Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Girlfriends Reveal the Best Writing Advice I Ever Got

Three Most Important Things

After all the conferences I've attended and writing craft books I've read, you'd think I'd have something more profound, but the things that come first to mind are:
-Have a thick skin (so don't take rejections too personally)
-Writing is re-writing (so it gets better with each draft)
-Read it aloud (to hear the rhythm and catch mistakes you read over silently)
-A novel has structure. Learn and use Goal Motivation Conflict (GMC) to make it a novel and not just "one thing happening after another." 

Malena Lott

The best advice I got -- and, for me, one of the most difficult things to do, especially around the time of a book release -- is to try to keep the rest of my life in balance with the writing. Sometimes it's hard to pull away from the computer and from all those author/promo tasks we need to accomplish, but it's important to spend time with family and friends, to exercise and get enough sleep, and to fill the creative well by enjoying other hobbies and interests, too.

Marilyn Brandt

Don't Hold Back

Back in the '80's, when feelings about the Vietnam War were still pretty raw and post-traumatic stress wasn't well understood--and certainly wasn't a popular subject in romance fiction--I pitched my editor a story about a Vietnam Veteran wrestling with the demons he brought home with him from the war.  The book was dark and violent and risky, and I didn't think my editor would go for it.  She listened to my pitch and said I should write the story.  Then she added: "I have only one piece of advice for you: Don't hold back."

I didn't hold back.  I poured everything I had into that novel (SURVIVORS, published in 1990.)

My editor's name was Debra Matteucci, and those three words--"Don't hold back"--are the best writing advice I ever got.  They are my motto and my mantra.  I recite them every day as I sit down to at my computer.  And when other writers ask me for advice, this is the wisdom I pass along.  Don't hold back.

Judith Arnold

Cut It Out

The best writing advice I ever got--that I still take into consideration with anything I compose--is:  when in doubt, cut it out.  Those pearls of wisdom came from one of my creative writing instructors at the University of Kansas, author James Gunn.  He basically said, even if it's gorgeous, descriptive prose, if it doesn't move the story forward or enhance characterization, delete it.  You don't need it.  It's just fluff. Sometimes that's so hard because I'm such a lover of words that I always feel like, "the more, the better!"  Then I realize that lean and mean always makes the story flow better.  Even if it hurts to trim things out.

Susan McBride

Best Writing Advice I ever got: Keep writing, always be working on something. So many established writers have gave me this advice throughout my starving artist years, and now that i'm published, I've found that it really is the cure-all for everything. In terms of your writing career, any setback or failure can be overcome with more writing. It's not over until your pen stops moving.

Ernessa Carter

From John Grisham, believe it or not! Write SOMETHING every day. 
Good advice!

Jenny Gardiner

Know When You're Done

Most newbie writers have to be told not to send their work to agents right away. But there are others, like me, who need a nudge in the opposite direction. The best writing advice I got was "You're done." It came from an author friend who read my manuscript after I had rewritten it several times and workshopped it. She wrote "The End" on the last page and told me it was time to send it into the world and let it take its lumps. Without her advice, I'd probably still be working on the same book 5 years later. She also gave me this quote from Picasso, "I do not finish my paintings. I abandon them." A good reminder for perfectionist writers or for people scared to take the leap and go on submission. –

Carleen Brice, author of Orange Mint and Honey (the aforementioned book I did finally "abandon")

The best writing advice I ever got?  "You can't revise a blank page.  So
just write, even if you at first write it badly."

Sandra Novack

Revise Later 

The best writing advice I've ever received came via a quote. I don't know where I saw it, but when I read Maxwell Perkin's advice, "Just get it down on paper, then we'll see what to do about it," but it struck a cord. It was so basic, so practical. Write it down, revise later. That simple advice freed me to write a messy, disorganized draft. 

Sara Rosett 

Best advice I ever got:

“Go do this… this… and this…”   It’s code from my agent, the ellipses containing the dead-on accurate things I missed on the first pass of a manuscript.  She tends to expound rather elegantly, though I suspect hitting me over the head with a 2x4 might garner similar results.  My best advice on the advice: If you happen upon someone who gets your writing, whose opinion you respect, shut up and take notes. 

Laura  Spinella     

Don't make writing too precious. Forget about finding the perfect setting - a dreamy coffeeshop where they're always playing good music and a comfy chair awaits you. Don't delay putting words on the page until you've got a lot of spare time - if you put it off too long, you'll probably never do it. Take a deep breath and just plunge in. And don't let yourself step away from your computer until you've gotten a set word count every day - be it 200 words or 2,000. 

Sarah Pekkanen

Writing is about informed decisions. Everything in your novel should be there for a reason, to contribute to the whole.  Not just to make you seem clever. (So guilty of that.)

Karin Gillespie


  1. Thanks for my daily dose of writing inspiration!

  2. I didn't put mine in.
    Two words from Stephen King "Butt Glue."

  3. Great advice and the common theme is, as Nike would say, "Just Do It!"

  4. Great post!! All of this advice is great. If you want to write, just write!!

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  9. The best writing advice is keep writing what can you write and then read it. You will find mistakes by yourself and will try to improve it in future.