Friday, January 29, 2016

My Little Secret (From his book Weird Writing Tips) by Dan Gutman

          Here's a trick I use to improve my writing.  I'm pretty sure I invented it.  Maybe not.  In any case, I never heard of anybody else who uses it.

          I shouldn't be revealing this secret to you, because once everybody finds out, any dope will be able to do what I do.  But I'm going to tell you anyway, because I'm a nice guy.  But keep it to yourself, okay?  I've got enough competition as it is. 

         Here's the trick--after you finish your first draft, let it sit there and "age" for a while.  Like a fine wine.  Age it for a couple of days, at least.  A week is even better.  During that time, the words you wrote will fade, just a little bit, in your memory.  Next, pick it up again and read it OUT LOUD.

And here's the important part: While you read it out loud, PRETEND TO BE SOMEBODY ELSE.

It's as simple as that.  Pretend to be a kid, a librarian, your best friend, or a complete stranger.  When you read your words out loud and pretend to be somebody else, it's almost like you're reading those words through someone else's eyes.  You'll see the mistakes you made the first time.  You'll see where you can make the writing better, clearer, and sharper.  As James Michener once said, "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter."
Yes, people may think you're crazy while you're reading out loud.  But you're a writer.  People think that anyway.
As you read out loud, the words should flow smoothly in your mind.  One word should lead naturally to the next one.  One sentence should lead to the next one.  One paragraph should lead to the next one.  If the words don't sound right in your mind, they're not right.  Make some changes so the whole thing flows.

My goal is to write books that flow so smoothly that after two hours a kid will look up and think, "Wow!  That didn't even feel like I was reading!  I felt like I was watching a movie in my head."
That's my secret.  Don't tell anybody.  

Dan Gutman was born in a log cabin in Illinois and used to write by candlelight with a piece of chalk on a shovel. 

Oh, wait a minute.  That was Abraham Lincoln. 

Actually, Dan Gutman grew up in New Jersey and he writes on a laptop computer.  When he was a boy, Dan didn't like to read, and his books are most popular with reluctant readers today.  You may be familiar with his My Weird School series, The Genius Files series, the baseball card adventure series, or some of his other books for young readers such as "Rappy the Raptor,"  "The Kid Who Ran For President," "The Homework Machine," or "The Million Dollar Shot."  Dan lives in New York City with his wife Nina.  For more information about Dan and his books, please visit his web site ( or follow him on Twitter or Instagram (@dangutmanbooks).

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