Work Hard at Your Writing—But No Harder Than You Have To

[NOTE: The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly. —J.D.]

Some years ago, a publisher offered me a two-book contract to write the text for a pair of lavishly illustrated books. The acquisition editor gave me a stack of similar books his company had already published. Looking through the stack, I gauged each book to be about 15,000 words in length. Yet he told me he needed about 35,000 words per book. “Are you sure?” I said. “That seems long.” He assured me that was the number.

I wrote the first book and sent the manuscript in to the managing editor (the acquisition editor had moved on to another publishing house). I had hit the assigned word count practically on the nose — 34,800 words. The managing editor read the manuscript, then emailed me: “The book looks great, Jim. Only problem is it’s way too long. We need you to cut the book down to about 18,000 words.”

I groaned. Relying on the assurances from the acquisition editor, I had written twice as much text as I should have. I spent additional days cutting text I never should have written in the first place, first cutting entire chapters, then sculpting the text paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, and word by word. I left half the book on the cutting room floor — but it was a learning experience.

When I began the second book, I slashed the amount of research I did, I wrote 18,000 words, and stopped — done. Most important of all, the second book was better written than the first because it didn’t need to be trimmed with a chainsaw.

The moral of the story: Work hard at your writing, but don’t work harder than you have to. Improve the quality of your writing by eliminating unnecessary work.

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Do You Have the Fire?

In Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Lawrence Block retells an old story.

A young musician approached a world-renowned violinist. “Master,” the young man said, “I want to pursue a life in music. I know I play well, but I don’t know if I have the talent to become great. If you give me encouragement, I’ll devote my life to music.”

This article is an excerpt from QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, a sound, strategic plan for building your career as a full-time writer. Author Jim Denney has been a full-time, self-employed writer since 1989.

“Play,” said the master.

The young man poured his heart out through his violin and played every note flawlessly. Then he waited for the verdict from the lips of the master.

The master violinist shook his head. “No,” he said. “You lack the fire.”

The young violinist was shattered. He walked away, depressed and despondent. He set aside his violin and studied for a career in business.

Years passed. One day, he heard that the old violinist was in town to give a concert, so he went to the master’s hotel room to call on him. When the master answered the door, the businessman said, “Years ago, I played for you and asked if you thought I had talent.”

“I think I recall you,” the master said uncertainly.

“You said, ‘You lack the fire.’ I was bitterly disappointed, but I had to be realistic and accept your judgment. So I chose a career in the business world, and I’ve become very successful. But one question nags at me: How could you tell that I lacked the fire?”

“Oh, I can’t tell anything from hearing you play one time,” said the master. “Whenever a young musician plays for me, I say, ‘You lack the fire.’”

The businessman gasped with outrage. “How dare you!” he sputtered. “I played my heart out for you! I looked to you for encouragement, and you shattered my dreams! How could you do that to me?”

The master was unmoved. “I said you lacked the fire and I was right. No one could have kept you from your dreams—if you had the fire.”

Do you have the fire to be writer? If you lack the fire, nothing can help you. If the fire burns in you, nothing can stop you.

If you are a writer, you will write.

The Blog Hop Tour

Ten Questions for “The Next Big Thing”

A lot of my author friends have been doing the “Blog Hop” tour, in which we all answer the same set of questions about our newest (or future) releases. My thanks to award-winning suspense novelist James L. Rubart, author of Rooms, The Chair, and Soul’s Gate for pointing the way to my blog.

Thanks, also, to Dorothy Love, author of fine Southern historical fiction, for linking to this page. Dorothy is the author of the Hickory Ridge series, including Beauty for Ashes and Every Perfect Gift.

1. What is the working title of your book?

Actually, I want to talk about a series, not just one book. My Timebenders series, first published in 2002, has just been completely revised and updated, with Books 3 and 4 debuting on Christmas Day 2012. Plus, I am currently writing a brand-new book in the series with the working title War of the Electronic Brain.

The first four books in the series are Book 1: Battle before Time, Book 2: Doorway to Doom, Book 3: Invasion of the Time Troopers, and Book 4: Lost in Cydonia. These books are for middle grade readers, ages 9 to 14.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the Timebenders series came from my son, who was a kindergartner at the time (he’s now working on his master’s degree!). One day, he came to me and said, “Daddy, would you write a book with me?” I said, “Sure. What kind of book should we write?” He said, “I want to write a book about a time machine and dinosaurs.”

So we started working and we wrote a little each day for a week or two, then we forgot about it for a while. A few years later, I took a fresh look at the pages we had written, and I decided to finish the book. That first book was Battle Before Time, and the publisher asked me to write three more. Last year, I got the rights back from the original publisher, and I updated and rewrote the books, and Greenbrier Books has reissued them with stunning new covers.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

The Timebenders series is science fantasy for young readers. I deliberately chose titles that would have a campy, pulp-science-fiction feel.

I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a science fiction fan. When I was five years old, my favorite TV show was a space opera called Space Patrol. It had spacemen in space suits with fishbowl helmets spouting dialogue like “Smoking rockets! A cosmic storm!” And my favorite cartoon at that age was Popeye, the Ace of Space, in which Popeye battles space aliens on Mars.

In elementary school, I searched for science fiction books in the school library, and was ecstatic when I discovered A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle on the “new arrivals” shelf. I was only nine, but the scientific concepts and appealing characters captured my imagination. (I wrote about the impact of that book on my life in a recent op-ed piece.)

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My protagonists in the Timbenders series are in their early teens. To play Max McCrane, I’d cast Zach Mills of Super 8 fame (with round-lensed eyeglasses, Zach is Max). The perfect Allie O’Dell would be another Super 8 alum, Elle Fanning (with the addition of red hair and braces). C. J. Sanders, who played a young Ray Charles in Ray, would be well cast as Grady Stubblefield. For villainy, either Max von Sydow or Christopher Plummer would make an excellent Dr. Delyrius, the evil alchemist in Doorway to Doom.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Here’s Book 1: Battle Before Time in one sentence:

“Boy inventor Max McCrane turns a rusty orange Volkswagen into a time machine and takes three friends across time and space to battle a deadly dragon in a place before time began.”

Here’s Book 2: Doorway to Doom:

“Max and friends go back in time to an ancient kingdom ruled by evil King Wyvern and Max must either serve the king or doom his friends to a horrible fate.”

Here’s Book 3: Invasion of the Time Troopers:

“Max McCrane is hijacked into the past by scheming Luna Skyes, and his friends are chased through time by robot warriors of the fourth dimension, the Time Troopers.”

Here’s Book 4: Lost in Cydonia:

“A frightening miscalculation sends Max and friends to Mars, where they encounter an ancient secret guarded by strange blue-skinned creatures, the Timelings.”

Here’s Book 5: (working title of work-in-progress) War of the Electronic Brain

“Max and friends go back in time to Los Angeles in 1942, and must foil a plot to attack America and change the outcome of World War II.”

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Agency.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

My first four Timebenders books were each first-drafted in about six to eight weeks (each is about 45,000 words long). Once the first draft is written, there’s a lot more work to do—additional drafts, substantive editing, copyediting, first proofs, and second proofs.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I set out to write the kind of books I enjoyed when I was a boy—a wild roller coaster ride through time and space. I wanted my readers to have the same experience I had when I was a boy reading A Wrinkle in Time, The Martian Chronicles, and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

As time travel fiction, the Timebenders tales are part of a literary tradition going back to Washington Irving, H. G. Wells, and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. There’s even an echo of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in Lost in Cydonia.

And, of course, there’s a great tradition of adult time travel literature that I’ve enjoyed over the years—classic short stories such as Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies—” and “By His Bootstraps,” Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner’s “Vintage Season,” and Harlan Ellison’s “Soldier,” to name a few. Great time travel novels include Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol series, Gordon R. Dickson’s Time Storm, Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time, David Gerrold’s The Man Who Folded Himself, and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My son, who was in kindergarten at the time, inspired the Timebenders series. That’s why the first book in the series is dedicated to him.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I vividly recall the writing process of the first four Timebenders books, especially Book 2: Doorway to Doom. I was a couple of chapters into the second book when we were attacked on 9/11. At first, the horror of that event disrupted my creative flow. At that time, some of my writer friends actually stopped writing for a few weeks. I had a tight deadline, so I had to keep writing. I wrote with the cable TV news blaring in the background, so I could keep an ear open for news developments.

As I wrote, I kept coming up with new ideas, including a new ending for the book. Later, I realized that most of those new ideas had to do with darkness. My mood was dark, and it showed in the writing. I added a scene where Max, my protagonist, was tossed into a dungeon by the villain, Dr. Delyrius. I added another scene involving Max’s friend, Allie, threading her way through an underground maze by torchlight.

Even though the scenes dealt with darkness, they demonstrated the light of faith, hope, and courage. A number of readers have written to say that those scenes are their favorite passages in the whole series.

I recently gave an extensive interview that provides more background on the writing of the Timebenders series. You can read it at Random Writing Rants.

Thanks for stopping by on the Blog Hop Tour. Check out the Blog Hop interviews by these fine authors:

Southern historical writer Dorothy Love (author of Beauty for Ashes)

Fantasy novelist Jill Williamson (author of By Darkness Hid)

Science fiction writer Steve Rzasa (author of The Word Reclaimed)

Ten Things You Love, Ten Things You Hate

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury in 1975

It’s one of my favorite pieces of writing advice from Ray Bradbury, and it’s blindingly brilliant in its utter simplicity. If you want to identify the ideas you should write about, the themes you can write passionately and believably about, follow this advice:

Make a list of ten things you love, ten things you hate, and ten things you fear. Write to celebrate the things you love, and write to destroy the things you hate and fear.

Bradbury put it this way in an interview with his biographer, Sam Weller:

“You can’t write for other people. You can’t write for the left or the right, this religion or that religion, or this belief or that belief. You have to write the way you see things. I tell people, Make a list of ten things you hate and tear them down in a short story or poem. Make a list of ten things you love and celebrate them. When I wrote Fahrenheit 451 I hated book burners and I loved libraries. So there you are.”

[Interview with Sam Weller, “Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203,” The Paris Review, Spring 2010, http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6012/the-art-of-fiction-no-203-ray-bradbury.%5D

Bradbury expressed his advice this way in a 2001 keynote address at the Point Loma Writer’s Symposium By the Sea:

“Make a list of ten things you love—madly!—and write about them. Make a list of ten things you hate—and kill them! And make a list of the things you fear, your own personal nightmares, and write about them. And then the accumulation of other things that you’re not sure actually happened to you, but intuitively you write about them, as in my book Dandelion Wine.”

Bradbury also had a potent little nugget of advice for those who wrestle with writer’s block: “If you have writer’s block, you can cure it right now by stopping what you’re writing and doing something else.”

Ray Bradbury’s Advice: Seek Mentors and Find a “Church” of Fellow Writers

The Bradbury Chronicles

In my current re-reading of The Bradbury Chronicles by Sam Weller, I came across an amusing little anecdote that makes a serious point that all writers (especially beginning writers) should remember. One of the reasons Ray Bradbury achieved so much at a relatively young age was that he was bold and gregarious, and he eagerly sought out mentors. One of those mentors was Robert A. Heinlein. In an anecdote that is only two sentences long, Sam Weller writes:

“Once, Ray visited Heinlein at his home and stood behind him and watched him type. Ray knew that just standing there as a witness he was privileged.”1

I love that mental image! Robert Heinlein pounding away at a new story, with young Bradbury breathing down his neck, reading over his shoulder as each new word appeared on the page. Ninety-nine out of a hundred writers would have told Bradbury to beat it.2 But Heinlein saw something in Bradbury, and he was willing to let the wannabe writer observe him in the act of creating a story.

At that time, Ray Bradbury was about nineteen years old and an unpublished fanzine editor. He had met Heinlein and his wife Leslyn at a meeting of the local Science Fiction Society, which met at Clifton’s Cafeteria in Los Angeles. Leslyn found the exuberant young Bradbury to be rather annoying, but Bob Heinlein liked him and took him under his wing. Heinlein even helped Bradbury make his first semi-professional sale, submitting Ray’s story “It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Hu . . .” to the Hollywood literary magazine Script, with his personal recommendation. Ray was “paid” three gratis copies of the magazine, and couldn’t have been happier.

The young Bradbury also sought out the friendship and mentorship of such experienced writers as Jack Williamson, Robert Bloch, Henry Hasse, Henry Kuttner, and Leigh Brackett. These seasoned, multi-published professionals read his work, gave him advice, introduced him to editors, and put in a good word for him now and then.

Of Leigh Brackett, Bradbury once said, “Leigh taught me pure story writing. Her stories were very simple, and well plotted, and very beautiful. I learned from her how to pare my stories down and how to plot.”3

One of Bradbury’s mentors, Henry Hasse, even collaborated with Bradbury on a few stories. Bradbury’s first true professional sale was “Pendulum,” a story he co-wrote  with Hasse. Bradbury split the $27.50 check with Hasse and their agent, Julius Schwartz.

Looking back, Bradbury credited his mentors for much of his success and growth as a writer. Sam Weller quotes Bradbury: “If I were to give advice to young writers, I would say, number one, they should start out writing every day of their lives. Number two, they should go out and seek other people in a similar situation—find an ad hoc church, you might say.”4

Ray Bradbury instinctively understood the importance of his mentors and his community of fellow writers, his literary “church.” Bradbury’s eagerness to learn from his mentors is one of the reasons he went so far, wrote so well, and lasted so long.

______________________

Notes

1. Sam Weller, The Bradbury Chronicles (New York: Morrow, 2005), 102.

2. In fact, somewhere in my files, I have a letter Heinlein wrote me in the 1970s, rejecting my request for an interview and asking me to not to write to him again.

3. Weller, 108.

4. Weller, 104.

Give Yourself Permission to Write Badly

A candid, no-nonsense appraisal of the daily grind of the writer’s life, QUIT YOUR DAY JOB lays out a sound, strategic plan for building your career as a full-time writer. Author Jim Denney has been a full-time, self-employed writer since 1989.

“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or ten pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
—Lawrence Block

The following is an excerpt from my book on writing for a living, Quit Your Day Job: How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money as a Writer (Linden Publishing, 2003, and a Writer’s Digest Book Club Selection). The book is available in paperback and as an ebook at Amazon.com and in paperback at BarnesAndNoble.com.

_____________________

A young woman came up to me after a workshop where I spoke on writing for a living. “My problem,” she said, “is that I never finish anything. I’m so afraid someone will see a mistake in my story that I go over it and over it, trying to make everything perfect. I write a paragraph, and then I rewrite it and rewrite it before going on to the next paragraph. Sometimes, I can’t even get started on a story. I know what I want the story to be about, and I know my characters and my plot. But until I can think of the perfect opening sentence, I can’t write the rest of the story.”

Obsessive perfectionism is deadly to good writing. It not only keeps you from finishing a book or story—it can even keep you from starting. If you are obsessed with writing the perfect book, you’ll end up with no book at all. The solution: Give yourself permission to write a bad book.

I give myself that permission all the time. When you are okay with the idea of writing badly, you allow the words to flow. A lot of them will be lousy words, formed into wretched sentences. But some of them will be good. A few will be great. You simply keep the good words and delete the rest.

The beauty of writing on computers is that you are not writing on paper—you’re just shoving electrons around. Your words are not chiseled in stone or even typed on paper.  Until you actually print out your manuscript, your sentences exist only as invisible traces on the ferromagnetic coating of your hard drive. So what have you got to lose by writing a bad sentence?

In the old days, a writer used to sit at a typewriter, with crumpled paper overflowing from a wastebasket, with scores of paper balls littering the floor. Back then, if you wrote a bad sentence, you defiled a sheet of paper. Today, if you write a bad sentence, you just highlight it, tap one key, and make it disappear. So relax. Have fun. Write badly. Brainstorm. Experiment. Throw some really awful sentences on the screen, then read them and laugh. Then think about it. Some little notion of genius may lurk in one of those bad sentences. A horrible sentence may give you a clue to a classic line that will live forever. It happens all the time. . . .

You want to write the perfect book? Then put perfectionism to death. Snuff it. Terminate with extreme prejudice. Give yourself permission to write badly—and soon you’ll be writing brilliantly.

This excerpt is from Jim Denney’s Quit Your Day Job: How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money as a Writer (Linden Publishing, 2003), 120-121.

Robert McKee’s Insights on Point of View and Your Protagonist

In his excellent book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting, Robert McKee (the highly regarded teacher of Hollywood screenwriting workshops) offers profound advice on Point of View and your Protagonist—advice that applies not only to screenplays but to stories and novels as well:

“If in the two hours of a feature film you can bring audience members to a complex and deeply satisfying relationship with just one character, an understanding and involvement they will carry for a lifetime, you have done far more than most films. Generally, therefore, it enhances the telling to style the whole story from the protagonist’s Point of View—to discipline yourself to the protagonist, make him the center of your imaginative universe, and bring the whole story, event by event, to the protagonist. The audience witnesses events only as the protagonist encounters them. This, clearly, is the far more difficult way to tell story.

“The easy way is to hopscotch through time and space, picking up bits and pieces to facilitate exposition, but this makes story sprawl and lose tension. . . . Shaping a story from the exclusive Point of View of the protagonist is a creative discipline. It taxes the imagination and demands your very best work. The result is a tight, smooth, memorable character and story.

“The more time spent with a character, the more opportunity to witness his choices. The result is more empathy and emotional involvement between audience and character” [emphasis in the original].

From Robert McKee’s Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 364.  (Brought to my attention by my longtime friend and outstanding author Deborah Raney!)

Robert Bloch’s Advice to Ray Bradbury: “The Danger Lies in Waiting Too Long”

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury in 1975

I’ve been reading Jonathan Eller’s Becoming Ray Bradbury. Like Sam Weller’s fascinating books on Bradbury, Eller’s book contains a wealth of insight into the depths of Ray Bradbury’s great soul, intellect, passions, and writing process. During the 1940s, Bradbury mastered the short story and developed a creative process that focused entirely on emotion and intuition. He did not outline his stories in advance. In fact, many of his most famous tales began with a simple process of word association, summoning characters, scenes, situations, themes, and symbols from his subconscious mind.

Bradbury was the master of the “narrative push” approach to writing—setting off in search of a story with no idea where you’re going. This is what he meant when he advised fellow writers, “Take risks! You’ve got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.” Or, as he told Writer’s Digest interviewer Robert Jacobs in 1976, “The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going. It has to be exciting, instantaneous and it has to be a surprise. Then it all comes blurting out and it’s beautiful. I’ve had a sign by my typewriter for 25 years now which reads, ‘Don’t Think!'”

Ray Bradbury’s intuitive approach, which served him so well in short stories in the 3,000 to 6,000-word range, proved less helpful when he attempted novel-length work. During the 1940s, he began three novels. Two of them, Masks and Where Ignorant Armies Clash by Night (whose title comes from a line in Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach”) led to dead ends. (Material from both unfinished novels later made its way into Fahrenheit 451). The third novel, which Bradbury called “the Illinois novel,” was stalled for many years, and was finally published in 1957 as Dandelion Wine.

Robert Bloch in 1976

In August 1947, as Bradbury was struggling to find a strategy for transitioning from a short story writer to a novelist, he received an encouraging kick-in-the-pants letter from his good friend and fellow writer, Robert Bloch (best known as the author of Psycho and “That Hell-Bound Train”). Bloch understood that Bradbury had a tendency, common to most writers, of approaching a novel-length work with sense of intimidation due to the importance and gravity of the undertaking. So Robert Bloch gave Bradbury a word of encouragement that we can all, as practitioners of the writing craft, take to heart. Bloch wrote:

“I urge you with all sincerity to get to work, write a book, write two—three—four books, just as a matter of course. Don’t worry about ‘wasting’ an idea or ‘spoiling’ a plot by going too fast. If you are capable of turning out a masterpiece, you’ll get other and even better ideas in the future. Right now your job is to write, and to write books so that by so doing you’ll gain the experience to write still better books later on. . . .

“Naturally, I have no right to preach at you, except the self-assumed one of interest in you and friendship for you. But I want you to do novels, and there is not the slightest doubt about your being able to do them successfully from both a commercial and an artistic standpoint. The danger—and I feel it is a real one—lies in waiting too long and developing an attitude about the importance or gravity of a novel-length work.”

The letter excerpt is from Jonathan Eller’s Becoming Ray Bradbury (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011), 183.

Ray Bradbury’s Writing Tips

“I came on the old and best ways of writing
through ignorance and experiment and was startled when truths
leaped out of brushes like quail before gunshot.”
—Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

After Ray Bradbury passed away in June 2012, I collected some of his best writing advice, condensed it, and tweeted it on Twitter. Those “writing tips” became quite popular and were widely retweeted, so I’ve collected and categorized them here for your easy reference. (You’ll notice that several of these tweets are anecdotes rather than writing tips or quotes, but I’ve included them because they are instructive and motivational.) Enjoy—and be inspired!

Feed Your Muse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Read intensely. Write every day. Then see what happens. Most writers who do that have very pleasant careers.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Stuff your head with stories, metaphors, poetry, Shakespeare, science, psychology, philosophy.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world.” #FeedYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Fall in love with movies, especially old movies. #FeedYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I love all of the arts. I love motion pictures. I love stage. I love theater.” #FeedYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Live in the library, not your computer. Ray didn’t go to college, but spent 3 days/wk at the library to age 28.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Read dreadful dumb books & glorious brilliant books, & let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head.”

Trust Your Muse (Feel, Intuit, Imagine—Don’t Think!)

Author Ray Bradbury failed 11th grade language proficiency test, had to take remedial grammar his senior year. Never give up on your dreams.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I wish craziness & foolishness & madness upon you. May you live with hysteria & out of it make fine stories.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “The only good writing is intuitive writing. I have a sign by my typewriter that reads, DON’T THINK!”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “All of the good, weird stories I’ve written were dredged out of my subconscious.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Use word association to ignite creativity. “You don’t know what’s in you until you test it.” #TrustYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Don’t worry, don’t push. Just do your work, be joyful, be loving, be explosive. Out of that comes everything.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “If you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I wish you a wrestling match with your creative Muse that will last a lifetime.” #TrustYourMuse

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Take risks! You’ve got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.”

Collect Metaphors

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I am a metaphor machine.” Collect metaphors! This is the key to the emotional appeal of Bradbury’s writing.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I think the reason my stories have been so successful is that I have a strong sense of metaphor.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember.”

Write Daily, Be Disciplined, Pay Your Dues, Learn Your Craft

Ray Bradbury: “Mon. a.m., I wrote a 1st draft story. Tues, 2nd draft. Wed, 3rd. Thurs, 4th. Fri, 5th. Sat. noon, I mailed 6th draft to NYC.”

In high school, Ray Bradbury owned no typewriter yet wrote daily, typing in classrm during lunch hour, then ran to cafeteria before closing.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Instead, “crank out a lot of short stories.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” #WriteEveryDay

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” #WriteEveryDay

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Don’t talk about writing. WRITE!”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “You must write every single day of your life.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Four pages a day is 300,000 or 400,000 words a year. Most will be bilge, but the rest will save your life.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: You can’t be your favorite writer. You’ll imitate in the beginning, but ultimately you must become yourself.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “You fail only if you stop writing.” #WriteEveryDay

Choose Your Friends and Mentors Wisely

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Find a mentor. “Leigh Brackett taught me pure story writing, how to pare my stories down, and how to plot.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Ray Bradbury credited his mentors (Heinlein, Kuttner, Jack Williamson) for much of his success and growth as a writer.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Young Ray Bradbury was mentored by such experienced writers as Jack Williamson, Robert Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, and Leigh Brackett.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: A young, unpublished Ray Bradbury used to stand behind Robert Heinlein and watch him type.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Young writers should go out and seek other writers in a similar situation—find an ad hoc church, you might say.”

During Ray Bradbury’s 1940s rise to fame, a jealous “friend” sabotaged him, stole his mail, threw typewriter in river. #ChooseFriendsWisely

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: If your friends don’t believe in you, if they ridicule your writing ambitions, fire them and get new friends.

Do What You Love (Don’t Worry About the Money)

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Don’t plan on making $$. He was 37 before he could afford a car. His wife “took a vow of poverty” to marry him.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Do what you love and love what you do. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “Write for yourself. Don’t do it for money. Don’t let anyone pay you unless they believe in what you do.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Write with joy. If a story feels like work, scrap it. Start a new one. “Writing is not a serious business.”

In 1944 #RayBradbury made his first $1000 sale. For days, he carried it around in $100 bills to show to his friends.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “The answer to all writing, to any career for that matter, is love.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “If you don’t like what you’re doing, then don’t do it.”

Write About Your Loves, Hates, and Fears

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: List 10 things you love, 10 you hate, 10 you fear. Then write to celebrate loves and to destroy hates & fears.

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “May you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: Write for that one reader who will come up to you and say, “I love you for what you do.”

Ray Bradbury’s #WritingTips: “I have spent my life going from mania to mania. Somehow it has all paid off.”