authors / writers tips

10 Tips from David Gerrold

star trekI didn’t know who David Gerrold was, but I sure as heck knew what he wrote. David Gerrold wrote over 50 books, several hundred articles and columns, and over a dozen television episodes for various Star Trek series, but the only one that matters is the amazing Trouble With Tribbles (reprised in the last Star Trek movie–remember the cute creature that came alive with Khan’s blood?). He wrote that while still in college, which is almost sad because–how does a life get better? Sure, War and Peace or Da Vinci Code, but to a Trekkie, those aren’t even on the same planet.

I got to listen to David Gerrold at a digital publishing conference I attended a few weeks ago. He’s clever, humorous, quick-thinking, a bit edgy, and an excellent writer. Here are his tips on how to write:

  • A thought goes into the tunnel and never comes out.
  • Every blank page is a threat.
  • I had a block once. It was the worst twenty minutes of my life.
  • Typewriter–keyboard and a printer with no computer between them.
  • A mans speech should exceed his task or what’s a metaphor.
  • Passion is the engine that drives your writing..  What are you pissed off about?
  • Whatever walks past your keyboard, grab it and put it in the story.
  • TV tells us everything will be alright by that last commercial.
  • Find the simplest way to say something. Don’t try to be pretty.
  • Use adjectives and adverbs as though they are costing you money.

  • If you write yourself into a corner, write yourself out of it.  Find the most obvious way, then do the opposite.
  • You don’t finish your work; you abandon it.
  • Don’t do back story unless it moves the story forward.
  • Dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse are no longer on my bucket list.
  • Let me interrupt myself.
  • The last ten pages rule: This is the most important part of the book because it is what the audience is left with. The  last ten pages must be brilliant.
  • 90% of what a writer does is research. The other ten percent is plotting revenge.
  • When asked, ‘How many pieces are you working on at once?’ I answer, ‘All of them.’

That’s enough for now. I see a few hands saying they have to go. We’ll talk more in the comments.

More books about digital publishing:

12 Lessons from Twitter

IPad Publishing

Kindle Your Blog


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is  editor of a K-8 technology curriculum and technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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30 thoughts on “10 Tips from David Gerrold

  1. Never heard of him but his comments make a lot of sense. “Let me interrupt myself” reminds me of a local joke about argumentative Indians which goes “…and sometime we don’t even agree with ourselves”.

      • This was actually one of my favorite tips as far as wit goes. I guess the people who were cross-eyed never read the quote by Robert Browning: Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for? (From his poem, “Andrea del Sarto”, line 98.) As a fan of parody, I like seeing what people can do with artistic license.

        But, lest it might seem I know more than I do about classic poets, I did not read it as part of Browning’s poem originally. I read it in the book “Up The Down Staircase.” It’s a great book if you haven’t read it, and I still want to see the movie one of these days.

      • I love a good quote. Yes–those of us who aren’t clever enough rely on the words of others. My hand’s up. I don’t care. Some people are so darn clever, it’s hard not to repeat their thoughts.

  2. Writers are usually short of money. This one hits where it helps:
    “Use adjectives and adverbs as though they are costing you money.”
    I fall all over myself because I’m happy I found you. Love your blog.

  3. I loved “The last ten pages rule,” for that’s what I’m working on right now, as I finish an approximately 360 page novel which I’ve been working on for a very long time.

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  7. “I had a block once it was worse 20 minutes of my life” absolutely brilliant! I don’t know if writer’s block exists or not. I certainly couldn’t tell the boss in my day job I can’t work today, I’ve got “block”. That said there are days when I can write 2000 words with ease and days when I cant write anything. I have no idea why that should be.

    • I’ve learned to write when I feel passion. It means I have to put aside whatever I’m doing as a new article tumbles onto a new page, but–oh well. Those days, it takes less than an hour to write an article. Other days–much longer.

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