Monday, February 9, 2015

Share Your Best Writing Advice

If it wasn't for advice from others, my writing would suck a lot more than it does right now. I don't think there's a good writer alive who hasn't had amazing advice. So, let's share it.

Some amazing pieces of advice I've gotten:

1. Become the person you are writing the perspective from.

2. Cut the first scene of your manuscript.

3. Kill all cliches. All. Even on the prose level.

4. Read your manuscript out loud.

5. Don't expect revisions to be done in the time frame you want it to be. Multiply your 'ideal time frame' by five and that might be more realistic.

6. Get a diverse set of beta readers. Writers that read different genres, come from different backgrounds, different ages, etc. You need multiple perspectives on your book. Beta readers are the best thing to ever happen to your book other than, well, you writing the book.

7. Learn learn learn about your subject. Write what you know - and if you don't know it, get to know it. Here's a very old blog post I did on this subject. Might be the most important advice ever, in my opinion!

8. Do whatever it takes (as long as you don't end up in prison) to get your book's voice/mood correct. For me, that meant writing it in longhand first, then writing it on a Word doc that had black pages and white words.

YOUR TURN. Share your best writing advice, however obscure it may be!! What is some really good writing advice you've gotten, advice that you constantly keep in mind while writing?


  1. This is an amazing list. I would also add READ, READ, and READ again. Develop a subliminal voice and timing from a melding of your favorite books and writers.

    I saw this just today from Bob Dylan's speech transcript from the MusiCares Person of the Year Award he received at the Grammy's and it's along the same lines:
    "If you sang "John Henry" as many times as me -- "John Henry was a steel-driving man / Died with a hammer in his hand / John Henry said a man ain't nothin' but a man / Before I let that steam drill drive me down / I'll die with that hammer in my hand.
    If you had sung that song as many times as I did, you'd have written "How many roads must a man walk down?" too.
    There's nothing secret about it. You just do it subliminally and unconsciously, because that's all enough, and that's all I sang. That was all that was dear to me. They were the only kinds of songs that made sense."

  2. I would add: Listen to all the advice, but don't take it all. You have to find what works for you, and blindly following all the contrary bits of advice, each from a different person, gets you nowhere. For instance, cutting the first scene is good advice for many people who start too late in the story - but that's never been a problem of mine. I tend to need to add some earlier chapters. We're all different and that's okay, but we can also learn from those differences and keep finding better ways to improve our craft.

  3. Yeah, find what works for you is one of the best I've heard. I'm an avid outliner and will take longer doing that than writing the first draft. But it works for me, as my revision time is much shorter than most.
    Agree about the diversity in critique partners!

  4. This is a great list and I've heard and used all of these at some point in my writing journey. I would add two that have been invaluable to me:

    -Take time away from the manuscript if you need it.
    -Work on more than one manuscript at a time so you don't get obsessive about a single project.

    Thanks for posting this!

  5. Love the list. Things that work for me are I listen to the same music every time I write. Doing this creates my novel world bubble. I also play sound tracks from youtube of natural sounds such as rain on a canvas tent or the forest at night and a severe thunderstorm. This helps with setting and helps me paint the visual picture on the page. (my wip has all of these things)
    Next, I download dozens of free books from amazon in my genre. I read the first few pages and pick them apart. (what I liked, what I didn't and what made me want to keep reading)
    Last, I call my mother and tell her I just can't seem to sit down and edit today, HELP! (being a no nonsense kind of woman, she cuts to the chase, and tells me what I need to hear which is...just do it! (there is a little more to her words of wisdom, but that is the bottom line).

  6. "Put your inner editor in its place until your first draft is done." When I'm writing that sloppy draft, my editor sometimes kicks in, and I have to shush it because I'd never get a word down otherwise!

  7. Always give a manuscript at least a few weeks to cool off after you finish your first solid draft, so you're not in love with it anymore. THEN go back and revise. You'll see it so much more clearly.

  8. Learn all the rules of grammar and punctuation. Learn all the rules of editing. Learn them until you can recite them in your sleep. Then forget about them -- just sit and write and let it come organically. A few of the rules may fall by the wayside, but you'll wind up with the manuscript you wanted to write.

  9. I've learned on the go since I started writing (with English my second language and no background training per se in English Literature. Except reading everything I could get my hands on) and all the information I've absorbed are from advice columns like these (and my CPs)
    Thanks for this post. Every comment here is solid gold. The only comment I can add is, every time you feel like you're getting nowhere, read a success story. Most of those successes come after years of rejections. All those writers share one quality--perseverance.