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

Have at least one likeable character.

Villains can be likeable.

Each character needs a distinct voice.

Characters should learn.

Build characters, not worlds.

Your characters will build the world.

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 ready for 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.

Get an authoritative, prescriptive dictionary. You will need to do some hunting to find a good one. Mine is a Webster’s New International Second Edition from 1938. You can find them on eBay or Abebooks. 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, 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 family and friends.

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.

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

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