How to Get Storytelling Right Every Time

As I peruse social media (which I do a lot for *cough* marketing), I see writer after writer step up and ask the same question:

What makes a good storyteller?

Or, to put it another way,

What makes a story engaging?

Lots of answers go into technical detail about how to tell your story well. For example, engage the senses. Get the pacing right and cut the fluff.

But great storytelling isn’t about perfectly arranging technique like flowers in a vase. Think about it. Dickens isn’t Rowling, Rowling isn’t Patterson, and Patterson isn’t Hemingway. They all have wildly different approaches, yet we’d never dare to say that any of them stink. And that’s because great storytelling is far less about voice and much more about empathy.

What this means in a nutshell is that, if you want to write well, you have to connect to the audience. And doing that, paradoxically, requires you to forget your own story for a moment and hone in on theirs. What have they experienced? What makes them excited? Sad? What dreams do they have?

It’s only after you know their story that you can match them to you, that you can pinpoint what elements of your story that they’ll find relatable. People don’t really like to hear that, because learning someone’s story can take time–lots of us want immediate gratification and results, the ability to create a draft on demand and at rhythm of our own choosing. But once you have reliability, you have engagement.

It’s all about knowing who you’re talking to. And by “know”, I don’t just mean what you write in a proposal package (e.g., Caucasian females, aged 18-40). You have a sense of how they think and what they do, and you have to know how to use what they know to paint your picture. You have to feel as though, even though you’re putting words to the page in a way that’s your own, you are having a very instinctive, reverent conversation. Everything you write is something your ears have spoken.

So don’t worry so much about your paragraph size or any of that. Worry about how deeply you know people. That is what will train your pace, give you the analogies, and allow you the important details all great stories are built on.

How to Balance Spontaneous Creativity and Planning as a Writer


Business vector created by dooder – www.freepik.com

Some of our best writing comes when we least expect it–our brains often find solutions when we allow them to wander and don’t think too hard. So you have to be ready to write anytime, anywhere and not force the story, article, or other content to come. But if we work only based on when our brains wander, then we’d never meet a deadline. If you promise an editor you’ll have a draft by the end of the week or in a few months, well, then at some point, you can’t wait anymore.

So how do you balance the need for spontaneous creativity with the planning you need for consistent productivity?

I’ve found that it can help to surround yourself with or get involved in areas related to what you want to write about. For instance, if you’re writing a mystery, play some sleuthing games or go on a scavenger hunt, watch crime documentaries, or read content connected to the mystery (e.g., how a specific forensic technique works). The idea isn’t to find a specific solution so much as it is just to get more information, get some deeper, emotional and experiential knowledge of the topic and become really comfortable with the elements of the mystery world. You might find what you need to move forward without consciously realizing it. Even if the facts don’t fit what you’re currently aiming for, they might work for something later, so literally file them away.

Secondly, set yourself some boundaries. It is extremely easy to keep researching and researching or rewriting and rewriting–drafts can get better the more you learn or tweak. But it’s generally not a matter of whether you can add or adjust. It’s a matter of whether you should. Ask yourself what the piece you’re writing really requires. If your draft is clear and convincing with just six reliable sources, for instance, then don’t waste your time looking for a dozen. And if two transitions work equally well, then just pick one and move on. Have a vision or goal for your message, but don’t let what could be get you stuck or distract you from what you actually need.

Then there’s the idea of outlining and chronology. I think outlines and structure do help. But nothing says you need to work through your outline in order. If you get a great concept for Chapter 13 while you’re writing Chapter 2, then go ahead and flesh it out as much as you can. Because any writing moves the draft closer to complete. Yes, you might have to smooth out transitions later, and you might decide that your concept doesn’t work after all. But the practice of just going after the idea and rounding it out will help you everywhere else.

Connected to the idea above, don’t be afraid to work in bits and pieces. If a single sentence comes to you, then record it. With simple pocket notebooks and tools like voice-to-text and Google Docs available through smartphones 24/7, you really don’t have any excuse not to. Let go of the idea that you have to write a lot to be doing something significant, because often it’s that epiphany sentence that flashes in front of you as you stumble for your coffee that ends up being the cornerstone for entire pages or chapters, or that encapsulates the heart of your entire manuscript.

DO set some time aside for writing every day. But don’t necessarily force yourself to work on anything specific during your writing session. Instead, try to have multiple irons in the fire to choose from. Then ping around based on what feels the most complete in your head, or what best suits your mood. And if you have an idea for something else while you’re working on one manuscript, let yourself stop long enough to jot that something else down. I guarantee that this will improve your result, because you’ll always feel like you have more of a choice. Feeling forced or confined never put any writer in a good mood, and bad moods generally aren’t conducive to getting into a great state of flow.

As you work through a writing session, try super hard not to judge what’s on the page. Just get the concepts out and trust yourself to pull out the best pieces when you’re done. Try a couple different approaches or phrasings and see which one you keep coming back to later. That’s probably your winner. If you’re having trouble choosing between two options, try to identify what keeps speaking to you from both and then do a reasonable merge. Plenty of times, I’ve written the main idea more than one way and realized the best solution was to splice two versions together.

Lastly, submit your work for feedback. Often others can see what we can’t, and all we need to continue well is for someone else to get us thinking in a different way, or to point out something we perhaps hadn’t considered. And by finding and using good feedback forums, you’ll get in the habit of feeling obligated to create something without necessarily feeling like that something has to stay as it is. And much of the time, simply defending what we already have on the page shows us how committed we are to a certain description, plot line, or thesis. The more confident you feel in your defense, the more likely you are to keep on refining/promoting your work and querying even through the trolling of the worst naysayers.

6 Benefits of Always Having Multiple Writing Projects

With a Type A personality, I have to admit that there’s something beautiful in being laser-focused on just one thing for a while. You can get into a state of flow that enables you to produce a draft more quickly.

But I’m also a realist. I’ve learned that, in most cases, it’s better to have multiple writing projects going at once. The benefits include

  1. Pivoting to a different project that best suits your mood or attention level, which improves writing clarity, authenticity, and accuracy.
  2. Staying active and feeling more productive even as you wait to hear back from beta readers, editors, agents, etc.
  3. Setting work aside to work out kinks more naturally, rather than trying to force solutions in the moment.
  4. Being able to practice different types or styles of writing
  5. Improving time management through more serious task scheduling and prioritization
  6. Being less stressed and allowing yourself to quit what doesn’t work because you know all of your eggs aren’t in one basket

But this doesn’t mean you should overdo it. Ambition is great, but there are limits to how much you can bite off and chew. If you have some great ideas for articles, novellas, books, etc. but already have yourself scheduled, it’s okay to push those ideas out. Just jot them down with enough detail that you can pick them up later. Ask yourself which writing projects best fit your overall writing goals, and leave the ideas that aren’t ideal for those goals on the shelf.

As for how to pick your writing projects, ask yourself

  • Will this project bring in income?
  • How will the project influence my relationships?
  • Are any projects more timely, or are they evergreen?
  • Which projects do I keep coming back to or thinking about?
  • What type of commitment does the project involve in terms of time, expertise, and resources?

Personally, I’ve found that having two or three big projects (e.g., novels) and 5-10 articles a week is plenty of variety. You might find that you can handle less or more, but you absolutely need time when you are not writing. It’s during that time that your brain gets a chance to recover and you can experience all the amazing things that later can be fodder for the page. Be self-aware, find your rhythm, and then don’t quit.

5 Things You Should Be Doing to Build a Platform as a Writer

A “platform” as a writer refers to the channels you use to engage with your audience. The more channels you use and the more people you engage with regularly, the bigger your platform is. So as a writer, you want to create a platform that is as large as possible so you have a great reach to lots of readers. To build that platform, here’s what to do:

1. Create your author website/blog.

This gives you a place to drop pieces of your writing so you can direct people to a portfolio. It also offers the opportunity to interact with readers through comments, polls, giveaways, or other fun events. Just about every publisher, agent, or editor will want you to have a website if you start pitching, so you might as well get it established early so you can show good history and activity.

But one of the most important parts of having your site/blog is the ability to build an email list. Putting a simple subscribe button on the site and linking it to a reliable email subscriber service (e.g. AWeber) means that you can contact your readers or followers any time you have something to announce. You also can send convenient newsletters and include social media buttons so people can follow you on those accounts.

2. Interact on social media.

This isn’t just logging in and dropping links to your blog posts. It means going in and posting things that show readers who you are and what you are up to in a transparent and authentic way. Find some good writing groups to join and post on their pages. Share links that might be helpful, such as an upcoming book sale on an online site, a book-to-movie trailer or a great video about storytelling. Share fan art or ask what people think about different books, conferences, or techniques.

The basic rule here is that, although it is OK to throw in a little self-promotion, always do it in a way that makes the value to your reader clear. Don’t only self-promote, because nobody likes to be sold to all the time. Focus on creating a relationship with people and they will read you by default. Make sure that you choose your groups selectively, as well, because the reality is you are going to do better checking into a handful of pages consistently than signing up for a bunch you never have time to go to.

3. Talk to people.

This might mean going to a conference or attending a group at your library. But it also means reaching out to other writers and professionals in the industry to share resources and gratitude. Once you have a little bit of a connection going, then you can ask for mutual favors, such as referrals, beta reading, or an introduction.

4. Publish cross-platform.

Ever hear that old saying, work smarter, not harder? As a writer, that means repurposing content across different channels. For instance, sites like Medium typically allow you to repost your pieces on other sites after a certain period of time. You simply copy some or all of the content into the new platform and include a little blurb about where it first appeared, along with a link to the original version. The only caveat is that you need to do some minor tweaks, such as swapping out your headline, so that Google doesn’t see the new post as an exact copy and drop the page in search results. Don’t worry too much about the duplication, though, because a lot of your new readers will discover your content through the specific channel’s main pages, feeds, or search features. Others will already be following you and thus will have opted in to see when you post something new.

Remember, too, that cross-platform doesn’t mean only writing-based activity. Lots of writers, for example, now have podcasts where they read pieces verbatim or discuss their original content on the fly. The same is true for video sites like Youtube or doing livestreams. It is a terrific way to expose completely new audiences to the same ideas and concepts and bring them into your community, AND it can allow you to reach people who have specific difficulties such as visual impairment.

5. Be a guest speaker.

You don’t have to get up in front of hundreds of people here, although you certainly can if that invigorates you. Options like webinars, podcasts, or hosting a workshop at your local library all are good opportunities to show others your expertise as a writer. The key is that you have to let others know you are available! Don’t be afraid to ask if people can use you, and be confident in yourself enough to sell your strengths and experiences well.

Platform building takes real effort. There’s no beating around the bush about that. But if you create real strategies around the points above (e.g., scheduling 20 minutes a day to interact with the social media groups you sign up for, aiming to cold email one person or organization every day), then slowly but surely, the foundation solidifies. Be patient, show your grit, and never put down your tools.

Yes, Opinion Writing Is Real Writing with Real Value. Here’s Why

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Let me start by saying I don’t lose the irony that this entire post is, in fact, going to be my opinion.

With that out of the way (phew!), I’ve been trying to spend more time interacting with writing groups on social media, and not too long ago, someone happened to make the comment that opinion or editorial writing had no value compared to “real” journalism. They accepted the philosophy of Bill Bullard, who quipped that “Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding.” It’s a sentiment I’ve heard before and likely isn’t going to die any time soon.

But it’s also a sentiment that, to me, is flat-out wrong.

I’ll make it clear that I have intense respect for “real” journalists, the people who go out and report news and studies with serious integrity related to the facts. They are absolutely storytellers in their own right and have a fantastic understanding of how to both inform and engage people quickly. Done well, those stories can change how people think and inspire them to take action, even if the journalist achieves relative objectivity in the way they report.

But opinions can be transformative, too. As an example, I’ll point to Steve Jobs. As Simon Sinek summarizes in his TED talk, for years, people believed that to sell well, you need to focus on the product, highlighting its features and quality. The “what” came first, and the “why” was secondary. But Jobs believed that the real way to engage people and market was to tap into emotions. If you could communicate the why behind your business and get your audience to feel something first, then you could find the people who shared your vision and get them to respond not just to a single product, but to any product you made. That’s why Apple customers don’t just buy iPhones. They buy music players, televisions, speakers, computers, and all kinds of tech gear. If Jobs hadn’t asserted his thinking and challenged the status quo, then Apple wouldn’t be the successful company it is today.

Or take Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He didn’t step up to the podium and give an “I have the facts” speech. He simply communicated a dream. A vision. An opinion. His work dramatically changed the course of the Civil Rights Movement. And in the same way, people today lobby for different shifts based on what they believe, including women’s rights and sexual orientation. Protections and liberties that are in place exist only because enough people came to hold the same views.

Some of the most well-known and respected authors of all time are also some of the best thinkers, writing their observations and concepts about the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson, for instance, wrote many essays on nature, self-reliance, and experiential living. Jean-Jacques Rousseau championed the idea that the people had the right to rule, and he also promoted education and moral character. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote on everything from history to religion. Should we ditch all of their manuscripts simply because they don’t require fact-checkers or appear on the front page of The New York Times?

In sum, writers have penned opinions–and subsequently changed the world–practically since the beginning of time. This is not to say that their work is superior to traditional journalism, but rather to say that neither form of writing should be minimized. Both have purpose, influence, and sway, because people always will want to understand as much as they want to connect. They want to know what other people experience and feel like insiders. That’s one of the reasons why real-life autobiographies, along with reality TV, are so popular.

So if you want to write a news piece to inform, do it. If you want to share your views or a story from your life, do it. And it’s okay to do both–I’ve written advice-oriented pieces about my experiences or ideologies on the same day as I’ve written about a science study, and often back-to-back. You are not limited or confined, and you shouldn’t let anyone discredit you because you’ve written one style or the other. The only rule is that you write in a way that is clear and easy to understand. Follow that, and to hades with the trolls.

Should You Write in More Than One Genre?

Office photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Relatively recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Northwestern Christian Writers Conference (virtually, thanks to COVID-19). In one of the panels, another writer asked a relatively innocent question: 

Is it okay to write in more than one genre as an author?

The host of the panel had a clear answer. If you are a new author just starting out and you want to pursue traditional publishing, stick to one genre. Doing so helps your publisher to market you well until you have a real following. After that, you can write whatever you like.

It’s not horrible advice. It makes logical sense, and people do choose books with an understanding of the expectations that an author has set. The trust you build with readers counts.

But I think it also is a little too simplistic. Some authors, such as J.K. Rowling, have used pen names quite successfully to write in more than one genre. You have to be willing to build separate (potentially smaller) followings and distinct brands if you take this route, but it is a viable way to explore and avoid feeling stagnant or too pigeonholed as a writer.

Secondly, readers like all kinds of stories. And if they don’t already know who you are, then it’s the story that is going to compel them to pick up the book, not your reputation. When you are first starting out, there aren’t any preconceived ideas about what your writing should be like. That makes it a great time to dabble and convince multiple audiences you are worth a shot.

The third point is, what if what you have been writing and selling is doing well but really isn’t what you really prefer (hey, if it pays the bills…). Gaining a following or selling x copies is not the only reason to write something. If it fills a need you have and grows you, nothing says you cannot put it to the page, even if no one else ever reads a word. In fact, some of the most well-known writers have done this–John Steinbeck, for example, who wrote the masterpiece Of Mice and Men, wrote a werewolf novel that only came to light a few months ago.

So in my mind, you don’t necessarily have to stick to one thing, even for a little while at the beginning. You just have to be careful how you market, if you choose to show the writing to anyone at all. That said, be honest with yourself. Know where you shine, what you want, and the purpose the writing is going to serve. Then just make a plan and go after it.

7 Ways to Build Your Writing Confidence

Writing can be an incredibly rewarding job, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes patience and tough skin, so you have to be confident in what you’re doing to be successful. That confidence isn’t necessarily automatic. But you can develop it with real intention.

1. Go bite-sized.

Don’t worry about how long your session goes or how many words come out. Just write until you don’t feel inspired or natural anymore. At the end, identify a section or sentence you’re really proud of. If you only wrote a single sentence, identify your best word. There is always something to celebrate.

2. Revisit your work.

Once you have some bite-sized text pieces to work with, start your session by rereading them. Remind yourself why you felt good about that work. Alternately, start reading a few pages before the end of your manuscript. This will give you a sense of flow so you don’t feel like you’re starting cold.

3. Get some feedback.

This could be from a mentor, an online community, or even a group hosted at your library. In any case, you’ll get clarity about what you do well as a writer, and that those providing the group can help you develop a plan to improve your weaknesses. Seeing your draft change and get better can prove to you that you are learning, growing, and making progress.

4. Write where the stakes are low.

This doesn’t mean that you never submit work to your dream publications or competitions. It means that you write regularly in low-pressure platforms just to help the process of writing and publicizing your words feel natural. Normalizing the writing process in this way can make taking the next step and submitting to a slightly higher tier feel doable. You also can use those platforms to do more experimenting with your writing and see what readers really respond to.

5. Know the purpose.

Any time you have a real motivation for writing a piece, you’ll feel less compelled to bail. Ask yourself what the message really is and what you want to achieve. Take the time to connect and become emotionally invested in what you’re doing.

6. Use some facts.

Even if you’re writing fiction, you can use facts as a foundation for what you put on the page. Facts do not lie and can’t be argued with. Let them give you a foothold so you know your scene or thesis is solid from the start.

7. Celebrate!

So often, because we compare ourselves to other writers, we always stay in learning mode. We assume that we can’t celebrate because we’re not on their level yet. But celebrating ensures that you give your brain a healthy dose of dopamine so you can feel good about what you’re doing and stay motivated to keep going. Treat yourself, share your work and why you’re happy about the milestone, and shout it from the rooftops any time you get a byline or an award.

Traditional Publishing, Independent Publishing, and Self-Publishing: What’s the Difference?

Education photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

If you’ve written a book of any sort, you’ve got three big options when it comes to putting your pages into the hands of readers–traditional, independent, and self-publishing. These three options are very different animals and will suit different authors in different ways.

Traditional publishing

Traditional publishing usually involves the so-called Big Four publishers (Penguin Random House/Simon and Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan) or any of their imprints. You typically need an agent to editors seriously consider your work, and you query the agent in much the same way you would any publisher/editor. Work is extremely competitive, with houses publishing just 1-2 percent of submissions.

Working with a traditional publisher can be ideal in that large houses generally are expert marketers. They know how to get your book into all the major retailers and can help you set up all kinds of publicity events. You can sell a larger number of books as a result. A big downside, however, is that the publisher often takes quite a bit of control over the production of the book, which can take years. You might be asked to do significant rewrites and typically don’t have too much say over elements like cover art.

Pay from a traditional publisher typically includes a small advance ($2,000-$20,000). Royalties can be on either gross or net sales and generally are between 5 to 15 percent and max out around 25 percent. But remember, you need an agent! They’ll take another 10 to 15 percent of your earnings. However, going with traditional publishing requires zero upfront investment.

Independent publishing

Independent publishing tends to combine elements of traditional and self-publishing. You still submit to houses, but the houses are much smaller and typically are more willing to take some risks in terms of what they publish. They tend to offer their authors more flexibility and a more collaborative relationship through the publication process. They can handle the printing and warehousing of physical books, which often would be too expensive for authors to do alone. They also can set their own royalty structures and usually provide larger advances than traditional publishers do. Many independent publishers are open to writers who do not have an agent.

Self-publishing

With self-publishing, you have to cover all upfront costs, including marketing and distribution. You use a service like CreateSpace to format your manuscript and get a formal ISBN. Then you use a service like Amazon to take the prepared manuscript and distribute it. Distribution can be purely digital or include print-on-demand (POD). You can get your book into bookstores with the POD option, but because the distribution is so expensive, you likely won’t make any money. If you opt not to distribute into bookstores, however, you can earn royalties of 40 to 60 percent, and you don’t need to worry about finding an agent or paying them additional fees. Payments also usually happen faster.

Most writers who self-publish do so because they want to maintain control over the creative aspects of their work. But successful self-publishing requires considerable marketing work and business savvy.

The bottom line

If you don’t mind losing some of your artistic control to have an experienced publisher do the heavy lifting for you, and if you don’t have a lot of money to put up upfront, traditional publishers likely would be a good fit for you. Independent publishers might be the best option if you need some guidance but want more of a say in publication. Self-publishing can be the easiest path to producing your book and usually offers the biggest royalties, but you’ll need to invest upfront. It’s a good choice if you want maximum artistic control.

All this said, as an author, you don’t have to stay in one camp or another. Some writers self-publish some projects and use independent or traditional publishers for others. Simply consider your preferences and the goals for specific work when deciding which path is best for you.

 

Why Every Writer Should Keep a Gratitude Journal (and How to Make One Work)

Book photo created by wayhomestudio – www.freepik.com

You’ve heard the buzz, right? About gratitude journals? Keep one and your fairy godmother will magically appear, boop you with her wand *boop!* and make all of your woes go poof.

At least, that’s the impression I get from reading a lot of articles online. To a big degree, I think some of the claims about gratitude journals are a little overrated. But I don’t think they’re useless. In fact, I think everyone who writes should keep one.

Writing is by nature a lonely affair. Most writers I know spend most of the day, if not all of it, in front of their screens with only a beverage or snack for company. (The lucky ones might have a cat, but still.) Rejections can come into the inbox in an endless stream that chip, chip, chips away at confidence. And pay isn’t always predictable, either.

A gratitude journal lets you go back and capture all the good stuff that happens with your writing so you keep perspective. For example, maybe you can note how free you felt with your laptop in the park. Or maybe you can note that, even though you got another rejection, you conquered your fear of sending it out in the first place and are getting better at your query process. Maybe you only wrote 200 words today, but within them is a sentence you are wildly proud of. Or maybe you just found the PEFECT pen and got to enjoy its glide over the page.

Without this focus on the positives, it’s all too easy to lose motivation to write. It can feel too much like the hamster wheel is spinning without taking you anywhere. And you can lose sight of just how much you really are improving and getting done. So if you don’t have one, it’s time to start.

To make your gratitude journal work,

  • Set aside a specific time of day to make journal entries so you know you’ll have a chance to reflect and record your thoughts.
  • Be flexible to ensure you’re genuine. If you’re not in the mindset to journal at the time you’ve set aside, it’s OK to use that time toward self-care that will support your writing instead. It’s overall consistency that matters. Don’t make an entry just to keep up appearances.
  • Find a medium you love. Some people are old-school pen and paper. I’m a keyboard gal. You can even voice-to-text on Google Docs if you want. It just has to feel comfortable so you don’t resist the journal practice.
  • Summarize your journal point on social media if you feel comfortable doing so. Seeing your positives will encourage other writers, and you can attract other writers who will support you if you show a positive mindset yourself. Knowing you’ll use your entry to interact with others can be a great motivator to keep the entries coming and not quit.
  • Connect your entries to other areas of your life. For example, if your significant other took the kids so you would have an hour of quiet to write, you can be as thankful for that relationship as you are for the pages you wrote in those 60 minutes. Seeing how writing touches other points will help you see it as more valuable or as a more natural part of your identity.

Gratitude journals won’t make your life perfect. But they can help you see the positives you have in your life as a writer in a way that encourages you to keep up the craft. Try it out and let me know if it makes a difference for you in the comments!

9 Ways to Know It’s Time to Stop Adding Detail to a Piece of Writing

 

Paper photo created by 8photo – www.freepik.com

Details can make or break a piece of writing. They allow people to get a clear picture and can trigger all kinds of emotional and mental responses. At some point, though, you simply don’t need more. How do you know when you’ve reached this point?

  1. Imagine you were summarizing or creating an abridged version. Is including the information necessary for the reader to understand what you meant? If not, you probably can leave it out. Many details are simply “nice to have” or asides, rather than foundational.
  2. Ask yourself what narrative service the detail offers. For instance, does it somehow provide a plot clue? Evoke an emotion or symbolism? Give a glimpse of a character’s past? If it’s not providing a service, then it’s dead weight in the draft.
  3. Consider balance. Does adding the detail put too much weight on one character or plot point? Does it throw off the pacing of the piece by keeping the reader in one place?
  4. Instead of focusing on every word of your draft, read it fast a few times. If you find yourself skimming over the same details each time, then they’re probably not adding value.
  5. Consider your technical limits. Maybe you could write a 200,000-word behemoth, for example, but if your genre standard is just 80,000, let yourself type a final period and move on.
  6. Think about norms. Writing for a specific audience usually means you include some “insider information” by default. If you’re just reiterating what your audience already should know, then you’re not doing them any favors by including the detail and might even come off as condescending.
  7. Ask if the detail refreshes what’s common. Anybody can say “The girl had brown hair.” It’s new to say “The girl’s hair was the color of the sturdy walnut trees, fringed by wisps of willow that grew around her ears.”
  8. Consider the reader’s imagination. If you’re laying out everything to such a degree that the reader can’t visualize anything for themselves, back off. Get them started with just two or three brush strokes and then get out of the way.
  9. Ask if the detail is your best option. The best details usually tell something unusual or specific.