The market is flush with books on creative writing — it seems like it’s de rigueur for any author who wants to be taken seriously to crank one out. I should know — I collect them. Well, not all of them, but certainly more than my fair share. So I’m more than qualified to say that Dan Buri’s 40 Tips on Creative Writing is unlike anything else you’ll read.
It’s not just a style or tool manual — it’s a deeply personal perspective on the art and craft of writing from an author whose writing is off-the-charts amazing. Not only will the book become a trusted companion on your journey from writer to author and beyond; you’ll find yourself applying the tips presented here to not just your writing life, but to enrich your personal life and relationships as well. Dan’s managed to combine powerful writing tools with a philosophy so pervasive that you can apply it both business and personal life with impressive results.
And it’s no wonder — his debut book, Pieces Like Pottery was a collection of stories that, as the reviewer from the San Francisco Chronicle put it, “Hit you right in the feels.” Dan’s writing is poignant, raw, and captivating and his advice on writing follows that pattern. With its eclectic and useful mix of specific tactics and general logic, 40 Tips on Creative Writing will easily become the most referred-to book in my collection of writing development tomes.
I caught up with Dan last week and asked him a few questions about his new guide. Read on to get the juicy details.
I put this book together because of reader persistence. In 2016, I wrote a different version of these tips on my website Nothing Any Good. I received more positive feedback then I expected. A lot of readers asked me to put them all together in a book so they could have a nice handy manual. I didn’t have the time or energy to focus on it for awhile.
Finally, an author from Scotland reached out and explained that she puts out a writer’s calendar every year to help authors plan their schedules and for inspiration. She asked if she could use a shortened version of 10 of my tips for her 2018 calendar. When she sent me the proof of the ten tips, I was really impressed by them. I honestly read them not as the author of them, but as a reader, and I found them tremendously helpful.
Here’s four of the tips put together for the calendar version she created:
1) Life’s too short to not seize the opportunities with which we are presented. Always take the chance to do what you love when it comes along. Write that book! Start now! Do you have thirty minutes today? Sit down and start writing.
2) Question authority. Don’t take the status quo as a requirement. Don’t look at how you think everyone else is writing and try to copy it. Find your own voice. Write in your own style, no one else’s.
3) Question those who question authority. Drink in the knowledge of as many authors as you can. Read as much as you can. Take their advice to heart. Be yourself and be inquisitive. Inquisitiveness is a gift of the writer.
4) Don’t be afraid to see dinosaurs even when everyone else around you doesn’t. Anyone who has ever tried to write anything of worth, and for that matter any creative type who has ever tried to make something out of nothing, knows how exciting and scary that can be at the same time. Take that excitement and fear and use it. Don’t worry about how others say you’re supposed to write. Write the way that you want to write. Sure, soak in all the advice and feedback from writing experts and amateurs alike. Take it all to heart. Let it wash over you. Then filter it through that beautiful brain of yours and write the way you feel called to write.
Once I read them through a new lens and with her encouragement, I realized I needed to write the book. So, I did the hard work of reordering and revising all of them to be published. And believe me, it took a lot of hard work!
This is a tough question, since there is inspiration all around us if we look hard enough. However, in my book Pieces Like Pottery, which is a work of fiction, one of the lead characters found a list of Forty Tips for College and Life from his former high school teacher, Mr. Smith. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on these forty life tips. They resonated deeply for readers. I adapted the 40 tips for the sole purpose of helping other writers in their writing journey.
Oddly enough, the Forty Tips were inspired by a high school teacher of mine. He gave our class 101 Tips for College. When I was writing Pieces Like Pottery I remembered those tips and realized Mr. Smith was the kind of teacher that would do something similar, so I wrote my own version of the tips.
I always encourage writers to save your writing. You never know when you’ll be able to use it down the road even if it doesn’t work well in what you’re writing right now!
This is a difficult because every writer is at a different stage of their writing journey and every writer has different strengths and weaknesses. One writer may find Tip 33 on marketing smartly, not loudly extremely valuable. Another writer, however, may have no need or interest for marketing insight, but they find tremendous value in Tip 18’s guidance to finding the right editor. However, forced to pick one, I think I would have to say Tip 3: Be conscious of the present. Time is your most valuable asset. Here’s a taste, exclusive for you and your readers:
“You may be incredibly smart. You may have the wit of a thousand comedians. Your command of the English language may be beyond comparison, creating new words by the dozens like Shakespeare did. Being smart or witty or a wordsmith are all wonderful traits to have as a writer, but none of them compare to something that is common to us all—Time.
Think about it for a moment. There are many things that can make you a renowned and successful writer, but every successful writer has one thing in common with each other. They all dedicated time to sit down and write.
Time is by far our greatest asset. Time abounds. You have more time than you realize. Even if you have a full-time job and are raising a family, you still have time. If I can do it, you can too!
Some writers wait for the moment of inspiration to strike. These moments are amazing, but they are a luxury. To begin taking your writing to the next level, to learn to hone it as a craft rather than viewing it simply as an inspirational hobby, start writing regardless of whether the circumstances are perfect.
Learn to maximize those little bits of time throughout the day. I’m not saying you have to go-go-go every second. That’s not healthy. You need time to relax and rest. But I guarantee you can find at least a spare twenty to thirty minutes every day to write.
Is it in the morning before everyone is awake? Is it the later hours of night before you lay down? Is it on your lunch hour? Is it on your drive to work and you want to dictate your writing?
Start small. Find a little block of time each day where you are usually mindlessly putzing around and use that time to write. Try it on for size. I bet after a month, you’ll be shocked at how much writing you’ve accomplished in just that short block of time.”
I’ve started two different books. One is a novel of younger man in a struggling music career grappling whether to give up on his dreams and get a “real job” or keep following his heart. The other is a book about a group of childhood friends of mine. I have a very unique group of friends and we are still friends to this day. We are a band of misfits and we often heard we wouldn’t amount to anything if we didn’t straighten up. In fact, most of us were told that we wouldn’t amount to anything. 20-some years later, we are married with kids. We are lawyers, actuaries, Air Force pilots, and artists, and I don’t think we’ve changed one bit at all. I’m writing a book that focuses one chapter on each friend but focusing on one main character they posses that propelled them into the man they are today and the success they’ve seen. The intent would be to write a book that provides hope and direction to other people through the lens of these friends and our often-times funny history together.
If you’re not convinced you need this book in your writing development library, head on over to 40 Tips on Creative Writing on Amazon and check out what readers are saying! While you’re at it, be sure to follow Dan on Amazon, Twitter, and Goodreads or follow soak up the advice at his blog, Nothing Any Good.
Dan Buri is a trusted resource for writers to gain insight into the difficult world of indie publishing. His first collection of short fiction—Pieces Like Pottery—which has been recognized on multiple Best Seller Lists, is an exploration of heartbreak and redemption. His nonfiction works have been distributed online and in print, in publications including Pundit Press, Tree, Summit Avenue Review, American Discovery, and TC Huddle. Dan is a founding member of the Independent Writers Guild, a worldwide organization of writers and publishing professionals dedicated to promoting the interest of indie writers by encouraging public interest in, and fostering an appreciation of, quality indie literature. He is an active attorney in the Pacific Northwest. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two young children.