that's been running throughout this entire course. Bring intentionality to your writing. Think about every decision, large and small, don't gloss over any part of your manuscript. Take your time while editing and pay attention to detail. A writer I know once referred to this as writing with tweezers. I like that. Write with tweezers. When you think your edit is finished, go back to the beginning and read the entire work out loud. Read deliberately, read slowly, use different voices for different characters, act it as much as you read it. Hearing your words, feeling the cadence, identifying those sentences that make you verbally trip is invaluable. I guarantee an entire new group of edits will emerge from this exercise. Plus you'll catch a lot of what we've already been talking about, word echoes, and clunky dialogue, overuse of the word that and more. This will take a while to do, but it's well worth the investment in time. If you don't already, I also encourage you to read audiobooks. It's a great way to experience another writer's work, and someday your work too. Hopefully these tips have helped you in the process of revising and editing your manuscript. Thanks for sticking with me this far. Now let's push on to our final video, what to do when you're done. 8. What to Do When You're Done: You're done. In your hands is an edited manuscript, and wow, does it feel good? It's not easy to write a book, a novella, a screenplay, or any other narrative work of storytelling, but you did it, yay you, so what next? The following three tips and our last three tips are things to consider now that you're finished. Stop celebrating. The ugly truth is your manuscript isn't really finished. Presuming you're the only one to read it so far, it's time to throw caution to the wind and share it with others. You can do this with a trusted friend or family member, you can also join a writers group or workshop. Meetup.com has lists of writers groups in your area and your local university or community college likely offers a creative writing workshop. Even a Google search for writers' groups near me will yield results. When you do share your work with others, ask for substantive feedback. It's nice to know which commas are out of place, but it's more important to know which characters and scenes are out of place, then brace yourself for criticism. Even the most constructive criticism can sting. You poured your heart and soul into this manuscript, how is it that the reader isn't seeing how really good it is? When I sold my first book, The Scar Boys, the editor told me how much he loved it. Heck, they even paid me in advance. Then two months later, he sent me his edit letter. It was five pages outlining everything that was wrong with my story. "But Greg," I whined, I thought you loved my book." "I do, but I also believe it can be better." Greg was right, his edits, mostly suggestions like you don't get into the story quickly enough or I need to see more of the main character with his parents made The Scar Boys a much better book. Be open to feedback, advice, and criticism. It's your work and of course, you're free to defend it, but you should really only do that after you've given the criticism a fair and honest hearing. You'll find that a lot of it will help your story. There are also myriad professional organizations designed to help and support writers. Here are some national organizations to consider. I'll also put links on the main page. If you're self-publishing, the independent Book Publishers Association is key as they provide services to help you professionalize what you do. Most of the other organizations are aimed at specific genres of fiction. The point is, it's time to share your work with others. The perfect really is the enemy of the good, and that is especially true in writing. It's time to let your words out into the world. Publishing your work either through a traditional publishing process or self-publishing is a course all its own. In fact, I'm hoping to develop a Skillshare course on the publishing process in the near future. Stay tuned for information about that. In the meantime, I'll offer only two words of advice about getting published; patience and perseverance. Publishing is a marathon not a sprint. From finding an agent, to shopping a manuscript, to the editing process, and yes, when it's time to get published, you will edit again. You need to brace yourself for a long road full of twists, turns, and setbacks. You'll have many late-night hours questioning your worthiness as a writer. Do not give up. If you take your craft seriously, if you're open to feedback and criticism, if you write and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite again, you can and will succeed. As this is a course about writing, it's not surprising that I referenced a lot of books. Here they are collected in one place for your perusal. While I really like all of these books, there are two in particular I recommend to aspiring writers. On Writing by Stephen King and Save the Cat writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. They're really an excellent place to start your writing career. All of these books should be available through your local library, your local bookstore, or anywhere books are sold. Remember what I said right at the very beginning of this course, to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. These books are a good place to start. On to our final video for a few quick reminders and a heartfelt thank you. 9. Thank You and Quick Reminders: Thank you so much for your time and attention during this course, I had a lot of fun making it. I hope you got something useful out of it. Feel free to post comments and questions on the discussion board and please do complete the four class projects as they're designed to help develop your skills as a writer. Happy writing. What are you doing here? Oh crap.