A monthly roundup of Tiktok videos related to writing and the writer’s life, showcasing writers and writer-adjacent folks, and their advice, prompts, exaltations, and reality checks.
Welcome to the final installment of WriterTok Roundup. You read that write! (Ha). I’m so sad to say goodbye to this column. It’s been incredibly rewarding to write and share with you, and I hope you’ve found new creators, writers, and friends to follow online and engage with. I am so grateful that Write or Die and Chillsubs have given me a platform to meet with you every month and talk about writerly content online. You will continue to see me around on Write or Die, and please feel free to send me a message on instagram if you’d like to say hello.
Here are this month’s videos, which feature many creators we’ve seen before, plus some new ones!
Danielle Valentine, author of the novel Delicate Condition, which the new American Horror Story season is based on, suggests cutting 10-50 pages out of the beginning your manuscript in order to start right in the action, end each chapter on a cliffhanger to keep readers wanting more, and cut a lot of the internal dialogue that muddies up the story. I wouldn’t say I one hundred percent agree with this advice, however, I would say Danielle knows more than I on the topic. Of course, she’s talking about later drafts. In your first draft, you should be getting it all in. So you just tuck this advice away for draft three+, you hear?
John Matthew Fox, founder of Bookfox, suggests sitting down with a published novel you love by an author you admire, and outlining a chapter in that novel as you read, so you can review the pacing, characterization, dialogue, and other narrative decisions made. Then, you can keep this in mind in later drafts of your own work when you’re playing operation with the structure. I love this! It’s part critical reading, part writing exercise, and one hundred percent designed to make you more intentional with your work. I bet it would be interesting to compare and contrast multiple authors you love who are quite different from each other.
Katina Bajaj is the founder of Daydreamers, which is a platform that “allows adults to exercise their naturally creative brains.” Read the Daydreamers substack here! Katina explains that when experiencing burnout, it might seem like the thing to do is power down. But we could also try to reignite our spark – the things that keep us joyful and engaged with the world – rather than extinguish it further. I like this because it seems like there is a lot of infrastructure in our world that wants us to keep our heads down, and that’s what burns us out. When we do things that give us joy, and put us into the present moment, that is when we begin to light our spark again. See her instagram here.
Speculative fiction author Megan Jauregui Eccles shares a quote by legendary sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury: “Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic. So, stand aside, forget targets, let the characters, your fingers, body, blood, and heart do.”
I love this quote, and Bradbury was way smarter than I will ever be (he’s a big inspiration of mine). I read this as, plot literally unfolds in the moment – it is only looking back that plot can be seen – how can you describe the plot of a book you’re reading if you haven’t finished it yet? Therefore, actions drive plot, and so the characters doing the actions are what make the book a book. What do you think?
Follow Megan on substack here.
Mariah Ankenman is a romance author. She has an inspiring message for all of us creators who feel like they are on a hamster wheel trying to write, publish, and achieve a lifetime’s worth of goals in a single moment. It feels like a rat race sometimes but it doesn’t need to be. You are worthy no matter how much you create, how fast or slow you go, or how much or how little recognition you receive. What matters most is how you feel about yourself and your work. Everything else is just icing.
Mariah Montoya (instagram) suggests not just printing your manuscript, but printing it in bound book form!!! One of the best things I did while writing my first manuscript was getting a copy printed and spiral bound. But I wish I did it the way Mariah suggests! I think reading a manuscript in “book form” is so exciting. It’s also a great keepsake and reminder that no matter what comes next, you wrote a book! No one can take that away from you.
Paula Lafferty shares the ways she hacked her brain to keep writing even when she didn’t feel like it. How do you become a person who finishes projects? It’s different for everyone. But this is what worked for Paula. Remember, a book is written one word at a time, and every little bit counts. Do what you gotta do to keep it interesting!
This is what helped Paula:
- Discovering what motivates her to start – what was the story she wanted to tell and why was it important to get it out there?
- Discovering what keeps her going along the way – what made her want to keep writing when the words didn’t come so easily, and it felt like she was treading water?
- Discovering what helps her meet her targets – how often did she need to write, and how many words, and what small treats awaited her at the end of each goal?
Perci Jay, new adult author of The Bride of Lycaster, talks about a rule she’s heard, that the first five characters that are named in your manuscript should have significance in the story as this is a “promise” to the reader. Essentially, our readers are trusting us with their precious brain power. Have you ever started a book and put it down a few minutes later because you were already confused? I have! Be wise with the information you give your readers, and what you can reasonably expect them to retain and follow. If you start your novel off with naming two dozen characters who’ll never appear again, and they have no significance, then you might be wasting their time. Otherwise you’re asking them to follow these first few characters for what? Why should they care?
I hope you’re feeling inspired and ready to write!
I want to thank all of the authors and creators that make such amazing, informative, shareable content. If I’ve shared your work here, it’s because in a sea of content about everything and anything, yours stopped me in my tracks and made me pay attention. To anyone who has read these columns, thank you for your time. Now, get to writing!