Wednesday, February 1, 2012

“Happy Fiftieth Birthday Karen Lin!” Tribute: Fifty Nifty Tips On Writing and the Writing Life Collected From Our Beloved Inkpot Over Twenty Years

Happy Birthday, Karen! You’re an amazing writer and writer-friend, loved by all who know you. Thank you for your willingness to be a patient teacher of the craft, manuscript after manuscript, draft after draft, year after year. Even more heartfelt thanks for being a treasured friend who walks this path with us every day. Don’t know where we’d be without you!

The First Ten Tips On Writing and the Writing Life From Karen Lin

1. If you know of a writer-friend who’s been accepted, rejected, discouraged, or approaching a deadline, take food! Writer-friend food possesses magical powers.
2. Search and delete your ms for the word “then.”
3. Don’t be afraid to be a poet and use words in unusual and evocative ways, as long as it doesn’t distract your reader.
4. When using color in a description think of something that evokes a vivid image of that color, not the name of the color itself, e.g., emerald grass.
5. There is a shadow side to even the sunniest story and character. Don’t ignore it, or your story will suffer.
6. Don’t circle around what you want to say; come out and say it directly. Help the reader (and the acquiring editor/agent) move through the story effortlessly and without distractions.
7. Your villain is the hero of his own story. Give him his due.
8. Be careful not to pop the balloon of suspense. Tell the story as it unfolds, not by looking backward from a position of safety, which reveals that your character survived to tell the tale. (Unless you’ve chosen that style deliberately, for a Daphne du Maurier effect, with all that entails.) Also, don’t remove tension by starting with temptingly dramatic statements like “It was over” before you describe what happened.
9. Keep the thesaurus open on your screen!
10. Be on the lookout for passive statements that suck the energy out of prose.

Happy Birthday, Inkpot, with heartfelt thanks from a grateful Sister of the Quill and all your pupils!


  1. Cheers! Lifting a glass (coffee because it's early) to a writing inspiration and the dearest friend! May this day, year, and future be bright and full of the right words! Love you and am so grateful for you!

  2. Happy birthday, Karen! I am proud to know you.

  3. Aw, HAPPY B DAY, Karen!!!!

    I hope you get lots of great stuff and much love and appreication! You deserve it.

  4. We're so fortunate to have such a generous and talented sister to celebrate with!! Happiest of birthdays, Karen!

  5. I'm blushing. Thank you sisters! I'm grateful to have been buoyed over the years by so many terrific writers and friends. Those who've praised, forgiven, advised and supported me 100%.

    When I’m sixty will you roast me? With a little wine, thyme, and some root veggies? (If by then I don't remember saying this, remind me.)

    Much love and appreciation to all the special people in my life, most of all my dear sisters of the quill.

    - Karen

  6. Karen
    Happy Birthday. Maybe I can pose as a "brother" of the quill. And thanks for your recent feedback on improving my MSS. It helped. My ebook sales are beginning to take off. Over 40 in the past month, since I got them up.

  7. Happy Birthday! I wish I could have been there to celebrate with you! I'll just have to wait to toast you at PPWC. :)

    Great, great tips. The one about circling is appropo for me, because when I'm first getting to know the story I'm writing I tend to do a little *ahem* bush beating. I try to remember to go back and fix it, but after seeing it there for so long, i sometimes forget. Oops. :) My bad!