Writing Advice No One Asked For

Now that I’ve sold a book, literally no one is knocking down my door, asking me to impart my writing wisdom to the world, but I will anyway. Prepare yourselves, it’s incredibly profound:

If you want to be a writer, write.

See, I thought I was being very clever there, but a quick search proves that Epictetus is credited with basically the same quote and that dude was born in 55 AD. So, for nearly 2,000 years, the advice to writers hasn’t really changed.

I know you may be looking for the shocking #7 on the list of “13 Things Every Successful Writer Does,” but I promise you, the best thing you can do is write. (The second best thing you can do is read. Read in your genre and outside of it. Read everything.)

The hardest part of writing is figuring out what works best for you—and you’re the only one who can do it. Those lists of things writers “must” do are BS (unless the list is one item long and includes only the word write, but that wouldn’t be much of a list).

Maybe you need the structure of writing every day. Maybe the thought writing every day kills every ounce of your creativity. Maybe you plot out the whole story before you write. Maybe you get an idea and just run with it to see where it will take you.

Here’s how I do it, which will likely be completely different than what works for you, and that’s okay.

I write every day during the week and take the weekends off, unless I’m behind on a deadline. I write s-l-o-w. I have a goal of 1,000 words a day. Some days I sail past it easily and some days it’s a slog to get half of that.

I generally know my beginning and something in the middle when I start. Creating an outline is basically a Sisyphean task for me and I could probably write a book in the time it takes me to complete one. I am attempting to get better at this, but it’s slow going.

I read a lot of books. Last year I read more than 80. I tend to read in spurts, where I’ll read five books in a week then nothing for a month. This roughly coincides with my writing speed. If writing sucks, I’ll take time to read more books. This is often called “filling the well” (of creativity) and it absolutely helps me.

Because I don’t plot ahead, I tend to edit more, both as I’m writing and after I’m finished. For my very first completed novel (which has yet to see the light of day), I ended up cutting something like 30k words in edits because I had meandered my way through the story.

I write in Scrivener and have a million little research notes to keep track of my subplots, characters, locations, and everything else. This is the only reason all of my side characters aren’t named Jack.

I could go on and on, but I have a little serial story I should be getting back to, so I’ll end with this: do what works for you. It may take you a little bit to figure it out, but keep at it. It’s worth it. :)

13 Replies to “Writing Advice No One Asked For”

  1. I’m trying to get back into writing, and I’ve noticed an improvement already since actually, you know, writing some things down. Just thinking about writing things down is less helpful.

    For your serial story, do you have more of an outline than normal? The idea of a serial story is quite intimidating for me – I find even if I have an outline, it quite often changes and takes on a mind of it’s own once I start writing.

    So what I am saying is, I’d be worried that I eventually hate the beginning but oh no people already read it I can’t go back and change that bit because suddenly I want a different backstory, or whatever..

    1. For TQG, I do actually have an outline because it originally began as a chat fiction project my agent pitched to an editor that required a ten “episode” outline. The editor passed and I decided to pivot it into a serial novella instead.

      But even with the outline, I didn’t start posting until I was already several chapters ahead for the same reasons you list.

      I’ve continued to stay several chapters ahead which saves me a great deal of headache, especially when I started deviating from the outline. There are probably many writers who can bang out a serial episode day-of and make it work, but I’m not one of them. :)

      Good luck with your writing!

  2. Congratulations on selling that book; I’m really enjoying The Queen’s Gambit and can’t wait to find out more about your novel. I’m more of a reader than a writer – do you have any particular titles/authors you’re currently enjoying and willing to share?

    1. I just read The Winter King by C. L. Wilson and really liked it. It’s a fantasy romance with two main characters I adored. The cover is… not good, but the book was great.

      Before that I read A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase and it was fantastic! I loved it. A tipsy bride bolts before her “perfect” wedding and it’s up to the best man to bring her back. Hijinks ensue.

      You can also check out my recommendations page for a few more. :)

      1. I just checked out your recommendation page, there are a lot of great books on there including Wool which is one of my favorites!

  3. I read a lot, but I’m not a writer,,, no creativity
    I always think folks who read a lot read the number of books I read,,, but that simply is not the case.
    You read fifty books a year. I probably read that many every month, but granted many are books from my bookshelves, so I’m actually re-reading, and I’m retired so I have a lot of time.

    1. Your living the dream!!! I cant wait until I can spend my days with cats, coffee, and books!

      I too am not a creative type, but I’m an avid reader. I usually read on average 100 books an year, and I thought that was good.

  4. I agree with you completely. My son and I wrote a trilogy that we finished 2 years ago. Since then I haven’t written much and I find it much harder to write now than I did when I was writing every day. I do still read constantly, though. We are starting a new series so hopefully I’ll get back to it.

  5. I am a reader, not a writer because I have no real, original imagination. Often when I get into a book or series I like, I do imagine an idea or addition that I think that would fit in that book/series world. But there is really nothing original in my thoughts. I am enjoying reading your series and the small vignettes of your life that you are giving us in your blog. Please keep writing because thousands of us readers love the worlds you are creating and would probably go nuts if deprived of your wonderful imagination. Hugs.

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