Writing tips

You can't wait for inspiration; you must go after it with a club ~  Jack London

Revision is like wrestling with a demon, for almost anyone can write; but only writers know how to rewrite. It is this ability alone that turns the amateur into a professional  ~ William Knott

Another compiliation of remarkable tips (for screenwriting, but just as helpful):
The Cockeyed Caravan (Matt Bird): The Ultimate Story Checklist

Last updated May 7, 2015 (25 additions in 2014, 7 so far in 2015)
Scroll down or click on a category to see most worthy and helpful writing tips:

Starting a story
Story ideas
Story Structure/Plotting

Writing humorously
Motivation and time management
Writing tips and ideas

Blogging/ Platform/ Branding
Agents, editors and publishing

The Writing Life and Building Confidence
Reading and book reviews
Specific to YA/MG
Just Plain Funny

Starting a story 
Storyfix: three tips for starting a story
LJ Boldyrev: the importance of the first line
Myself: The first line: hook or gimmick?
Nathan Bransford: the pernicious momentum of first ideas
Valerie Kemp: the All-important first chapter
Anne R. Allen: Do's and don'ts for starting
Janice Hardy: the first 250 words
Elena Solodow: analyzing first paragraphs
Alexandra Sokoloff: First chapters (what experience are you creating for your reader?)
Sara McClung: what agents want to see in the first 100 words
Nathan Bransford: Incorporating a high concept hook in the first 250 words
Janice Hardy: how to craft a great first line
Anne Meier: studying the books you love: a closer look at the first chapter
Moody Writing: what makes a hook work?  
Margo Berendsen:  Every sentence in the first scene has a purpose
Moody Writing: What keeps you reading the first chapter (11/22/63 by Stephen King)

Story ideas/development
Nathan Bransford: taking a good idea and elevating it
Adventures in Children's Publishing: Building a better novel premise
Guide to Literary Agents: is there still room in urban fantasy? yes, and some ideas
Susan Kaye Quinn: Is this idea any good? (and discussion of tropes)
 Elana Johnson: Mixing the strange with the normal (for ideas)
Art Holcomb: coming up with new ideas for existing stories or characters
Larry Brooks (StoryFix): give readers a vicarious experience
Stavros Halvatzis: What is high concept idea?
Janice Hardy:  putting a twist on cliché to come up with new ideas
Lydia Kang: what she reads for  story ideas and inspiration
Shaelit: agent manuscript wishlists and reader wishlists
Nathan Bransford: Storylines are getting formulaic. This is an opportunity. 
Susan Kaye Quinn: Brainstorming a book
Added 2/17/15 Martina Boone: Nine ways to test your core idea 
Added 2/20/15  Laurel Garver: Use starbursting to generate ideas/questions

Story Structure/Plotting
StoryFix: a visual aid for story structure
StoryFix: Eight moments you absolutely have to deliever to your reader
StoryFix: the Big Questions you have to know the answer to for your story
Laura Pauling: Fifteen tips to strengthen your story structure
Laura Pauling: Plant and payoff
Rachelle Gardner: What editors look for: story structure
Janice Hardy: creating plot twists
Nathan Bransford: How to craft mystery in a novel (not just for mystery writers!)
Danyelle Leafty: on cliches, tropes and archetypes and how to use them to your advantage
Janice Hardy: action vs. choice: creating better plots
Martina Boone: master plots and how to build them (with lots of great links)
Nathan Bransford: the power of plot reversals and character highs and lows (Star Wars example)
Alina Klein: the physiology of foreshadowing
Janice Hardy: Changing scale: looking at your story from different angles
Story Fix: Three levels of storytelling art and craft
Janice Hardy: Five questions to ask your plot to see if readers will be engaged by it
Lydia Sharp: opposite turning points in story structure
Janice Hardy: Do your scenes have all the important ingredients?
Margo Berendsen: Love story plots, or 18 ways to mess with your characters
K.M. Weiland: Two "Must Haves" ingredients in a perfect story ending 
Book Country: a map of genres with links to famous books in each genre
2013 Buzz Feed Books:  fancy literary techniques explained in Disney movies
2013 Rosie Genova: Using a table to manage plots and subplots
Added 3/21/14 Janice Hardy: Adding unpredictability to your scenes (a Star Wars example)
Added 1/9/14 Robin LaFevers Quiet Books, Timing and the Ever Elusive Market

Corrine Jackson: Giving yourself over to your characters
Adventures in Children's Publishing: Character worksheet (part one of a series on characters)
Novel Journey: Five elements that make fantasy fiction real (characters are #1)
Crowe's Nest: Fully exploiting a character's first scene
Crowe's Nest: Memorable characters in middle grade fiction
Shannon Messenger: What are your characters hiding?
Writer's Digest: Using perception to enhance your character's POV
The Ron Empire: Proper characterization is indistinguishable from plot
Ink Spells: Five things about your characters your readers don't know
See Heather Write: Carolyn Mackler's Four keys to creating characters
Plot to Punctuation: What Star Wars teaches us about character introduction 
Shallee MacArthur: Creating Compelling Characters: the 3-2-5 rule
Roni Loren: your character's motto
Vicky English: linking character arc and theme
Rachelle Gardner: what the editor looks for: characters
Lisa Gail Green: filtering through a character
Fictionistas: Deep POV (and  watch out for distancing words)
Harry Potter for Writers: Characterization in the first chapter
Janice Hardy: Five things your character should consider in each scene
Kristen Lamb: the ultimate guide to antagonists
Larry Brooks: how the character feels and reacts - the most compelling way to get sucked into a story
Donna Lodge: on subtext and how it builds characterization
Janice Hardy: sidekicks and secondary characters prevent internalizing to death
Lisa Gail Green: does your character have a logline?  
Pc Wrede: getting to know your characters, plus writing tips
Adventures in Children's Publishing: seven characters types to help build your story
Larry Brooks (Storyfix): Harness the power of your characters' resentment
Story Sensei: Deep Point of View - a long detailed excellent post about getting into a character
Randy Ingermanson: Nothing is more important than _____ to your character (in his October 2011 newsletter)
Margo Berendsen: 38 ways to check for character life signs
Janice Hardy: Plotting from the antagonist's perspective 
Margo Berendsen: Most antagonists stop here and Different types of antagonists
Jane Lebak (QueryTracker):  Your character's language
Mooderino and K.M. Weiland: Four ways to limit your character's options
Laurel Garver:  An essential question to keep asking your character
Added 1/7/14  Moody Writing:  How illogical characters can be memorable
Added 1/23/14: Laurel Garver: Ways to avoid instalove when characters meet
Added 2/4/14  Julie Musil: Softening a hard character to make them more likeable
Added 4/30/14 Fiction Notes:  Fifteen days to stronger characters
Added 6/4/14 James Scott Bell: Characters that leap off the page
Added 12/10/14 Natalia Sylvester: An old soul's guide to uncovering your character's secrets
Added 1/9/15 Donald Maass: Stirring higher emotions

Nathan Bransford: How to craft great voice
Mary Kole: Voice, quickly and brilliantly
Mary Kole:  Get emotion into your voice
the Write Power: Finding your voice
Livia Blackburne: Voice finding techniques
Secret Archives of the Alliterati: Fermentation of the Writer
Janice Hardy: some simple help for voice
Janice Hardy: turn passive voice into active voice
Chip MacGregor: Finding your writing voice
Men with Pens: Finding your writing voice
Rachelle Gardner: What is writer's voice?
TH Mafi: Let's talk about voice
WriteOnCon: four kidlit agents talk about voice
Got YA: the A HA moment with voice
Ingrid Sundberg: Your voice is your voice: keeping it real
Alexandra Sokoloff: That elusive voice
The Bookself Muse: Voice tips from the pros
Shrinking Violets Promotions: Your wild and precious voice and more about story voice
Shrinking Violet Promotions: speaking your voice in your writing
Zen Habits: finding your voice - from an unusual source
Children's Literature Network: many different sources on voice
Ingrid's Notes: Perfecting your YA voice Part 1 and Part 2 (not just for YA)
Added 10/1/14 Laurel Garver: Elements of voice - for different character voices

Nail Your Novel: It's not simply about what people say
Patrick Schulze: 10 tips for editing dialogue
Nathan Bransford: Seven keys to writing good dialogue
QueryTracker: Strengthening dialogue
Janice Hardy: excellent examples of dialogue that works, and what doesn't 
Larry Brooks (StoryFix): inner dialogue as a window into character
Added 2/4/14: Authoress:  When dialogue rambles (and how to fix it)

Emily Casey: Build a setting that pulls its own weight
YA Highway: The magic of setting (macro and micro setting)
Advenutures in Children's Publishing: crafting visual, memorable scenes
Lisa Gail Green: using your senses to build setting
Heather Dixon: using contrast in setting
Janice Hardy: Is description helping your story or holding it back?
Susan Meissner: making your setting a character 
Janice Hardy: How much do you need to describe your setting?
Jane LeBak: Setting, Reaction, Interaction
Added 3/5/14  Moody Writing: The link between setting and character
Added 7/1/14 Kristen Lamb: Description: how to make readers fall in love
Added 12/6/14 C.S. Lakin: Motifs for cohesion and depth

Writing humorously
Joanne Fox: Make em' laugh (it's all about developing characters)
Jenny B Jones: humor in fiction
Heather Dixon: the best author interview - short and funny
Margo Berendsen: hook with humor

the Literary Lab: You really aren't the Sherlock Holmes of that manuscript
Weronika Janczuk: summary of writing problems to look for
Writer Unboxed: critique workshop from hell
Anne R. Allen: Bad advice to ignore from your critique group
T.H. Mafi: A disclaimer for alpha readers
Lori M. Lee: where to find crit partners
Guide to Literary Agents: how to get the most out of a writer's conference
Janice Hardy: a collection of posts on giving/getting critiques 
Rachelle Gardner: what should I bring to a conference?  
Ronie Kendig: don't let critiques or contest results define you 
Jennifer K. Hale: tuning out the white noise with critiques

Motivation and time management
Spiral Upwards: Publication is about sales, not validating good writing
Molly Hall: What makes a writer a writer?
Chip MacGregor: Overcoming doubt
Emily Casey: a collection of posts about motivation
Emily Casey: mommy writers have a tough gig
Winded Words: when to write
Dancing Down Serendity Street: Seven tried-and-true ways to block  your creativity (and solutions)
Quietly Crazy:  New Writer Smugness
Rachelle Gardner: How to become a better writer (in your non-writing life)
Procrastinating Writers: Write Everyday Prompt
Jackee Alston: What you give up to write
T.H. Mafi: Peeing your pants in public, or overcoming obstacles and fear
Jackee Alston: great sayings to get you motivated to write 
Susan Kaye Quinn: Ten reason to NOT quit
Saumya: Uncertainty and Certainty
Novel Journey: Taming Time and 10 things you can do in 10 minutes
Martina Boone: tips for brainstorming through writer's block
Elana Johnson: Balancing is a tough act and a rotation of sacrifices 
The Fluent Self: Avoidance - oh, and getting out of it 
Anna Staniszewski: the best advice I ever got (as a writer)
Zen Habits: 20 strategies to defeat the urge to do useless distractions 
Susan Buttars: Jane Austen and other famous authors on how to find time to write
Margo Berendsen: The Bullet that kills Writer's Block
Ash Krafton: Fastdrafting in 20 to 30 minute chunks of time
Susan Kaye Quinn: Four keys to finding time with your creative work
Added 6/4/14 Laurel Garver: Writing when you can't write

Writing tips and ideas: the big picture
Chip MacGregor: What skills does a writer need to develop?
Justine Larbalestier: a collection of writing advice links
Janice Hardy: Don't tell me why and Why ask why? Because your readers will
Lillie Ammann (writer/editor): Resources for writers (includes link to 100 free apps for writers)
Adventures in Children's Publishing: Deciding when to show and when to tell
Janet Fitch: Ten writing tips that can help anyone (some REALLY good ideas, here)
Athol Dickinson: How to write a masterpiece (amazing! a must read)
WriteItSideways: 23 more websites to make your writing stronger
QueryTracker: Learning from the masters (how to analyze what you're reading)
QueryTracker: Unleash your creative genius (how to get the most out of your dreams)
Nathan Bransford: How to write a novel with some great links
Toni McGee Causey: Ten things I've learned about writing and creativity
Athol Dickinson: the difference between writing about beauty and writing beautifully
Larry Brooks: the difference between the tools of writing and the physics of writing (with an interesting analogy to marriage)
Moody Writing: Kurt Vonnegut's rules for writing short stories (also works for novels)
Men With Pens: how Breakfast at Tiffany's teaches you to become a classic writer 
Added 6/22/14  Jami Gold:  Worksheets for writers - dozens of helpful planning worksheets
Added 9/3/14 Kerry O'Malley Cerra: the Visual Writer (scroll down to see some neat visual writing tools)

 Writing tips and ideas: the details
Laurel's Leaves: word associations
My Voice, My View: Five senses meme
Janice Hardy: Words that tell, don't show
Grammar Divas: Definitive rules on when and when not to use "was"
Laurel's Leaves: The effect of changing one thing in your plot
Moody Writing: Getting from point A to B - the unexpected route
Jenna Wallace: why we should deal with nitpicky issues right away 
Tanya Reimer: using symbols in your writing 
Janice Hardy: how to put more hook lines in your story
Adventures in Children's Publishing: writing exercises to get a new perspective on your manuscript
Stina Lindenblatt: literary devices used in the Hunger Games
Daily Writing Tips: 50 redundant phrases to avoid
GenReality: specific examples of showing vs. telling
Moody Writing: using questions to keep momentum rolling through a story
Lisa Gail Green: how to make the story's climax pay off 
Larry Brooks (StoryFix):  elevating your story with the subliminal use of sub-text
Randy Ingersoll: withholding answers to story questions (the article on Creating: Should you answer that question? in his Volume 8 February newsletter)
Saumya Dave: Three things to build tension in writing 
Margie Lawson: how to avoid cliches - when your characters smile
L.G. Smith: using the Rule of Three in writing 
Sarah Callendar:  Don't think tension, think "The Versus" (this versus that)
Brian Klems: How to create tension through misdirection
Laurel Garver: The secret to complex, compelling conflict
Added 12/10/14  Margie Lawson: Writing fresh (lots of examples of non-cliche, fresh writing)
Added 01/08/15  The Write Life: 25 editing tips to tighten your writing
Added 2/20/15 Moody Writing:  Different ways to describe. More than your basic show don't tell
Added 5/07/15 Donna Galanti: How to reduce using "I" in first person, and lots of other tips

Querytracker: Cutting the fat
Justine Larbalestier: how to rewrite
Cheryl Klein: techniques for analzying and revising your novel
Beverly Brandt: analyzing your story structure
Guide to Literary Agents: six keys to revising
Laurel's Leaves: Overwriting: wordy constructions
Autocrit Editing Wizard: find those over-used words and phrases
QueryTracker: Jim Warner on why I call writing editing
Nathan Bransford: Nathan rewrites
Alexandra Sokoloff: Rewriting (and many other tips)
Rachelle Gardner: the revision letter
Terri Tiffany: What I learned from a professional editor 
Danyelle Leafty: Cobwebs got your story?
Fiction Groupie: Getting rid of wordiness
Elana Johnson: layers of revision  and more editing tips
Storyfix: Using SWOT in revision: Strengths, Weakness, Opportunitites, Threats
Stina Lindenblatt: Toss those papers
Lola Sharp: Redundant modifiers and other disasters
Cristin Terrill: Revising by color to help with pacing and balancing action/internal
Jenna Wallace: tips on revision and using Word to find common errors
Adventures in Children's Publishing: Forty questions for a stronger manuscript
Moody Writing: Rewriting: longer, faster, harder
Janice Hardy: a template for pinpointing the crucial things your story needs
Cambria Dillon: deep editing analysis - breakdown of bestseller 
Janice Hardy: Questions to ask yourself that readers might ask
Added 10/28/14 Bethany Smith: Avoiding revision fatigue

QueryTracker:Who, What, When, Where, and Why Should I Care of your pitch
Elana Johnson: One sentence pitching
Nathan Bransford: the one-sentence pitch must have conflict, obstacle, quest and flavor
Nathan Bransford: one-sentence, one paragraph and two paragraph pitches
Rachelle Gardner: One-sentence summary critiques and tips
Scott Mitchell: change perspective to help your pitch
Kristen Nelson: plot cliches and other things to avoid in a pitch
Randy Russell: how the rule of three can help you pitch
Rachelle Gardner: secrets of a great pitch
Rachelle Gardner: crafting your elevator pitch 
Sophia Richardson: what's in a pitch 
Margo Berendsen: pitch tip: the third character changes everything
Kristen Lamb: The secret recipe for writing the perfect pitch
Added 2/4/14:  Kristen Nelson: Plot catalysts for your pitch paragraph

Write it Sideways: Will literary agents really read your query?
Elana Johnson: Writing a query letter with voice and other query advice
Queryshark: A query that worked, and why
YA Highway: YA novel query
Guide to Literary Agents: women's fiction query
QueryTracker: Grab an agent's attention in a query letter
Heim Binas Fiction: How do I get an agent?
Anne Gallagher: Five stages of querying
Coffee, Tea and Literacy: When more is less
Nathan Bransford: How to write a query letter (if you like formulas)
StoryQueen: Why a Query is like a poem (if you don't like formulas)
Jackee Alston: On Query Letters (some query-writing exercises)
JM Tohline: the biggest mistakes writers make when querying
Guide to Literary Agents: using conferences to your querying advantage
Kristen Otts: her successful query letter and links to other YA query success
Marissa Meyer: her successful query letter for Cinder (YA SF)
Miss Snark's First Victim: winners of a query slush-pile (will need to scan previous posts for actual query letters)
Agency Gatekeeper:  A new method of timing your queries (from 2010, but it likely still applies)
Added 9/19/14 Holly Jennings: Breakdown of a query letter

The Bookshelf Muse: Blogs you can't live without (publishing, writing, editing)
Storyfix: your blog and branding
Liz Johnson: the author and social media
Book Buzzer: powerhouse blogging
Kristen Lamb: why writers blogging about writing is bad
Theresa Milstein: A quality community
Susan Kaye Quinn: some thoughts on authors promoting themselves
Kate Hart: how to keep up online without losing your mind
Roni Loren: what do readers want from an author's blog
Rachelle Gardner: 10 tidbits about author platform
Laura Pauling: tough questions about branding
Gina Holmes: 10 publicity books you should read
Rachelle Gardner: identifying your audience is a way of branding and more on marketing
Thea Atkinson: Branding - how do we do it?
Writer Unboxed: three ways to use Pinterest for book publicity
Roni Loren: 5 ways you distance yourself from your blog readers, and solutions 
Rachelle Gardner: when writers need to consider SEO (search engine optimization)
Ash Krafton (QueryTracker): expanding your network with Triberr
Roni Loren: extra things on author websites to bring readers back 
Author Marketing Experts:  a great collection of links for book marketing
2013 Jessica Dotta: How a Book Publicist Launches her Own Debut Novel

Agents, editors and publishing
Susan Kaye Quinn: why I decided to self-publish
Cherie Coyler: insights on traditional, small press and self-pubbing 
Carolyn Kauffman: when you get the call! - questions to ask
Laura Pauling: My decision to self-publish (some excellent reasons)
Chip MacGregor: questions to ask an agent to see if they are the right fit
Rachelle Gardner: changes in the publishing business and what that means for writers
Susan Kaye Quinn: how many book sales equals success?
2013 Elizabeth Weed: Someone wants to represent your book - now what?

Reading and book reviews
Rachelle Gardner: writing online book reviews
Theresa Milstein: Reviews and responsibilities
Susan Kaye Quinn: Writers who review books
Jody Hedlund: 10 simple ways to help authors you love
Ronie Kendig: A Challenge to Readers/Reviewers (you will need to scroll down to see this challenge)
Nathan Bransford: How to deal with negativity
Mary Lindsey (QueryTracker):  Securing online reviews
Jody Hedlund: readers discovers books by recommendation and reviews
Mike Duran: Should books have content or warning labels? (Christian or books espousing other ideologies)
The New York Time: Your brain on fiction (how fiction stimulates our brains)
Kristen Lamb: Is it fair for authors to review other authors? 
Caffeinated Book Reviewer:  Writing negative reviews and dealing with the fallout

Sara Larson/Elana Johnson: Finish Strong (actual rejection statistics)
Rosslyn Elliot: her journey (in faith) to publication
Adventures in Children's Publishing: the Writer's Rejection Dictionary
Rick Riordan: If only I had connections...
Added 7/10/14 Jenni Enzor: don't compare, aim for better than last time

The Writing Life/Confidence
Anne R. Allen: Does depression make you a better writer?
Disobedient Writer: Map of your mind
Chip MacGregor: Writing a mission statement
Miss Snark's First Victim: Swallowed alive: the fear of incompetence
Beth Revis: why it's a good thing that writing never gets easier
Nathan Bransford: separating confidence from self-doubt 
Susan Kaye Quinn: Confidence, the secret ingredient
Susan Kaye Quinn: Ten Things I Believe
Ronie Kendig: untangling frustration and discouragement
Julianna Baggot:  everything we need as a writer is at odds
Nathan Bransford: stories are how we make sense of life
QueryTracker: the perks of being unpublished
R.L. LaFevers: Transformative change in writing 
Nathan Bransford: How art changes with us (quarter-life crisis)
Gina Holmes: a game plan for writers struggling with depression
Catherine Knutsson: three things to light your way when writing gets dark
Miss Snark's First Victim: on writerly camaraderie
Nathan Bransford:  Writers aren't painters, they are magicians
Lisa Gail Green: the pros and cons of being a writer
Amy McNamara: Where's the magic? 
Kat Zhang: On Writing Risks and the Safety Net
The Writing Sisterhood:  Writing Through the Storm
Added 12/16/14 Kristen Lamb: What are the real odds of being a successful author?

Specific to YA/MG (young adult and middle grade)
Susan Kaye Quinn: Twelve tips for young reluctant readers
YA Highway: love triangles in YA (debate)
Mike Duran: why adults read YA
Hannah Moskowitz: difference between YA/MG
Rachna's Sciptorium: Eighteen tips for children's writers
Janet Sumner Johnson: Agent Molly Jaffa on how every emotion is amplified in young adult
Miss Snark's First Victim: an teen editorial service - get feedback from your target audience
Charlotte's library: Fantasy, SF and time travel books for children
Rebecca's recommended reads for children
For YA writers: Surefire ways to turn off your teen
Elizabeth Briggs: Agents identify plot cliches to avoid in YA/MG
Guide to Literary Agents blog: Great high concept hooks for children's books
Shallee McArthur: writing romance for young adults - great tips
Deborah Halverson: Melodrama is key in young adult 
KT Literary: YA lit and why everyone should read it 
Margo Berendsen: ingredients of successful middle grade fiction: Holes and When You Reach Me
Sarah LaPolla: why stories for the 18-25 yr range are hard to sell 
Susan Kaye Quinn: Showing emotion: boys vs girls
 Margo Berendsen: a survey of YA science fiction novels - where is there still room?
YA Confidential: teens pick their favorite first lines
Added 1/23/14: Janet Sumner Johnson:  writing for middle graders (not tips, but interesting insights)
Added 2/4/14:  Nutschell Windsor: Ten reasons to write for kids

Added 2/19/14: Agent Susan Hawk's 2014 wishlist for YA/MG manuscripts
Added 3/18/14 Sheri Larsen: Middle Grade vs. Young Adult, a detailed breakdown

Just plain funny
Ladybugs Roar: the funniest rejection letter
Lots of comics about writing at Will Write for Chocolate
More comics at InkyGirl
YA Highway: What to expect when you're expecting - a book
Emilia Joyce: Eyes of the Writer
Corrinne Jackson: Binge reading, an addiction
Laura Pauling: You are not a real writer until...
Nathan Bransford: Do you suffer from one of these writing maladies?
Twenty great things about dating a writer and Twenty reasons NOT to date a writer
Tahereh Mafi: nine things everyone needs to know about writers
Candice Kennigton: what would a reality show for writers be like?
Tiana Smith: the pros and cons of being a writer
Jess Lawson: Novel writing as a sport (via Monty Python)
Lisa Gail Green: Writing can turn you into a monster
Lisa Gail Green: How our relationships with our characters is like dating a vampire
Laura Marcella: Eight Beatitudes for Writers (blessed are the poor writers...)
Kate Hart: the Game of Write (a writer's version of Life)
YA Muses: The Novel Relationship (it's a lot like falling in love)
Janet Sumner Johnson: Life of a Shiny New Idea (in pictures)
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