Friday, March 4, 2022

Writing Tips and Tricks (That Shouldn't Work as Well as They Do)

Hey'a, all! As y'all are probably aware, there's a lot of writing advice out there — in fact, depending on how many blogs and newsletters you follow and what kinds of things you search on Google, you probably can't open your email or your internet browser without running into someone telling you how to write better. A lot of that advice, especially in the area of tips and tricks, is pretty standard stuff, but there's some more unusual material out there too — and some of those more unusual tips work far better than you expect when you read them. I've been meaning to make a post for a while about some of the odd tricks that've helped me the most, and since I've spent the last several months Writing (and rewriting and editing) Like Mad, I felt like this was a good time to do just that.

Writing Tips and Tricks
(That Shouldn't Work as Well as They Do)

  1. Write in a non-serious font. The original version of this advice was to write in Comic Sans specifically — why? Because traditional serif and sans serif fonts (at least the readable ones) are, well, traditional. Serious. Clean. Meticulously shaped. They pump up the pressure to produce perfection. Comic Sans? It's chill. Relaxed. A little messy. It breaks past the block that makes you revise a sentence over and over again and just lets the words flow. And it works. It has a major benefit of handwriting (lack of pressure) paired with the major benefits of digital (speed and editability). It's wonderful. To be fair, though, any readable handwriting font will work in a similar way. I drafted more than a few college papers in Comic Sans, but I like more scripty fonts for fiction. For example, the Bastian Dennel, PI novels were drafted in Ink Free, and my Super Secret Mystery Project is in Segoe Print.
  2. Don't end your writing session at the end of a scene or chapter. Some people even say to end in the middle of a sentence, but I think that's a bit extreme. The point is to avoid the paralysis of figuring out how to start a scene before you even get your writing muscles warmed up — sort of to give yourself a runway for the next writing session. I confess that I haven't always used this one, especially when my inspiration doesn't extend beyond the chapter I just finished, but I'm making a point of doing it in my current project, and I think it's helping a lot.
  3. Write your way into a scene. When you don't have a runway from your last writing session . . . make one! It's a draft, you're going to edit anyway, so if you need to, just start writing with a messy description of what's going on as the scene opens and maybe where you're going with it and keep going until you can transition into the real prose. Then go back and delete all the leadup. I've only used this one a few times, but it does help — it's a little like the Draft Zero concept that Deborah O'Carroll has told me about or the similar method that Sylvia Mercedes uses to rapidly draft her books, just on a very small scale.
  4. Having problems with a scene? Change the weather. This is one I actually used in Gilded in Ice. (Chapter 15, to be exact.) The exact advice doesn't work for every scene, but the general principle does: if you're stuck on a particular scene, change some detail about the setting or situation and you might just find the words flowing more readily. Changing details like this — whether it's the weather or the time of day or the whole location — helps you pull away from the idealized version of the scene in your head and actually write the version that can exist on paper.
  5. If your story feels off now, the problem is probably about ten lines back. This one goes along with the previous tip, especially since I find this also tends to happen when you're trying to force the story or characters in the wrong direction. While it can be risky to engage your inner editor during a writing session, if you're stuck, it may be worth looking back at what happened earlier in the scene (or even earlier in the book!) and trying to find the cause. It's definitely better to look in the moment than to push on with the book and end up having more story weight resting on a cracked support

What are your favorite writing tips and tricks, whether odd or unusual or otherwise? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


  1. I totally want to try the Comic Sans thing, I never would have thought of that! What a unique post idea. I personally swear by the "stop partway through" thing. I don't /always/ follow that advice, but it usually serves me well when I do. It usually is a bit of a trade-off. I'll forgo writing, say, a final 200 words when I'm feeling inspired... but then the next day, I'll be able to dive in and write 1000 good words because I already knew where I was going from the get go and didn't have to get organized before beginning.

    I do a modified version of the zero draft/scene, though I got the idea from Rachel Aarons 2k to 10k. I basically take out a notebook and plan each scene in very loose terms before I start writing. I have an outline, but this is the stuff where I zoom in deep. It's helped me immensely.

    1. Yeah, the font really helps! It's definitely the tip on this list that I use the most. That's interesting that you stop short for not stopping at the end of a scene — I usually tend to write a few sentences of the next scene. That's just me, though.

      Interesting! I'll have to look into that method sometime.

      Thanks for commenting!

    2. haha I think they both amount to the same thing! Yours is just less of a slacker's version, lol.

      I found her book really helpful, but even if you just look at her blog posts on how she writes fast, she has some good points:

      I am sure I'll never get CLOSE to that, haha. I'd love even 2k a day :D


    3. That and I don't like risking that I'll forget how I intend a scene to end. xD

      Oh, I've seen that post before! I wonder if the leave-a-runway advice I've heard is sort of a version of her point to know what you're writing before you start — it certainly does provide a direction for the scene to go. But yeah. 2k a day is a really good count as it is for me as well.


I'd love to hear your thoughts! But remember: it pays to be polite to dragons.