In bestselling author Harlan Coben’s latest novel, Don’t Let Go, New Jersey cop Nap Dumas is shocked to learn that fingerprints at the scene of a crime—the shooting death of a fellow cop and high school classmate during a traffic stop—belong to Maura Wells, Nap’s high school sweetheart, who disappeared 15 years earlier. Coben, author of dozens of novels, shares his five writing tips.

Working off my Rule 3, I’m going to skip boring you with a long introductory paragraph and get straight to it:

1. You can always fix bad pages. You can’t fix no pages.

So write. Just write. Try to turn off that voice of doom that paralyzes you.

2. Never try to jump on a trend.

In part I say this because by the time you write it, the trend is over, but mostly I say it because you have to love what you’re writing and really believe in it.

3. Write like there is a knife against your throat.

The knife is right there and if you bore us, flick, you’re dead. Write with that kind of energy. Make every word count. The great Elmore Leonard said it best: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

4. The distance is nothing. It is only the first step that is difficult.

I don’t know who originally said this, but the first word you write each day is the hardest, the second word is the second hardest, and so on. Once you start, it does get easier.

5. There are days you just can’t write. Fill them with self-loathing.

What, snowflake, you wanted me to tell you it’s okay to feel this way? It’s not. On the days I’m not writing, I am wracked with guilt and self-hatred. If you’re not, try another profession.

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