Writing Tips: Study the Masters

“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.” – Mark Twain

I tossed out some great resources on screenwriting and story structure a few weeks ago, but the web is a wealth of great writing information, and beyond the web, many great authors have undertaken to share their collective wisdom in various forms.

If you haven’t already done this, it’s worth taking a bit of time to look at the authors you love to read, the ones you most admire, and go see what they’ve written about their process.

For example, I’m a great admirer of Brandon Sanderson. Not only is he vastly prolific — I only dream of getting projects done at his speed — but he consistently turns out fascinating and inventive stories that I really enjoy.

I’ve spent an alarming amount of time pouring over those old Brandon Sanderson videos at Write About Dragons, but now he’s released a new, much higher quality set of recordings. Check them out!

Here are a few tips as you go hunting for wisdom:

Writing is an art. Quality is subjective. You won’t do it exactly the same way that someone else does. As you read about another writers process, come at it with an open mind. Experiment with their suggestions. Discard the ones that don’t work for you and add those that do to your process.

Even an author whose work does nothing for you may have some valuable tips. You’re reading this, right? Evaluate their ideas on the merits, rather than purely on the basis of their work.

Revolutionary change happens one small step at a time. Don’t try to suddenly incorporate everything another author does into your process. Choose one thing. Apply it. See how it works. Then go back for more.

Use learning to combat writer’s block. Sounds crazy I know. I’m saying when you’re struggling to write go do something else that isn’t writing. But once you have a resource you’re mining for new ideas, moving away from your horrible blinking cursor to get ideas from someone you respect can be a great way to jump-start the creative process and get inspired.

Who are your favorite authors? And what tips have you gleaned from them? Let me know in the comments.

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