Sure, Mark Bowden is a bestselling author (Black Hawk Down, Hue 1968, among others). But for many years, he was also a regular journalistic scribe trying to spin gold out of hay. So he knows something about the daily grind and making it work for you, your editor, and your audience.
To wit, here are some tips he gave to Publishers Weekly:
- Know something — “Try coming up with 800 words when you have nothing to say; then try when you have just had a new experience. When you’ve learned something—anything—you’ll struggle to stay under the word count.”
- Understand what you are trying to do — “A clear answer to that question will help you avoid confusion and cliché.”
- Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite some more — “I still listen closely to my editors and usually take their advice. They are your first readers, and they get to talk back. They can tell you if your prose is confusing, boring, boorish, or simply wrong. A writer who doesn’t listen is a fool.”
- Be yourself — “Young writers in particular try to sound more learned or sophisticated or official. It’s the fastest way to make a fool of yourself on the printed page.”
- Scenes are gold — “Think about your experience as a reader. Pages turn swiftly when we’re reading action or dialogue, while exposition and description can slow things to a crawl.”