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.
It is such a joy writing this column, because it means I get to watch Tiktok videos, and feel productive about it. I gather so many amazing videos throughout each month to bring you the best and the brightest, and I hope you’re finding the videos I share encouraging and helpful. Maybe my curation is saving you a little bit of doom-scrolling.
This month on Writertok Roundup, we hear from authors (future and current best sellers), agents, editors, and book coaches about their tips and tricks for writing the best novel you can write, as well as behind the scenes looks at the publishing industry. We throw a podcast recommendation in as well. Happy reading!
Amber Hamilton, author of City of Gold and Darkness, says Cece Lyra taught her this tip for keeping a journal as a writer. In a workshop, Lyra explained that in her opinion, writers should keep a reading journal. Here, they should jot down things such as good writing, favorite first lines, phrases, characteristics, settings, dialogue tags, humor, interiority, and more. Of course, we all advocate reading just for fun – not every book you read has to teach you something or feel like homework. But whether we are reading potential comp titles, or books by authors we believe are the best at their craft, we are often reading to learn, to dissect and language, and to understand how to do what we’re trying to do in our own work. You can find Amber Hamilton on Instagram as well. Catch up with Cece and see when she might have other workshops going on here. PS – Cece is one of the hosts of an excellent podcast for writers, The Shit No One Tells You About Writing.
Andrea Bartz writes Mystery/Thriller for adults. She Tweets here, and you can keep up with the latest news on her Instagram here. Andrea has a LOT of craft videos on her page and I highly recommend that you follow her if you are on Tiktok! In this video, she talks about how to “Stress test” your book and check if your character is pushing the plot forward, or being pulled by the plot. Does your main character have agency? This is something I can struggle with – it’s easy to make external circumstances the reason your characters do what they do – but easy is not always best. Take a look through your draft, and use Bartz’ stress test when you’re stuck. I bet it will be a game changer for many of us.
Danielle Valentine, who has written many books including the Survive the Night series as Danielle Vega, gives a tip that helps with close reading and better writing. Valentine suggests typing out the opening chapter to a favorite book word for word to learn sentence structure and promises (Promises are things the reader needs to learn within the first few pages of a story in order to become invested). Then, you’ll close the book and try to rewrite the chapter from memory, in the original author’s style. Valentine is on Twitter, and Instagrams here.
Dante Medema (Instagram) has an incredibly informative TikTok page for writers! I highly suggest giving her a follow. I love this video about her colorful outlining method, and I think it would make a great blog post for those who aren’t visual learners. But she does have more videos about this method that go more in depth about each step. I plan to use this post-it note method to re-outline my novel before moving on to draft two!
Elizabeth Skarpnes hand wrote the first draft of her book. Did you know that handwriting activates different parts of the brain than typing does? It can help keep us from self-editing, make some of the self consciousness go away, and when you go to type it out, you can either type as is and edit later, or edit while you type. My brain gets so excited and activated when I handwrite. I like to switch it up. Some days I do one, some days another. What matters most to me is that I’m writing, and that I’m excited by it more often than not. If you’re pretty stuck in your ways, I suggest changing it up for at least one writing session and see if it activates anything exciting in you.
Author Joan F. Smith tells us about her “drawer tip.” I LOVE this one and have already employed it in my WIP. She says that when you are going through your manuscript, you should find a random object your character interacted with, and give it meaning in later edits. It can become a clue, a weapon, or its value can become apparent later on. This will add deeper meaning to your work, and make it seem like you knew all along how significant this object would be.
Joan F. Smith also shares filter words to search and replace or eliminate in our writing to help our writing become stronger and more sophisticated.
Self described “Writer and Literary Weirdo” Karley Cisler adds to the list of words to remove from our work. For example, she suggests removing “As,” as in (my example) “I wept as he walked toward the door” and making two or more stronger sentences: “I wept. Nothing mattered anymore. He walked toward the door, not looking back. And then he was gone, and there was a cold, strange emptiness where he had stood moments before.”
Cisler also suggests to stop filtering action through your MC’s eyes to keep the reader in the action.
Rachel Gardner, Owner of Gardner Literary Agency, jokes about word counts. Each genre and age category has word count suggestions, and etiquette. Obviously, you don’t have to write to the exact word, and shouldn’t be constrained by that in early drafts. But if you want to be traditionally published, you will need to know the formal and informal rules of your genre. Sometimes, rules can be liberating. A word count limit doesn’t mean a limit to your creativity – it means finding a way to be creative within boundaries.
Ruth Madievsky – author of soon to be published All Night Pharmacy – talks about celebrating all of the wins in the endless sea of rejections. The more you strive for as a writer, the more rejection you’ll face, but you’ll also face more wins! Meditate, ruminate on, and CELEBRATE these wins instead of wallowing over rejections. This is what will keep you going as a writer. Ruth tweets here.
Young Adult Author Sujin Witherspoon has a spectacular video about writing a book based on all the things you like from other books and media. This is what they mean by nothing is original – if you give 100 people the same prompt, they will write 100 different stories. If you like sapphic stories with religious trauma, you are not copying Tara Isabella Burton. If you want to write about a fictional rock band, you are not copying Taylor Jenkins Reid. If you want to write a story about a wizarding school, you are not copying all of the authors who have done so beforehand. Make a list of your obsessions, your internal questions and ponderings, tropes you love, and so on, mix it all up, and write the book of your heart!
Tim Facciola made me see the Little Mermaid with a different perspective because of this video. In his TikTok, he talks about antagonists and why they don’t have to be evil villain caricatures – they can just be a regular person within your character’s world who makes things more difficult. Tim is on Instagram and Twitter.
New York Times bestselling author Victoria Aveyard has a fun tip: when a conversation between two (or more?) is boring, put one of the characters in the bathtub. As in naked and vulnerable. A lot can come from vulnerability, whether a breakdown, or adrenaline fueled need to protect oneself. Ever seen the 2018 version of A Star is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga? This movie uses this tip to full effect. If TikTok bursts into flames, Victoria wants you to know that you can follow her here.
Best seller Xiran Jay Zhao gets real about publishing pay and schedules and gives a new perspective on why sometimes your favorite author isn’t able to write that book as fast as you wish they would! Publishing notoriously underpays most of its authors (and all the people who work to make a book, a book!), and when her first book took off with success, she was faced with a problem many authors know all too well – she had had to turn to other streams of income to make up for the money she didn’t make off of her hit, and her livelihood had to come before writing another book in poverty.
Thank you so much for reading. See you next month!