By Terry McMillan
1. Write as if no one is ever going to read it.
2. Try not to read, revise or rewrite what you've written until you've had a chance to let it simmer.
3. Don't believe your family, friends or lovers when they tell you: "It's great!" What else are they going to say?
4. Try not to think of an idea for a good story. In fact, leave your brain out of it.
5. Write about what frightens you. What you find perplexing. Disturbing. What breaks your heart. And what you wish you could change.
6. Write as if you're telling a story to an old friend you haven't seen in years. It's one way to find your own voice.
7. Read work by writers that you respect and admire. Just don't try to imitate them.
8. You want your reader to see what's on the page, not read the words, so paint a moving picture.
9. Don't compare what you're writing to published authors. They were once in your shoes.
10. Remember that a story is about someone who wants something and someone is preventing them from getting it. Whatever that might be.
11. All of us have flaws. Pass some of yours on to your characters!
12. You want your reader to care about your characters, worry about them and hope they can get out of whatever mess you put them in.
13.You have to have conflict in your story. Even fairy tales and cartoons have them.
14. Even if your early work gets rejected, don't beat yourself up. It doesn't mean your work isn't good. It may not be ready yet.
15. If you feel the same after you finish writing something as you did when you started, you've wasted your time.
16. Fiction is a way of making a lie believable.
17. Write the kind of story you'd like to read.
18. Read everything you write aloud. Pets make great listeners. They don't judge.
19. Don't forget that a story should be life affirming. There's enough negativity in the world as it is.
20. Tell the story from your character's point of view instead of yours.
Terry McMillan is the best-selling author of several novels, including Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, which were adapted into major motion pictures. Find out more about Terry on Red Room.