Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Writing Tips Tuesday: Tips for Tips by Margo Berendsen

Welcome back to another Writing Tips Tuesday! We are lucky enough to be joined by one of my favorite writing bloggers around, Margo Berendsen! Her blog is veritable treasure trove of tips for everything writing. I highly recommend that you pay a visit.

Today, Margo shares her tips on using tips. So basically, we have a top tip treasure trover treating you with tips about tips here on Writing Tips Tuesday. What more could you possibly want?

Ever since I discovered writing blogs in 2010, I’ve been keeping a Writing Tips page, a long list of links to posts that have taught me (or reminded me) of some worthy writing tips or advice.  After a while my list got long enough I organized it into categories like Starting a Story, Setting, Characters, etc. Then as I got further along in my writing process I added categories like Critique Partners and Pitching and Querying.
Margo and her daughter
I figured that compiling this list of links might be of benefit to other writers who wanted to look at, say, “story structure” from several points of view. The list has also benefited me because when I’m stuck on something like a plot point, I can get a fresh perspective on plot by revisiting a few links.

Sometimes it’s easy to incorporate a writing tip right away into your work in progress, but other times you have to let it sort of percolate in your subconscious for a while… and sometimes you need to be reminded of it.  When I got feedback from several agents that my first pages needed more characterization, I revisited some of those posts and they helped me brainstorm some new ideas.

In the process of revisiting those posts for tips on characterization, I turned what I was relearning into writing checklists. Each day I re-read a post on characterization (or a chapter from a writing book) and took notes. A couple weeks later I had a checklist that I posted as “38 ways to check for character life signs”, with links to my sources.

A few months later I did the same thing for all the posts on plot and came up with “21 ways to make your plot more compelling”, and then “17 tips for starting a story”. I figured I’d continue with a checklist for setting, another one for dialogue, and then one on editing, but I never did finish those. (Maybe someday). I ran my work-in-progress through those three checklists and made notes on how my story was answering each question or not answering it – with ideas on how I could fix the gap.

After revisions and feedback from critique partners, I started querying the story again and got more requests and rejections, and more feedback from agents on different things this time. Recently I revisited my old checklists and realized that no checklist can capture everything you need. A checklist can help you pinpoint a few things than can help with voice, but it can’t give you a unique writer’s voice or give your characters their unique voices. Some of those things just take time and rewrites, fresh new ideas, free writing exercises, inspiration from books you’re reading and from life itself.

Everyone’s writing process has some similarities, some differences, and some unique aspects. I love reading other writers’ tips, what worked for them (and what didn’t). If they don’t fit me where I am currently in my process, they may help me get unstuck further down the road. What a long road the writing journey is, but no journey has been more fascinating.


I love getting a glimpse into another writer's process. What could be better to help you examine your own?

Please check back next week for a very special WTT from my 7-month old daughter, Amelia!

Interested in contributing to WTT? We'd love to have you. Just shoot me an email at adamgaylordwritesgmailcom.

We've got a lot more great tips coming up so stay tuned!


  1. It really is easy to assemble such a large assortment that finding the right tip at the right time is as challenging as implementing the tip it took forever to find. Rest assured, Margo, I've bookmarked your Writing Tips tab. I like the way you've organized it too.

  2. Some great tips, thanks for sharing:)


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