authors / writers tips

Writers Tip #69: 5 Tips From Cory Doctorow

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tips come from Cory Doctorow, author of With a Little Help, For the Win, Makers, and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. He’s also the co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Science Fiction.

Cory is a Canadian science fiction author, but also a blogger who serves as co-editor of Boing Boing and a tweeter with over 323,000 followers. That is a profile most writers I know can relate to–we write our novels, but also have active blogs and Twitter worlds. How have you (and I!) never heard of him?

Here’s what he says about writing:

  1. Write every day. Anything you do every day gets easier. If you’re insanely busy, make the amount that you write every day small (100 words? 250 words?) but do it every day.
  2. Write even when the mood isn’t right. You can’t tell if what you’re writing is good or bad while you’re writing it.
  3. Write when the book sucks and it isn’t going anywhere. Just keep writing. It doesn’t suck. Your conscience is having a panic attack because it doesn’t believe your subconscious knows what it’s doing.
  4. Stop in the middle of a sentence, leaving a rough edge for you to start from the next day — that way, you can write three or five words without being “creative” and before you know it, you’re writing.
  5. Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement.

If you write science fiction, check out Jean Lane’s interesting tips. You also might be interested in this free (I think) course in writing science fiction from Jeffrey Carver.

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Questions you want answered? Leave a comment and I’ll answer it within the next thirty days.

More tips on writing science:

32 Tips on Writing Science Fiction

Science as Storyteller

Scientific Fiction

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 and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is  editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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40 thoughts on “Writers Tip #69: 5 Tips From Cory Doctorow

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  5. This guy is smart-a– brilliant! I like that his ideas are so simple that even I can follow them. Like, stop in the middle of a sentence. I do that all the time as I usually fall asleep on the computer. See? Success at last. And all you need is ten minutes and an implement – I ruined a lipstick once because I couldn’t find a pen with ink. Didn’t like the color anyway – not sure the words were worth saving either – but I wrote! This is my kind of writing philosopher.


  6. It also happens sometimes when I’m in the middle of a sentence and I’m looking for the perfect word. I know the type of word I want, but my mind goes blank and I can’t put my finger on it. That’s when I turn to my constant writing companion, theo thesaurus.


    • I get lots of ideas too from the Thesaurus. It reminds me of nuances in a meaning that I might/should reflect.

      BTW, I compared your book taste with mine on Goodreads–thrillers, we’re spot on. Only difference: Angels and Demons. I get that a lot even from Dan Brown fans.


      • Thanks so much for sharing it on FB. Looking through your list we’ve read many of the same novels and enjoy the same authors, but I included only a sampling on my GR bookshelf, or my list may end up being as lengthy as yours.:)


  7. If you write science fiction and you don’t know Cory Doctorow, you’re probably not reading the right stuff. 🙂 As for the leaving a sentence unfinished – it doesn’t work for everyone. I’m motivated by completions. That would just let me write my three words and feel comfortable at having done something. 🙂


    • Good observation. We are constantly advised to read read read in our genre. I found Cory because so many sci fi writers raved about him, which made me think he was doing something right.


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