How Improv Can Improve Your Writing

Wednesday on the MS Editors blog, I applied Tina Fey’s rules of improv to writing first drafts. Check it out!

You can't be that kid standing at the top of the water slide overthinking it. You have to go down the chute_Tina Fey

MS Editors

I’ve mentioned before (in 7 Tips for Writing Realistic Dialogue) that trying improv (the art of performed improvisation) can improve your writing.

Well, currently I’m reading Bossypants by Tina Fey, and in it she gives the rules of improv and describes how these rules have changed her life. The rules are as follows:

  1. Say “YES”
  2. Say “YES, AND…”
  3. Make statements
  4. There are no mistakes, only opportunities

Applying these rules to your writing will help you soldier through a crummy first draft by shutting up your internal editor. The trick is to improv against yourself.

Say “YES”

Stop arguing with yourself and start writing. Stop saying you can’t do it, or it’s too hard, or you need to learn more before you can start. Just start. Your improv partner (you) might be crazy, but go with it. In fact, craziness usually translates into energy, so embrace the crazy and hammer out that…

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Why #p2p16 can be so much fun – if you let it be.

P2P16 is now open! I’ll be going through entries as quickly as possible so I can have time to read partials. Follow my progress on Twitter (LaraEdits) or Snapchat (LaraWillard).

A writing spot for JD Burns


March 5th (and #p2p16 ) is almost here and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Fair warning though – If you enter, you may also want to prepare yourself for a case of the nerves. How bad can it get?

Well during last summer’s contest, I suspected I might be getting a bit obsessed with refreshing my twitter feed. Good thing for me there’s a nice twitter addictlittle park within walking distance of our house. So I grabbed the dog and the kid….gave my darling wife a peck on the cheek and took off to clear my head. Or so I thought.

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Ask the Editor—Kyra Nelson

Earlier I shared my Q&A for Pitch to Publication 2016. Well, two more of my MS Editors are participating as well! I wanted to feature them both here, too, so you can get to know them a bit better. First up was Elizabeth Buege, and today I’ve got Kyra Nelson.


Twitter: @KyraMNelson


Kyra Nelson in a YA author and freelance editor. She spent two years interning for A+B Works literary agency and has helped teach publishing industry classes at Brigham Young University. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in linguistics and is researching vocabulary in YA literature.


What is your writing and editing background?
I began my editing career at Brigham Young University, where I minored in editing. I’ve since gained professional experience by interning with a literary agency and then launching my freelancing business.

What are your major editing accomplishments?

A number books that I’ve worked with have been picked up by agents and several are slated for publication. It’s great to see these stories reaching wider audiences.

Do you have a general philosophy for how you approach your editing work?

I always try to figure out what the author’s vision is for their work and enhance the writing in such a way as to make that vision clearer. I always ask myself what direction the author’s trying to push their work in and then I help them push.

What types of books do you enjoy working with?

Anything with characters I love. Strong voice is a huge plus. I also get really excited working with high concept books.

What are the most common mistakes you see in new writers work?

The beginning. New writers (and veteran writers) struggle finding the right balance of action and information in those critical opening pages. I also see a lot of new author’s relying to heavily on clichés.

What’s the one thing most novelists don’t understand about the art of revision?

A lot of novelists get overwhelmed by a huge list of revisions. They don’t realize that it’s okay to take a couple days to let feedback sink in. Obviously, there are sometimes deadlines. But it’s okay to take a minute to relax.

What’s one easy thing every writer can do right now to make themselves a better writer?

Read. And don’t just read, but pay attention when you read. Make notes of what is working and what isn’t.

What is the most important consideration in selecting a book editor?

Finding somebody you see eye-to-eye with. I suggest finding out what books/movies a potential editor likes. If you have similar interests, you’re more likely to be a good fit.

Why would a writer need a book editor?

Writers have a hard time seeing their work objectively. Also, sometimes the author exhausts their own ideas for how to improve the book. They need somebody else to spark new ideas for improvement.

What do you do for fun that does not deal with the literary scene?

I love going to the theater. I’m also fond of baking.

Seriously, we need to know your favorite meal and why?

My mom makes a poppyseed chicken casserole, and it is my ultimate comfort food.

MOST IMPORTANTLY What kind of entries are you looking for in your Pitch to Publication query box? Please bullet point your wish list.

  • For YA I’ll read any genre. For Adult and MG I lean more toward the literary, usually historical fiction or contemporary. I also love quirky, funny MG, though.
  • As already mentioned, I love high concept. Anything with a great X meets Y formula. Genre-defying stories are a favorite. I’d be very interested in anything with a unique format or style of narration. Or something that puts a clever spin on a familiar trope. High five to weird mash-ups.
  • I’m very interested in stories with religious characters as long as they don’t feel didactic. Especially if the character is from a lesser known religion.
  • Also interested in body-type diversity. I’d love to see more fiction with girls who are somewhere between skinny and fat. I’d like to see stories that address body-image issues in a realistic way. Stories with differently-abled characters are also high interest.
  • I’d like to see stories set in or inspired by the following times/settings/events: French Revolution, American Revolution, Heian or Edo periods Japan, ancient Persia, ancient Egypt, Mughal India, 1950s, Incan Empire, or Aztec Empire.
  • Other things that would steal my heart include (but are not limited to): Nerd girls with nerd love interests, superheroes, sassy protagonists, humor, wordplay, anything that can be compared to a Taylor Swift music video, an ensemble of misfits, computer hackers, enemies to lovers, and unreliable narrators.
  • I am probably NOT a good fit for: erotica, paranormal, fairy-tale retellings (though I’d love retellings of classic literature!), or stories with animal main characters. I probably am not likely to take on a YA “issues” book either, though I do love to read them. I’d rather take on something a little more light-hearted for the contest, though. Probably no pirates either, because while I LOVE them, I think the market’s saturated.