10 Great Writing Tips, in Quotes

typeEveryone’s looking for the “rules” of getting published. I try to share some wisdom on my blog, but who am I kidding? There are no rules. However, here are some guidelines (in quote form!) for aspiring writers…

10 Great Writing Tips, in Quotes:

1. What works for other writers doesn’t have to work for you. It’s okay to make your own rules. And, what works for other writers often won’t work for you so it’s best not to compare your writing or your style to anyone else.

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” — Jon Acuff

2. You don’t have to write every day. In fact, it’s perfectly okay to avoid burn out and take a day off. It doesn’t mean you’re not a writer.

“Hard scheduling rules — write every day! work on research for one hour each morning! exercise 10 hours a week! — deployed in isolation will lead to procrastination as soon as you start to violate them, which you almost certainly will do.” — Cal Newport

3. You have to make writing a priority, though. Even if it’s not everyday…

“I could not have written a novel if I hadn’t been a journalist first, because it taught me that there’s no muse that’s going to come down and bestow upon you the mood to write. You just have to do it. I’m definitely not precious.” — Gillian Flynn

4. Perfectionism doesn’t exist. There will never be a perfect first draft. Or any draft for that matter.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” — Anne Lamott

5. In order to commercially succeed your writing has to be meaningful for others, not just yourself.

“When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.” — Anne Lamott

6. You don’t need a complete outline in order to get started. You might not be a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser.’ All you need is the ambition to start.

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E.L. Doctorow

7. Know why you write. That will get you through the days you won’t want start.

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” — Stephen King

8. The best way to hone your writing chops is to read. There is no better teacher or better research, just read.

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” — Samuel Johnson

9. Your stories are all around you. You are living your ideas. You just need to open your mind and grab a notebook.

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” — Orson Scott Card

10. You are the only one holding yourself back from writing your breakout novel.

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” — Les Brown

What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

hemingway quoteWe all know that “write every day” isn’t everyone’s rule. For all the writing advice available there is a counter argument. Many writers have said there are no rules to writing. Elmore Leonard tries “to leave out the part readers skip.” And if you have writers block Hemingway says “you have always written before and you will write now.” And if you’re feeling like a novice Margaret Atwood says “writing, like everything else, improves with practice.”

So how do you know what writing advice to take?

Anne Lamott is one of my favorites on the subject:

“Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.”


Q: What’s the best writing advice you’ve read or received? Write every day? Finish what you start? Write first revise later? Share yours in the comments below…

On Writing Secondary Characters

bookfriendsDeveloping a cast of memorable characters isn’t easy. Writers are told to develop their main character well with motivation, internal and external conflict–but sometimes don’t put the same emphasis on secondary characters because they’re too worried about their MC.

It’s easy to manipulate secondary characters and sub plots to support your story, but they have to be much more than leading the reader. We can tell when a writer is using secondary characters to prove a point. So why not build a varied cast of secondary characters that feel like they also exist in real life–like your MC.

How to write secondary characters in your subplots: Continue reading On Writing Secondary Characters

To MFA or Not to MFA, That Is The Question…

There is much debate over whether doing an MFA is crucial to the experience of a writer.

There are two schools of thought (pardon the pun):

  1. The MFA shows a dedication to the craft and a seriousness about being a writer.
  2. The learning experiences of the world are of greater value than those learned in the classroom.

While the advantages to both are notable, and the combination of workshops and writerly real life experiences is ideal, the MFA is not the be-all end-all of your writing career. An MFA is expensive and often requires full-time attention leaving little time for a job or your family. However, it makes you focus and dedicate much needed time to work on your craft.

On the other hand, taking a course does not mean you are a writer. Spending money on a certificate to give you the credibility is not enough. An MFA, and any workshops you attend as a writer, should help to develop your craft not define it. Be wary of programs that offer weighty promises.

If you can buy Stephen King’s On Writing and set aside time to write daily, then all the power to you. You might get more out of that than an MFA program. Continue reading To MFA or Not to MFA, That Is The Question…