Develop an interesting story that your readers will like, and that you will enjoy telling. Make a sensible plan for your story and mend the plan as you go.

Have at least one likeable character, and preferably several.

Villains can be likeable.

Each character needs a distinct voice.

Characters should learn.

Build characters, not worlds.

Your characters will build the world for you.

Be kind to your characters.

Show, don’t tell.

Avoid lazy words.

Set up scenes in advance. Put objects and people in place before they are needed.

If you need a stout rope and a pot of boiling lead, put them in place before you need them. Come prepared to your own scene.

Give the reader something to do besides just read: give her a puzzle to solve, or invite her to ask a question or to have an opinion about something.

Spend time on research, and accumulate a research library built with real books. Put the library in your office surrounding your desk.

Be prepared to write even if the power goes out and the internet gets blasted to pieces.

Get an authoritative, prescriptive dictionary. You will need to do some hunting to find a good one, since most are out of print. Mine is a Webster’s New International Second Edition from 1938. You can find them on eBay or Abebooks or the like. Dictionaries have personalities. Find one that feels right to you.

Get a Rodale’s and a Blue Book.

Get a dictionary of lost words and a dictionary of etymology.

Read, a lot. Read books and stories that bring you real pleasure.

Read stories published before the popular internet came along (roughly 1994), and stories published after. Which do you like more?

To this reader, most stories published in the age of the internet seem anxious.

Write every day, when your mind is fresh. Mostly that means early morning. Get up, get some coffee, go to your office, get to work.

Take care of yourself; get your sleep, eat right, get some exercise, get a little sun. Do not neglect your family and friends, or you will regret it.

Don’t get too concerned about being a writer. Instead, do your research, make your plan, and let your characters tell your story for you. Keep a low profile. In time your work will speak for you.

Try cutting out adverbs. Suddenly, awkwardly, actually, already, and so on. It’s a way of trusting the reader.

Tie the adverb to a chair and give it a couple of love taps with your bear paw. Put the light in its face. Who are you? Who sent you? What do you think you’re doing here?

Every adverb gets a going-over before you let it into your story, see?

The reader is smarter than you think. The reader can tell when you’re anxious, and when you’re having a good time.

Be aware of the Bechdel test. Look it up, if you don’t know what it is. Consider how your story might be improved if you applied Bechdel.

Read stories to children.

Ride the bus sometimes and listen to the people.

— EB