Dad and I at Mt. Vernon. I look like I'm sleeping or in pain, but actually the sun was just in my eyes.

My writing education came not from the classroom, but from my dad. I remember, as a little girl, sitting in the hallway outside my parents’ office, playing with paper dolls and listening to my dad dictate children’s stories to my mom. (My dad was legally blind and didn’t know how to type – but wrote more than 40 books.) Even back then at age five or six or seven, I told people I wanted to write someday.

I still love to write – and I am continually looking for that clever twist of words or surprising plot that makes my writing stronger.

Here are ten things Dad taught me about writing from the time I was a little girl – that I still take to heart.

1. Make the choice to write for God’s glory – write words that have eternal value.

2. A story is simply getting the protagonist in trouble, then more trouble, then more…………etc.  Then the trick is for him to get out of trouble using his own ingenuity – no weird coincidence or having an unknown uncle dying and leaving all his goods to the poor victim.

3. Learn your craft. Never stop learning about writing.

4. Don’t use adjectives.

5. If the girl in your story is pretty or the guy handsome, don’t give a detailed description because beauty is different for different people. Let your reader imagine his own beautiful girl or her own handsome guy.

6. Show, don’t tell.

7. Never tell someone about your story until you’re done writing it, because once you share it, you’ll lose it. (He never would read anything I wrote until I was completely done with it.)

8. Write about what you know about. (We see this when we’re judging Summit writing entries – the stories that do best are usually the ones about everyday teen life. In fact, the winning entries the past two years have been stories that could have happened to the writers who wrote them. Those who attempt to write from the viewpoint of a mom or someone who’s experiencing something they haven’t experienced, usually have problems.)

9. Don’t describe a truth from God’s Word as incredible. God’s Word is NOT unbelievable.

10. Write … rewrite … rewrite … rewrite


  1. Thanks for this, Linda. When you are no longer in the classroom it’s easy to forget those rules. All except the “no adjectives.” After being in corporate communications for 10 years a successful mystery author told me to “remember the adjectives and adverbs.” What say you?

    1. Ginni, I have heard the no adjective rule from others, too – including an English teacher I had in high school (the only English teacher I had who seemed to actually know about writing.) Obviously you have to use some adjectives, but the goal is to “show” instead of “tell,” and often when we string out adjectives we’re telling not showing.

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