1. Extraordinary Vision: A thought worth expressing: An observation, a mental image, an analysis, an emotion, a storyline, a description of a person or situation.
2. Finding unusual, even startling, ways to express your thoughts, so your reader is constantly surprised: “He was making me crazy, this maverick rolling through my life like an escaped tire.”
3. Great Dialogue: Using dialogue as a tool . . . to add a sense of immediacy, but also to illustrate offbeat thoughts or a unique character. (Dialogue never mirrors dull, common, everyday thoughts, like “Have a nice day.”)
4. Great, appealing characters: In fiction, or in nonfiction profiles, finding ways to illumine characters so they come to life. One remarkably easy way is to have one novel character describe another.
5. Using varied sentence lengths . . . at times letting your thoughts roll on, like a river. At others, pulling the sentence up short and making it abrupt, like the splash from a rock thrown into the river.
6. Great Drama: A feel for drama and a willingness to squeeze out every last drop from your scene—until it’s dry, like a squeezed lemon.
7. Use of the exact right word: A willingness to search endlessly until you find that one perfect word . . . either traipsing through your own mind or thumbing through your thesaurus.
8. Understanding the rhythms of language: A sense of the ebb and flow of prose—its rhythms, and yes, its poetry. Ability to create a “forward rush,” so the reader can’t stop reading.
9. A relentless search to make scenes vivid: a constant search for the words that seem to “lift off the page.” One trick: finding comparisons between what you’re describing and other, unrelated objects or situations.
10. Vowing to stick with what you’ve written when you know in your heart it’s right.