Five essential writing tips backed by science

Will Storr has written a masterful guide to writing with "The Science of Storytelling."

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  • In "The Science of Storytelling," journalist Will Storr investigates the science behind great storytelling.
  • While good plots are important, Storr writes that great stories revolve around complex characters.
  • As in life, readers are drawn to flawed characters, yet many writers become too attached to their protagonists.
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Salman Rushie: ‘Write for readers, not for critics’

"You get to this age, you realize that there are people who will not like what you do no matter what you do," says Booker Prize-winner Salman Rushdie.

  • Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie recounts his evolution as a writer who has grown more aware of the reader and less aware of the critic.
  • Literary reviews, famously the Times Literary Supplement, were once anonymous—and brutal. Once the Times started publishing bylines with reviews, critics suddenly got much nicer.
  • Anonymity, especially online, is a double-edged sword. In authoritarian societies, it gives people great freedom. However anonymity is also the reason people say things online they would never say if they were in a room with you. That may be a degrading force in a highly digital society.
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'Read 2,000 books': Werner Herzog's advice on reading.

The famed German filmmaker offers his thoughts on reading during Eric Weinstein's podcast.

Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage
  • During Eric Weinstein's podcast, The Portal, Werner Herzog said that reading is essential for any creative endeavor.
  • In the past, Herzog has stated that you can't be a filmmaker without a regular reading habit.
  • Herzog's reading list includes classics by Virgil and J.A. Baker, and even the report on JFK's assassination.
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How to use a thesaurus to actually improve your writing

Looking up big, fancy words won't make your writing better. But a thesaurus can help – if you use it like this.

  • Using a thesaurus to find larger or more impressive words is misguided, says Martin Amis. Instead, use a thesaurus to find words with the perfect rhythm for your sentence.
  • For example, the Nabokov novel "Invitation to a Beheading" was originally called – not for very long – "Invitation to an Execution". Nabokov nixed the repetitive suffix.
  • A dictionary is also a writer's best friend; looking up words has a rejuvenating effect on your mind, says Amis. "When you look up a word in the dictionary you own it in a way you didn't before. You know what it comes from and you know its exact meaning."
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Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

The renowned author plans to publish a follow-up to the 1985 bestseller in September 2019.

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  • The sequel will take place 15 years after the end of the first book.
  • The Handmaid's Tale has sold more than 8 million copies in English since it was first published in 1985.
  • Atwood said she was inspired to write a follow-up, in part, by the "world we've been living in."
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