Three quick writing tips for novelists

A friend who's in the middle of drafting his first novel just emailed me asking for a few writing tips. I fired off a response and then realized it might be worth sharing here. Now that I'm working on my fifth novel, I've found that fiction is mostly a "learn by doing" craft. Prescriptive advice can only take you so far. That said, here are a few things I try to keep in mind:
  1. Only write the important/exciting/dramatic/conflict-filled bits. A story is just a series of extremely brief snapshots into a character's life, the reader fills in the rest in their head. So skip the boring parts, even if they feel necessary.
  2. Think of your characters as friends, not fictional figments. They're real people with real lives that extend far beyond the confines of the story. If you drop occasional random details from the rest of their lives, we realize they're humans rather than dramatis personae.
  3. Pour your whole self into your writing. It's tempting to try to save your best work for a key moment or future scene. Instead, pack your pathos into everything. The more you give, the more you make yourself vulnerable, the more the story will resonate.
Finally, write. Novelists are in it for the long haul. Writing when you feel inspired is easy. Writing when you feel uninspired is what distinguishes novelists. When you look back on your own work later, you probably won't even be able to tell the difference between pieces you wrote with the muse whispering in your ear and those where inspiration abandoned you.

Complement with how to figure out what happens next, the anatomy of story, and how to build a fanbase.


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What's the deal with VR?

Trying to figure out why VR is all the rage right now even though you probably haven't tried it? A few weeks ago I got to try an pre-release "room scale" VR rig at a secret lab down in SoCal. After donning the goggles, my immediate reaction was "WOW." I was suddenly standing in another world, a world in which I could spray paint in 3D and walk through my own creations, a world in which I struggled to fix a mad scientist's robot before it exploded. The part about experiencing VR that's impossible to capture in an article, photo, or Youtube video is that you feel like you're really there.
Luckily, our friend Josh Anon just wrote up this comprehensive guide to understanding what the deal is VR and why everyone seems to be freaking out about it. Josh spent 10 years at Pixar, knows pretty much everyone working on VR, and is the most knowledgeable human I know on the subject. If you're curious, his guide is a good place to start:

Reading Recommendation: Antifragile

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is an acerbic, thought-provoking book about things that gain from disorder and volatility. Taleb mixes refreshing pragmatism with profound skepticism and is ruthless in his arguments against the fundamental inconsistencies baked into everything from financial speculation to medical research. Antifragile is jam packed with ideas. Although I disagreed with some of them, the overall package is stimulating and not-to-be-missed.


Enjoy this tip? Then you’ll probably like my reading recommendations curating amazing books that explore the intersection of technology and culture.