50 Rantypants Snidbits Of Random Writing & Storytelling Advice

I get a lot of emails. And questions at conferences. And psychic missives sent through the galactic nebula from various superior alien species. And they ask me questions about writing and so I thought I’d drop a big ol’ compilation of writing advice — answers to many of the questions I get — here in this whopper of a post. A list of fifty. My first. (Likely my last, though I’ll also note: this list of 50 is as long as many of my lists of 25, word-wise.)

Go forth. Read. Absorb. Yell at me. Share if you like.

Oh, and —

I want you to read all of this in the sexy voice of Benedict Cumberbatch. AKA, Benderspink Umberhulk. AKA, Benneton Umbrellahat. AKA, Kennebunkport Slumberparty. AKA, Bob Benson.

Or, just read it like it’s being screamed by Animal from The Muppets.

Your call.

Let us begin.

1. Snap Your Trap And Write Some Shit

Stop talking about writing. Stop reading about writing. Stop dreaming about writing. Stop doing things that don’t qualify as writing. The thing that defines a writer is that the writer writes.

2. No, Seriously, Quit What You’re Doing Right Now And Go Write

I wasn’t fucking joking. Stop reading this post. Get out now. Go! Go. I will Taser you in the face, nipples, butthole and genitals if I see you hanging around here when you could be banging out perfectly good word count. Go right now and write. Come back here when you’re done. This entire blog will be waiting for you. Like a stalker in your shrubbery.

3. Nobody Has Any Goddamn Answers

I don’t have answers. Neil Gaiman doesn’t have answers. Jane Austen didn’t have them. Nobody has answers. We have ideas. Suggestions. Possibilities. The only writer who has answers about your writing is you. Advice is just advice. It is not an equation. It is not the instruction manual for Ikea furniture (which are admittedly super-fucking-vague anyway). You are your own Muse.

4. Think About Writing More Than You Think About Publishing

Writing and storytelling is not a means to an end. The story is the end. Publishing is just a delivery system. It isn’t that fucking exciting. It’s not a carousel. You should ask more questions about wordsmithy and story architecture than you do about query letters or e-book formatting.

5. Learn How To Put Together A Proper Fucking Sentence

If you can’t put together a cogent sentence, you’re fucked.

6. You’ve Gotta Wade Through Your Own Waste

You want to be Hercules, Boudicca, Annie Oakley, and Einstein right out of the gate. You want a perfect novel to pop out of your head fully formed like an adult-grown chicken right from the egg. Won’t happen. You’re gonna suck first. You’re gonna suck for a while. Even when you’re awesome you’re still gonna suck a little bit. This is how you get better. Wade through your own word-waste. I wrote a bunch of assy novels before I wrote one that wasn’t assy. The less you write, the more you suck. You write a lot so you can suck only a little.

7. What Other Writers Do Doesn’t Fucking Matter

It’s like kids in a classroom. Stop paying attention to Billy flicking boogers on Betty. Stop looking at Cindy’s grades. So what if Earl, Jr. keeps fondling himself and smells like weird cheese? What other writers do don’t matter. What matters is what you do. You have to write your story. They aren’t sitting at your desk, with your computer, with your coffee, with your chimpanzee manservant. You are. Own it. Fuck you. Be your own writer. Tell your own tales.

8. Any Rule Can Be Broken If You Break It Like A Fucking Boss

For every writer, a billion writing rules. Snidbits of wisdom. Chestnuts of truth. You can break all the rules. You can roast all the chestnuts. But first, you have to learn the rules. First, you gotta get good. Otherwise you’re a toddler driving a car, shooting a pistol out the window.

9. For Some Reason The Blank Page Is Scary As Hell

The first empty page always makes you want to shit your pants. It’s normal. We’re all scared.

10. Write Brave And Bold And Bloody

Fuck it. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Stop dicking around. Be brave! Be powerful! Take risks. Base-jump off Godzilla’s nut-sack. Hang-glide into the fire-vagina of Mordor. Bleed on the page. You don’t get up on stage and do a mumbly little rendition of I’m A Little Teapot. You get up there in a glittered sarong with dragon-wings on your back, with bottle-rockets taped to your inner-thighs, with the loudest, meanest, baddest-assest version of the song that fills your fucking heart. Write big. Write without fear. Write with blood, guts, madness and majesty!

11. People Will Always Be There To Tell You You Can’t Do Something

You will run a gauntlet of naysayers. Everyone has a reason why you shouldn’t even try to be a writer. You gotta run this gauntlet. Fly as a writer. Or die as something else.

12. Learn To Say “Yes” More Than You Say “No”

Early on, say yes. Take chances. Try things. All doors are open. All windows. All eyes. Take it all in. Embrace potential. You don’t know if you don’t like a food, a TV show, a bizarre sexual position, until you try it. Try it all. Learn the power of fuck yes, motherfucker.

13. But Eventually Transition To Saying “No” More Than You Say “Yes”

Eventually, though, you learn the power of “no.” As soon as you can start confidently saying “no” — and knowing why you have to say no to a job, to a book, to a style, to a POV or a genre or a format — you see your confidence as a creator begin to manifest.

14. You’re Your Own Worst Enemy

If you’re not writing, that’s your fault. It’s not anybody else’s. It’s not your wife’s fault. Not your Mom’s fault. Not your kid’s fault. It isn’t because of a job, or Big Six publishing, or Amazon, or a Muse, or Writer’s Block. You might as well blame a Yeti (who acted in collusion with a cabal of randy leprechauns). It’s all on you. Accept responsibility. Stop complaining. Fix your shit.

15. Figure Out What You Love About Stories

Realize what you love about stories, and bring that love to bear on the page. Let the audience in on that love. Your love should be viral, like cat videos or the norovirus.

16. Quit Chasing Your Voice

You will never find your voice. It isn’t a car and you aren’t a dog chasing it. It’s not a pearl in an oyster or an elk in the forest. Your voice is who you are. The way you think. The way you speak when you’re not thinking about how you speak. You are your voice. If anything it’s like a lost key. It’ll turn up just when you stop hunting for it.

17. Imagine That You’re On A First Date

I’m dating your story. It’s the first date. You have, five, ten pages to make me want that second date. Don’t waste time. After those ten pages, it’s fuck or walk. Then you’ve got the rest of the book to make me want to put a ring on it. I wanna fall in lust, then love, with your story. I want to be heartbroken when its over. I want to need it like I need a drug.

18. Get To The Fucking Point

More to the point: get to the fucking point. Your story should move like a wolf chasing a cheetah chasing a vicious line of gossip. Don’t sink us in narrative mud. Exposition murders mystery. Backstory is a boggy mire. Don’t write to waste time or fill space. Run, fuck, leap and fly.

19. Less Is Nearly Always More

Use as few words as you can. Use as little plot as you are able.

20. Stop Fucking Describing Everything

Pages of description make me want to go back in time and punch you as a baby. Except I can’t because you’ve bored me so much I fell asleep. Description is key. You need it. But you only need so much of it. Let the audience do some work. I know what a chair, a tree, a dude, a dildo all look like. I’ve got memory and imagination. The noun is enough. Describe those things that break the status quo. Describe only those things the audience can’t already know.

21. The Truth About Those Motherfucking Adverbs

Adverbs are not your enemy. Examples of adverbs include: “Quickly,” “There,” “Upstairs,” “Too,” “Yesterday,” “Only,” “Abruptly.” That list goes on and on: adverbs of time, place, manner, extent. The goal, as with all words, is to use them correctly and to not bludgeon your reader about the head and neck with them. An adverb, like an adjective, is a spice. It can highlight a meal. Or it can kill it with too much flavor.

22. Note The Shape Of Question Marks

It’s not a coincidence that question marks are shaped like fish-hooks. We are pulled through fiction by mystery. We want to solve for X. We want to fill in the variables. (Weirdest come-on line ever: “Hey, baby, I wanna fill in your variables. Let’s solve for X, sexypants.”)

23. Your First Job Is To Entertain But It Is Not Your Last Job

Entertainment is job number one. The enemy of entertainment is boredom and the moment your story bores me I’m off like a toddler looking for a loaded revolver and the keys to Daddy’s minivan. But entertainment is just the start. A guy who can fart the alphabet is ‘entertaining.’ You should aspire to do more. Like, say, for instance…

24. Make Me Feel, Make Me Think

The best two things your story can do is to stir my emotions and to challenge my assumptions. Make me feel something (rage! lust! love! grief!). Make me think something (what is the nature of evil? what is the enemy of empathy? what happens if I sneeze while I’m ejaculating?).

25. Assume Your Reader Is Smart

The audience knows when you’re talking down to them. Even kids are smarter than you think.

26. Play Harder

The story is your sandbox. Play. Build. Have fun. If you’re not having any fun, we won’t either. Just don’t eat the cat turds. Every sandbox has cat turds. It’s science fact.

27. Work Harder

Not to say every day is going to be a fucking fun-a-palooza filled where it rains cookies and you construct your own magical dance-ponies. Some days it’s just about working your fingers to bony, bloody nubs — about chewing words, spitting them out, smashing them together. When play fails, you gotta pull the magic from the story like pulling nails from boards with your teeth.

28. Art Harder

Think about your story. Think about your art. Go elbow deep. Get into the guts like you’re trying to birth a humpback whale. Art is a kind of madness. Story is messy, weird, gory, greasy, hard to grasp. But always try. We’re all flying blind. We’re all feeling around in the wet-slick dark for the baby whale. Reach further. Think more. Art harder, motherfuckers.

29. Slow Your Roll, Speedy McGee

Embody patience. The worst thing you can do for your story is pull it out of the oven before it’s done cooking. Don’t quit early. Don’t publish thirty seconds after you typed the last word. Don’t query a stinker. Stories — like wine, brisket, romance and bondage games — need time.

30. Edit Till It’s Right

People ask how many edits or rewrites you need to do, as if there’s a magical number requirement — you edit three times and ding! The E-Z Bake oven pops open and a hot fresh story pops out. You edit and rewrite and edit and rewrite until it’s done. Until it’s right.

31. But Quit Before It’s Perfect

Fuck perfect. You’re a terrible judge of your own work. You’re all wrapped up in it like a sausage in a pancake. Perfect isn’t just the enemy of the good; it’s an impossible predictor, a meaningless pinnacle desired by the divinely-obsessed. Aiming for perfection is just another way to make sure you never finish what you begin. Choose a time and a place to stop. Then stop.

32. Write What You Know

Your life is a tally of experiences. Traumas. True loves. Hallucinations. Opinions. You once ate a spider. You once broke your femur. You once had sex with a dude and/or lady dressed up like a panda bear. You’d be a fucking dipshit not to mine your own life for the authenticity it provides.

33. But Don’t Write Only What You Know

Your life is a tally of your experiences but your fiction needn’t be. ‘Write what you know’ is not a proclamation to write only what you know. You are capable of writing beyond the walls of your own Plexiglas enclosure. Writing and storytelling is a good excuse to try to know more.

34. The Three C’s (creativity, clarity, confidence)

Creativity: Watch me pull a Pegasus out of thin air. Clarity: I will convey the Pegasus clearly and completely so that I am understood. Confidence: I am the god of this place and the Pegasus does whatever the fuck I want it to do. These are your Three C’s. Write with these in mind and nothing will stop you. Except maybe a bear. Because bears are dicks.

35. So Fucking Awkward

A lack of clarity in your writing leads to you not being understood. It can lead to your phrasing sounding awkward — meaning, your prose is clumsy and confusing, stumbling about like a wine-sodden orangutan dressed like Queen Elizabeth. (You may choose which version of Elizabeth inhabits the canvas resting upon your mental easel.)

36. All Things Serve The Character

Character is everything. Character choices create the plot. Characters build the architecture of the story. Characters have and transmit ideas. Characters shape and reflect the thematic argument. The characters form the bloody beating heart of your work.

37. What The Fuck Does Your Character Want?

If I don’t know what the character wants — love! revenge! liquor! cats! — within the first ten pages, then my investment in them is going to be as strong as piss-soaked toilet paper.

38. Whip Me Beat Me Love Me Hate Me

You must punish and reward the characters in your story — which by proxy punishes and rewards the audience reading or watching your story. Err toward more punishment than reward. Which, let’s be honest, is more fun for you anyway. (Looking at you, George R. R. Martin.)

39. The Audience Is Always Wrong

The audience thinks it knows what it wants but it’s wrong. The audience thinks it wants the protagonist to lead a charmed life. To get the girl, the money, the boat, the goat. But such ceaseless pleasure and la-dee-da-dee bullshit is boring as tacos made from cardboard and styrofoam. The audience thinks it wants a jelly donut but it really wants a smack in the mouth. The audience wants pleasure but what they really need is the struggle to find pleasure.

40. Conflict Diamonds

Conflict is the engine of your fiction. Without conflict, a story is just a flatline. And a flatline means your story is fucking DOA. Cold on the slab, toe tag, time of death.

41. Formless Fucking Blob

Another danger is a story has no shape at all: more a formless paramecium blob rather than a flat-line. The story doesn’t hang together. It’s mushy. Gushy. Poopy. If you can’t conceive of how story has shape, has architecture, has bones that connect at joints that pull with muscles and tendons while sealed in a tight swaddling of skin, then what the fuck? Think about it. Find the shape. Sculpt the story to it.

42. Brake And Accelerate

Know what speeds your story up and what slows it down. Dialogue is lubricant: frictionless. Description is grit: friction-filled. Action is a coked-up jackrabbit; exposition is a tired sloth. Short chapters are a bottle rocket; long chapters are a big boat. A story is the slowness of alcohol with the swiftness of meth; sometimes a story needs oxygen to breathe. Sometimes a story needs oxygen to light things on fire. Tension/recoil. Momentum/restriction. Green light. Red light.

43. Goddamnit, Pick A POV And Stick With It

First person, fine. Third person, whatever. Second person — well, you’ve got big balls and/or meaty labia to be trying that one, but whatever. Pick a POV and stick to it.

44. See Also: Pick Your Fucking Tense Already

Stop drifting in and out of narrative tense. It makes Story Jesus shoot puppies with lightning.

45. The Secret

The secret to writing is so simple it tickles: Write as much as you can. As fast as you can. Finish your shit. Hit your deadlines. Try very hard not to suck. That’s it.  That’s my secret. Don’t tell anyone or I’ll charge you with espionage and shit in your fish tank.

46. Read Your Work Aloud

We read with our eyes but words are for the ears. We sound them out in our heads. Reading your work aloud lets you catch the bumps and divots and puffy bits of scar tissue. It lets you hear awkwardness, the uncertainty, the fractured confidence, the fuzzy confusion.

47. You Are Not Alone

Writing seems solitary. It isn’t. Hire editors. Gather readers. Bring audience. Learn from other writers. We all go through the same shit: so commiserate. Gather around the social media water cooler. You’re not a spider starving in its web. You’re part of an ecosystem.

48. Your Laziness Angers Me

Lazy cliches. Lazy constructions. Cheap stereotypes. Tawdry narrative crutches. You don’t edit. You find excuses not to write. Fuck that. Fuck you! You have no excuses. You can always do better. Why be satisfied with easy? Why answer your own indolence with reward? Grit those teeth. Get mad. Fuck passive. Be active. Kick your own ass up and down the block like an empty soup can. Didn’t I tell you to finish your shit? FINISH YOUR SHIT.

49. No, Really, You Have No Excuses

Other people have done what you’re claiming you can’t do. People who have it worse. Or who have more kids. Or another job. You want to ask me how you do it: you just do. You extract words like teeth. You spill them on the table like dice from a Yahtzee cup. You carve a path through the words, through the story, through the industry with a machete made from your own desire and doubt, carved from your femur and scented with your blood. You write even a little bit a day, you’ll get there. You can’t manage that, then don’t even talk to me. Whaddya want me to do? Shove my hand up your ass, work you like a puppet? You wanna write, write. Otherwise: shoo.

50. The Only Way Out Is Through, Motherfuckers

Write or die. Run or fall. Swim or drown. The best thing you can do for all the problems and all the questions is to write your way through it. And when you’re not writing your way through it, read other books, find out how they did it. Then go back to the page and write some more. I know, I know: I said this already. But it bears repeating — hell, it bears you tattooing backwards on your forehead so you can read it in the mirror: SHUT UP AND WRITE. That is the prime motherfucking directive. Do you accept the mission? Then embark. Explore. Attempt. Create.


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  • This was a fantastic post to end my day on a high note. I’ve been productive and finished the first part of my next chapter and I’m feeling awesome, so seeing this buoyed me up even further–and I know it’s one that I’ll go back to on the days that are going really, really badly. Thanks for the continued awesomeness.

        • If you can somehow construct these, I will buy them. There can be a whole line: CrazyPants (that spew unintelligible paranoid ravings), CrankyPants (that bitch everyone out), and of course, PoopyPants (no description needed. Anyone with small children could make a killing).

        • With little speakers in the butt cheeks that are activated every time you leave your writing chair: “You call that a word count? Sit your ass back down and art harder motherfucker…” Or: “Where do you think you’re going? Screw emptying your bladder; that’s what empty water bottles are for.”
          The only way to turn them off is to sit back down and WRITE!

        • Nope.

          They need to be FACTUAL pants. Like with the above 50 writing ‘facts’ printed all over the fuckers.

          And make ’em PJs.

          Every writer will buy them. Or their partner will gift them.

          Trust me. I know shit.

          Shit all, unfortunately.

  • You speak the sooth, as ever, oh bearded one. And yet, in addition to the advice, I now desire a chimpanzee manservant and the Cumbersnatch to read to me. It’s possible I have had a bit of a difficult day…

  • You’re hilarious xD FINISH YOUR SHIT. HIT YOUR QUOTA, THAT’S WHAT I SAY. Thanks for the motivation and the … let’s call it ‘tough love’, but I’m pretty sure you just like yelling at us.

  • FUCKING YES to 21. The goal is to be concise, so why muddy it up with some wordy dependent clauses or some shit to get the same point across?

    Also corollary to 5: Write in fucking coherent sentences all the fucking time. If your writing excuses post on Random Writing Forum looks like you broke your shift key and the spell check, I am going to call bullshit when you follow up with “but I don’t write like this in my REAL writing!” Bull zoo-fucking shit.

  • OMFG…. You kill me. No, really. I think this might just be my favorite take on writing given to us straight, with no bullshit, or shiny gift wrap. Who needs a fucking bow anyway?

  • So like, every person who says “You know, someday I should write a book…” or other related bullshit… I will now refer them to this post, and force them to read it like Animal.

    Top-notch Chuck. < — this almost sounds like your a steak LOL

  • When you refer to “what characters want” does this mean from their whole life (i.e. my story) or just enough want to keep us going. For example, in my first chapter my MC wants away from his arguing parents…and then in the next chapter he wants to find out whats in a metal suitcase he finds…then in the next chapter, he wants to find out what the fucks happened to his eye…and then…you get the point.

    At the moment, he doesn’t necessarily want something big, like Love or a Goat…just small little things. Is this cool? Or is this horseshit?


    This one pulled me up short. Good advice. I was about to get all whiny and be like, “But wait! In this no-fair-super-pressured-publishing world, we have to be MARKETING EXPERTS!” And then I re-read the advice, and focused on the word “think.” So yeah, I have a lot of sometimes whine-worthy work to do around getting published, but that doesn’t mean I have to spend all my time thinking about it.

    Also, as I believe you may have pointed out once or twice, writing is a job. All jobs include Things We Really, Really, Really Don’t Feel like Doing But Have To Do Anyway. So whining is really beside the point.

    Thanks for the reminders 🙂

  • Yeah I’m still kind of new here. But how does this Chuck Wendig guy ever find the time to write books when he keeps cranking out all these monster blog posts and is the father to a young child?

    All I have time for is one itty bitty blog post a month. Okay so I have two kids, not one. But one extra kid isn’t that much more of a time drain than one and I have to scrape the bottom of the time jar for a measly 30 min of writing time at 10:30 pm before I fall asleep on the keyboard. Is it the day job? Must be the day job. I need to lose they day job.

    I think his child is fake. Either that or his books.

        • Did that. Had to stop. Too much shame. Too much stress.

          And maybe I’m on a different topic, because most of this post has to do with writing, as in first drafting. The writing somehow *does* seem to get done. Even in small chunks of time, you’ll have 125,000 words in no time.

          It’s the revising that’s killing me. We need a post on that–50 tips of revising advice. Er, 48. Because we already got two in 30 and 31.

          Joseph, I like your R.

          So where do we get one of these doppelgangers…?

    • Kay you can find time. I got four kids, work full-time, and just started a blog. I write about a book a year in addition. Refer to point 14. Tell baby daddy you need time to make the words. It ain’t easy, but if you’re gonna talk the talk…write.

  • Yes, #14 speaks to me. I know it’s all on me. Baby Daddy is awesome. I do find time but it’s like, I’m starving, and all I get is a Cheerio.

    Then I open my inbox and yet again, another huge post from Chuck Wendig. Who also writes books. And has a kid.

    I think I hate him. And yes I’m talking about him in 3rd person on his own blog.

  • June 25, 2013 at 12:54 PM // Reply

    30 and 31 were great advice. I find myself editing more than I should. At this point I edit to achieve perfection. I realize I can’t do this so I gave it to my aunt, an English teacher of all things, to do what I hope will be a final grammatical edit with other notes. Then hopefully I can say this piece of garbage is actually done.

  • I read through #5, and so far agree with everything you’ve said. My problem is how you said it. I have been asked to help a 13 year old take her story from a dream to a published product. I can’t giver her this article.
    I would love something so directly to the point that I could show her from a successful author, without risking the wrath of her mother, aunt, father brother dog catcher…

    • @Scott:

      Unfortunately, it’s all part of the schtick, which is to say, I tend to curse a lot.

      That said, in December Writer’s Digest is releasing a compilation of my writing talk from here on terribleminds, and it’s being edited to fit a more PG-13 audience rather than the very-NSFW this happens to be.

      — c.

  • You have filled me with the fire of a million angry bees! I WILL WRITE NOW!

    I mean, angry fire-bees. Because bees aren’t made of fire. But they should be. I want fire-throwing bees, STAT! And I shall direct my dragon-bee minions and take over the…. NO! I shall write!!

  • I am fucked. I have no idea what my character wants…shit.

    All the other stuff is awesome and I think I’m okay with. But yeah, I don’t know what my character wants, at all…fuck.

  • I received this in my inbox last night and as soon as I read #1 and #2 I went off to write. Okay, well, after I read a few of these to my non-writer husband who laughed his ass off with me. My writing was a lot of bullshit but oh well. I wrote something. And I posted it for all the world to see. I’m a little nuts like that.

  • I am not nearly familiar enough with Cumberbatch to know the sound of his voice so when I started reading this, I heard Samuel L. Jackson instead. Still brilliant either way. Thanks for the kick in the right direction. #9 has been known to freeze me in my tracks. How do I start? What is a good place to begin? The first page is always the hardest but remembering that editing will mostly likely take a flame thrower to it helps.

  • Snorted my soda right up my nose I was laughing so hard, because it’s all so damn true it HURTS. Channeling muppet “Animal’s” voice on the re-read.

  • My fave was #5, I write a pretty good sentence but that’s not good enough. Thanks for the kick in the pants and the laughs. Laughter gets the point across best. And I love the idea of printing this list out.

  • Just kind of wondering if this blog post a violation of #1? And #2? And #3 and that’s about where I stopped and am going back to writing.

    All the best.

  • Chuck, I’ve pointed my group of word-nerds at this post. We are at the end of a 50ks in 30 days exercise, and your advice is timely. Repetitive and timely. Repetitiv–
    *head twitches sharply,sound of neck bones clicking*


  • Perfection.

    2 aspects:
    Your work will never be perfect first time around. Write it, then perfect it.
    Your finished work will never be perfect. Edit it to the best of your ability. Ask for help.

    In both cases, learn as much as you can. Unless, you’re a one-off author, you’ll be doing this again. Never stop learning.

  • i’m getting out of my job to go home and do my shit, so all i can say is
    Fuck You! im not reading 50 i get it in the first two sentences. Thanks!

  • You are way too funny, and as always, spot on. Number 16 — Voice is who you are. How did you get to be so wise? Now, where was I? Oh yeah. I was writing when this popped up.

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