Friday, May 2, 2014

Ten Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

Thank so much for inviting me to guest blog on the Aspiring Romance Authors site, Dominique! It’s a pleasure to be here.

Ten Tips for Becoming a Better Writer by Ann Gimpel



1.      Read. Read a lot. Not just in the genre you want to write in, but in other genres as well. Learn to recognize why you like (or don’t like) a particular book. Be able to pick out plot threads, tension, pacing, and character development. If you can’t see them in other people’s writing, you won’t be able to work those things into your own, either.

2.      Write every day. Even if it’s only a few hundred words. At the beginning, don’t worry about aiming for whole stories. Write scenes. Learn to work with words on your screen.

3.      Consider writers’ software like Scrivener. I don’t use it, but I know lots of writers who swear by it. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but what I use in lieu of Scrivener-type software is storyboards and three-ring binders. It’s how I keep my characters and my words and the mythologies in my different books straight. I think you need something. Otherwise, when you go through a story for first edits, you find embarrassing things like your characters’ names having changed. Or their hair color.

4.      Find a good critique group. Or at least a couple of critique partners. You need other sets of eyes to go over your writing and tell you where the plot holes are, or why a particular character doesn’t work. We just can’t do that for ourselves. Also, your partner, mother, BFF, etc. can’t do that for you, either. It won’t help you to have someone gush over your work. Even NYT bestselling writers have a phalanx of people looking over their shoulders, starting with their literary agents.

5.      Get good and familiar with grammar. They don’t teach it in school like they did when I went an embarrassingly long time ago. Do any of the rest of you remember diagramming sentences? Can you list the various parts of speech? Of a sentence? Do you know why we avoid adverbs and only rarely begin sentences with gerunds or prepositions? If you know all that stuff, great. Some of it still gives me fits, like lie versus lay. I still have to think that one through. Or farther versus further.

6.      A bit more on #5. Do not rely on Word’s grammar checker. It’s wrong nearly as frequently as it’s correct.

7.      Develop a thick skin. Writing is a skill, much like any other. It takes time and dedication to hone your craft. I’ve been grateful for every single review I’ve gotten, even the bad ones, because they’ve highlighted areas I need to focus on.

8.      It takes many elements to create a great story. You need three dimensional character who blaze off the page. You need a plot with enough interwoven threads to hold a reader’s interest. Tension and pacing move the plot forward. None of us are born knowing how to do all those things. Characters were always easy for me. I had to teach myself plotting, pacing, and holding tension.

9.      Learn to proof your work. It’s a skill. Your chances of publication will improve dramatically if your work is close to error-free. A neighbor of mine just posted the first couple hundred words from her novel that’s been sitting in a drawer for twenty years on FB. It made me itch to toss it up on M/S Track Changes. That level of editing proficiency will knock a big, fat hole in your pleasure reading, but it’s worth it.

10.  Don’t give up. If you want something, work for it. We don’t truly appreciate what comes to us too easily.


What about the rest of you? Did I miss something you think is critical? Love to have you weigh in.

Get to know Ann Gimpel

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)
Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. She’s published over 20 books to date, with several more contracted for 2014.

A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.



Magic didn’t just find Luke Caulfield. It chased him down, bludgeoned him, and has been dogging him ever since. Some lessons are harder than others. Luke survives by embracing danger and upping the ante to give it one better. An enforcer for the Coven, a large, established group of witches, his latest assignment is playing bodyguard to the daughter of Coven leaders.


Abigail Ruskin is chaperoning a spoiled twelve-year-old from New York to her parents’ home in Utah Territory when Luke gets on their stagecoach in Colorado. A powerful witch herself, Abigail senses Luke’s magic, but he’s so overwhelmingly male, she shies away from contact. Stuck between the petulant child and Luke’s raw sexual energy, Abigail can’t wait for the trip to end.


Wraiths, wolves, and humans with dark magick attack. Unpleasant truths surface about the child and Abigail’s well-ordered world crashes around her. Luke’s so attracted to Abigail, she’s almost all he can think about, but he’s leery too. In over his head, he summons enforcer backup. Will they help him save the woman he’s falling in love with, or demand her immediate execution?

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