10 Creative Writing Tips to Improve your Writing Skills

Need help writing a book?

My latest video offers the creative writing tips that I consider the most valuable. It’s not just about how to write a book more easily, its what I’ve learnt over the years that’s improved my writing skills and helps me write a better book.

These 10 writing tips are a distillation of what keeps me earning money and writing fiction that people seem to want to read. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

I hope you enjoy watching.

Writer’s Block Can Kill / How to Write a Novel

Writer typing on keyboard showing no Writer's Block

One of the biggest hurdles for any writer is being able to write. This may sound stupid, but it’s true. The best writers I know tend to agonize over every word. For them, writing is agonizing and wretched. They delete more words than they allow to stay and, at the end of the day, they’ll think themselves lucky if they achieve more than a few hundred words. They scream about ‘writer’s block’ as if it were a disease or an affliction caused by laser beams from Outer Space.

Successful writers don’t think like that. They write quickly and painlessly. Their objective is to get down as many words as possible. They know that nothing they write is perfect but they don’t care. Getting the words down is more important than aiming for perfection. Writer’s block? It’s as if it doesn’t exist.

Inside most writers — especially amateurs — is a little voice that tells them they are not very good. In fact, in most cases, the little voice is way harsher than that. It says things like, “Why are you even bothering? You are an absolutely terrible writer. Your lack of talent is embarrassing.” Sometimes, it even swears at them.

About Not Being Able to Write = Writer’s Block

Some authors listen to their little voice more than others. That’s where writer’s block comes from.

The vast majority of would-be writers, who might spend years and years trying to produce a single novel without success, almost always believe everything their little voice tells them. That’s why they fail and never manage to achieve anything worthwhile as writers. This is called writer’s block.

At the other end of the spectrum, less-than-average talents (I won’t name names here but you can probably guess who I’m talking about), ignore the little voice and go on to make millions from their ‘literary’ efforts.

Do you see a pattern emerging? The main difference between successful authors and failed writers is (a) self-criticism, and (b) and ability to get words down on paper. If a writer allows him or herself to be over-critical about their work, they fail. Simple as that. If they don’t worry about how good their stuff is, they are more likely to succeed. Sad, isn’t it?

Think about it. Forget about being a writer, imagine how the same attitude might work in other aspects of life. Can you imagine a professional athlete pulling themselves up after a few paces because they don’t think they’ll reach the finishing line? Of course not. No runner would ever do that, so why would you, as a writer? Wordsmiths seemingly regard writers’ block as a serious impediment to their livelihoods but whoever has heard of athlete’s block, banker’s block, chef’s block, or whatever? Can you imagine a cook giving up on a dish after frying the shallots because they doubted their ability to do it justice? No way.

I’ve always thought it possible that some writers don’t actually have the little voice. That would explain why many of the worst writers on the face of the earth are some of the most prodigious — and the richest. But, having spoken to a selection of them, I now know that this isn’t true. They hear the voice all right — they simply choose to ignore it. Take a look at the books on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble in the USA, Waterstone’s in the UK. There are thousands and thousands of books, in hundreds of categories, selling in spectacular numbers. Broadsheet newspapers regularly like to mourn the death of the novel but, in reality, the business of publishing has never been in better shape. Mostly, this is because of the phenomenon of self-publishing. It has become possible for almost anyone to become a bestselling author.

Tackling the Causes

I say almost anyone (in italics) because, to succeed as an author, you need to get books written and published. Take two authors. One of them is writing the best novel ever. It’s so well written, you wouldn’t believe it. In a single day, the author of this masterpiece might produce a couple of hundred words (if they’re lucky) — but what words they are. It really is brilliantly written. Every day the author finds the time to edit what he has already written, which takes time but it is producing spectacular results. This author suffers from writers’ block but on days when no writing is possible, there are always edits to be getting on with, so no loss there.

The other author is, and I hate to say this, pretty sloppy. Every day 8-12,000 words get written but, to be honest… the quality isn’t brilliant. There’s no editing at this stage, just a mountain of words ‘on paper’. A lot of it doesn’t make any sense. There are mistakes in grammar, spelling, and… quite honestly, the writing style is pretty average. Little more than ‘the cat sat on the mat’ stuff. This author will usually write a book in a couple of weeks, including rudimentary editing during the final few days. It’ll never be perfect but then, what’s the point of perfection? Within a week of finishing this work, the author has moved on to the next novel.

One of these authors earns thousands every month from their writing — and it increases month on month — the other earn absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

Can you guess which is which? And which of them blames ‘writers’ block’ for their lack of income?

How To Make A Book Perma-free on Amazon

This is a post specifically for authors who self-publish on Amazon. Sometimes you might want a title you’ve written to be permanently free on Amazon websites. The most common reason for doing this is when you are using the first volume of a series to act as ‘bait’ to attract readers to the titles that follow.

If you ask Kindle customer support for help, they’ll probably ignore you. At best, they’ll send you a polite stock email telling you they don’t know what you are talking about. That’s because Amazon doesn’t officially approve of ‘perma-free’, as it’s often called. That’s why you’ve got to be very careful about how you go about it. You don’t want Amazon to think you are ‘playing the system’, even though you probably are.

Image from Amazon.com showing how to notify them if a price is lower.

Amazon doesn’t seem to mind that perma-free helps them sell loads more books, but giving away stuff is something they say they can’t officially sanction. Which is a little odd, because they have a policy of ‘Price Matching’, which is what makes perma-free possible in the first place.

Below the Product Details of every Kindle book on the Amazon website is a link that says, “tell us about a lower price.” That’s what we’re eventually going to use to get Amazon to make our Kindle title available for anyone to download for free. But first, we have to make sure it is genuinely available somewhere else for the tantalisingly low price of zero dollars.

I find the process works more smoothly if your book is available for nothing on as many competing sites as possible. At the very least, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. I use an outfit called Draft2Digital for all my non-Amazon ebook publishing. It simplifies the process enormously and they take a small commission from your sales. Something like 10%, I think.

Once you’ve joined up and published your title for free on as many sites that compete with Amazon as possible, you should allow a few days for your book’s details to bubble to the top of the various websites. Not everything is instant in this digital age, and I find it’s best not to rush things. I also think it’s a great idea if a Google search reveals free versions of your chosen book.

The next step is to inform Amazon

It’s better if you don’t inform Amazon personally. If you have an email list of people who buy your books, you can take the next step straight away. Don’t send out a general email asking everyone on your list to report your lower price, otherwise Amazon will be inundated and will almost certainly smell a rat. I usually email 5-6 people who have contacted me in the past and ask them if they wouldn’t mind helping me out. Make sure you cover the USA as this is the biggest seller.

You’ve got to make it crystal clear what it is you want them to do. I usually write a paragraph like this:

I would really like my latest book, How To Make Grow Spaghetti Plants Indoors, to be available for free on the Amazon website. For this to happen, I need someone to go to the Amazon.com website and report a lower price. You can do this by clicking on the link below the product details that says “tell us about a lower price’. Here is a link to that page: amazon.com/how-to-grow-etc/B100GH860

When you click on the Amazon link, you’ll be asked, Where did you see a lower price? Please click the tab that says ‘Website’ and enter this URL, which is where the book is available for free on the Barnes & Noble website.

Most people will be glad to help you. I usually send out a mixture of links, not just Barnes & Noble, but iTunes and Kobo. This helps make it look more natural to Amazon customer services. Don’t be surprised if someone says they’ll do it and nothing happens. This might be them ‘forgetting’ to do it, or it may be Amazon either ignoring them or being slow.

Keep on asking a couple of people a week until Amazon finally relents and your title becomes perma-free on Amazon.com. Check the big Amazon sites every morning to see if it’s happened yet. I usually find it becomes free on one site, then slowly trickles down to the rest.

If you don’t have an email list, you’ll probably belong to a writers forum. Ask people on there to help you out. If you’re not, join one. Only report it yourself as a last resort.

A final word of advice: when you are dealing with Amazon Kindle, always be ultra polite and mindful of their rules. There may be times when you want to fire off abusive emails to some ‘idiot’ in customer services, but don’t do it. That ‘idiot’ has the power to stop your publishing career dead in its tracks if he suspects you of malpractice.

As a self-publishing author, Amazon Kindle is the hand that feeds you. As every sensible dog knows, you should never bite the hand that feeds you.