Writing tips from accomplished Haitian writers and poets

Mahalia Solages, author of “What Morning Is This?”

Last year, I asked various Haitian literary masters for some tips about writing.

Now I’m sharing their secrets with you.

KEEP A NOTEBOOK

The absolute best writing practice for me is to keep a notebook at all times. Writing does not end when I turn off my computer. Plotting, character development, and dialogue—all happen throughout the course of the day… and night. So when I get an idea I immediately write it down, which in turn motivates me to write. This has really helped me overcome writer’s block.
Ibi Aanu Zoboi

I like journaling whether early in the morning or in the evening.
Mahalia Solages

When you’re down or burdened and struggle to find inspiration, try writing something down; anything that comes to mind.
Marjory Sheba

LISTEN AND EAVESDROP 

Most of my ideas come from conversations or stories I hear around me. Not only do they inspire me, but I feel my writing is more authentic in plot, language, and setting.
Fabienne Sylvia Josaphat

I often write what people are saying as I eavesdrop on conversations in coffee shops, libraries, airports, even if for a few minutes. It gives me fresh material, which helps when you’re stuck. Always have a little notebook and pen on you for quick notes.
Mahalia Solages

WRITE EVERY DAY

I try to write, if not every single day, then as often as I possibly can. Practice may not always make perfect but it gets me a little bit closer to my ideal.
Edwidge Danticat

Consistency builds the habit, kind of like knowing when your mail person comes by.
Mahalia Solages

I find it imperative to have daily, doable goals, such as sketching out a character or creating a timeline. If you are a mother who can’t find time, tie your children to your back or the desk if you have to, but get down and write. Your children won’t be ruined; besides, the rhythm of each key stroke might send them right to sleep.
Marie-Ketsia Theodore-Pharel

READ

I read as much as I can with two small children. I read for enjoyment. I read for pointers. I read to learn. I read to figure out how my favorite writers manage to keep doing what they do.
Edwidge Danticat

DAYDREAM

Blur your vision of the world around you; light a candle in your mind; pray yourself into an attentive daydream; wait for the coming of the sentence that is the key for that day; it is an angel of sorts—you will recognize it because it will refuse to go away and once you write it down, it unlocks all the others; they come like troops happy to answer the call.
Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell

Start thinking of your story even before putting it on paper. Make your characters alive in your imagination.
Mireille Sylvain-David

BE REAL

Know who you are.
Herve Fanini-Lemoine

Your dialogue should be authentic. Avoid what’s unnecessary and do not try to impress your readers with complicated and complex words. Simplicity is the key.
Mireille Sylvain-David

KEEP READERS WONDERING

Be innovative and challenging. Keep readers wondering and surprise them at the end.
Mireille Sylvain-David

BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU DO

Write because you love to write and because you believe you have something to share. Publishing and making a living from writing should always be secondary to this. Once you let the latter overcome the former, you’ve started telling the wrong story.
Joanne Hyppolite

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