The Best Writing Advice I’ve Gotten (Thus Far)

Sorry I disappeared for a second. Since I moved, the landlords of the place I live now decided to do an internet “upgrade” — but what they meant by that is “Suffer tenants! Suffer until we’ve decided you’ve suffered enough!”

So now I have my internet back, and I’m able to write again.

A little disclaimer before I shoot into this:

  • Some of this is common amongst the writer community already.
  • I can’t credit a lot of the advice, because it’s been random events in passing, reading, watching tv, etc…and I don’t fully remember who has said it. But my heart thanks you, and if you see something you feel like you came up with — thanks for the advice =).

Call Yourself a “Writer.”

This seems simple, but it made a really huge impact in my life. Of all people, my barber told me this one. He asked me what I did, I told him I was a server. He asked me what I wanted to do, I told him I eventually wanted to write. He said, “So is writing a hobby or a profession for you?” I said, “A hobby now, but I’m hoping it will be a profession one day.” He smiled and asked again, “So is writing a hobby or a profession for you?”

There is a difference between the two, obviously. He said if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to consider myself a writer. He said it didn’t matter if I made money off of it, if I had the whole world begging to read my next novel, but it did matter how seriously I took it. He said, “Why don’t you try answering like this — I’m a writer, but I work as a server to pay the bills.” It was so simple, but once I started doing that when people asked me what I did, it opened up all kinds of conversations and it’s led me to some interesting marketing skills when it comes to my writing.

There’s a Difference Between Narcissism and Confidence

When I first started getting into the writing community, I thought writers were all narcissistic dingleberries who needed to get over themselves. Granted, the evil hobbit witch woman who called herself a “teacher” in my college years did have something to do with that, but I digress. What I learned, however, as I continued to push my way through the community and outreach to other writers, was that you have to have a little bit of narcissism when it comes to promoting your work, but there’s a tasteful way about doing it.

I just pulled out my Kindle and went to the store to look at some books. As of this blog post, there are 1,866,007 books to choose from on the Kindle store. The Kindle store alone. That doesn’t cover the Nook (the crannies and the cracks — sorry I had to have at least one lame joke), actual printed books, every other form of e-reading, etc… If you aren’t narcissistic and you don’t shamelessly promote your work and try to convince the world that your book falling in 1,866,008’s place isn’t worth reading before the other 2 million books you aren’t going to get anywhere except  for a ride to the store to buy a tissue box to cry over your failures. Seriously.

With that being said, don’t put yourself in the big leagues until you’re actually there. Said hobbit teacher as mentioned above thought J.K. Rowling was beneath her. Pish. Posh. Until you’re a worldwide phenomenon where every household knows your name, just shamelessly promote yourself without thinking you’re better than someone who’s bigger than you.

Experiment With the Senses

I’ve done a wee bit of that here, but I think it’s something that a lot of writer’s kind of let go in one ear and out the other. So often we just want to capture what someone sees or what someone feels — but then there are those moments where taste, smell, hearing are all important senses that are left out and exemplifying them are forgotten. The simple sentence, “The twig broke behind him,” is a small example of what the character would hear. (Obviously not a very good one because it’s way cliche, but you get my drift.) Experiment. Write a scene in every sense and see how vivid you can make it. You may just surprise yourself.

Your First Draft Will Never Be Perfect

I was an airhead when I wrote my first draft of Immortality Awaits back in 2007. I was 18-years-old, happy I had finally finished a draft of a novel since I had been trying since I was 7, and I thought my draft was amazing. What publisher wouldn’t want this in their archives?

Oh, how stupid I was.

After the First Draft

Obviously, at 18, I had a lot to learn. I wrote the novel before I even started college, clearly I was too naive to actually get a novel published. Now, six years later, I’m finally incorporating a lot of the lessons I’ve learned about “Show Don’t Tell” and the senses and the other various writing tips I’ve encountered over the years, and it’s led me to finally be 100% confident in my Prologue,which is huge. The beginning of your story is what matters the most these days. I thought I could just string readers along and drop clues as I wished and they would just follow blindly. Well, when I’m one of 2,000,000 books trying to do that, if it isn’t interesting enough in the beginning, it won’t be interesting enough to read. I was always saying, “It just needs a little work, but it’ll be fine.” Well, as long as it needs work, it won’t be fine. Work it out.

Do Your Research — Your Reader Will Know if You Didn’t

When I had my novel edited, this was a chief complaint from her as she went through it. When I was describing the castles and the attire and the way everything looked, she said it was very obvious I was just trying to rush through the scene and leave it up to the reader to implement their knowledge of the way medieval times looked and felt, which isn’t fair.

Your reader isn’t stupid, so don’t treat them like they are. Always remember, there are 2 million other books out there that might have done it better.

You’ll Know When It’s the Right Story

This is pretty accurate to how I know when it's love.

This is pretty accurate to how I know when it’s love.

Have you ever asked a married couple how they knew they were meant to be? And they mostly just answer, “When you know, you know.”

It’s the same for your novel.

If you have 100 ideas of potential novels floating in your head, the right one will make its way down. It will consume you. It will demand to be told. If you write a draft of it and then leave it, it will haunt your sleep and beg you to come back to it. Your characters will become part of you. You’ll see them wherever you go. Your dreams will make up plot twists. Your life experiences will help with your editing. People are going to think you’re batsh*t crazy until they have the opportunity to read it, but your craziness and enthusiasm will inspire them.

And the best part is, you’ll have no control of any of that. It will just happen.

When you know, you know.

And remember, if it’s good, if it’s bad, if it’s happy, or if it’s sad, write every day. Practice practice practice.

There’s obviously loads and loads and loads and loads more advice I could give, others could give, everyone could give, but these are just a few of the things I’ve kept in the back of my mind that have really helped me out. A lot. Hopefully a few of these tips (if you weren’t already aware of them) may help you too!!

For some books on editing, querying, contacting agents, etc… check out a few of the following:

How to Get Happily Published by Judith Applebaum
Guide to Literary Agents through the Writer’s Market
2013 Writer’s Market and any previous ones as well (WritersMarket.com has all the information you need)
Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook a British one but very informative, can be found at writersandartists.co.uk
On Writing by Stephen King
The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing from the editors of Writer’s Digest

Image Sources:

Writer at Work — “http://nickmullis.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/writer-at-work.jpg”

First Draft — “http://darcypattison.com/AfterTheFirstDraftCoverCrop.jpg”

You Had Me — “http://www.collegeessayeditor.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/YouHadMe.jpg”

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