View Full Version : Best writing advice?

11-20-2006, 03:23 AM
What's the best writing advice you've ever read and/or received?

The most helpful piece of advice I've been told was that (yes, I know it's gory :D ):"Good writing is like opening your veins and bleeding all over the page."

The most useful I've read is to "write something you'd be scared to have your parents read."

Both come down to be willing to expose yourself to the reader, and not being afraid to bare your emotions and experiences. Not applicable to all types of writing, but when I've been brave enough to follow it, it's led me to the minor successes I've had.

11-20-2006, 03:37 AM
I think I read something once that said if a person you know could win a defamation case against you, it means you've drawn truly authentic characters (or something like that).

But for me personally, the best advice - and it's not really advice - is encouragement. Whenever someone - especially someone experienced in writing or theatre circles - tells me I'm a good writer, it spurs me on to get back into it and write. And because I'm inspired, I write stuff that's really good.

There's nothing like positive feedback!

11-20-2006, 03:47 AM
Keep your pen and chin out and refuse to look down or step back.

Writer's tend to get bitter and discouraged easily, so you have to keep going and going.

Cav Guy
11-20-2006, 03:57 AM
Be able to work when no one else is watching or cheering you on from the sidelines.

Positive feedback is wonderful and should be cherished whenever you get it, but it's not always possible to get ANY feedback (good or bad). That's why you have to be able to motivate yourself and believe in yourself. Is it easy? No, at least not for me. But being able to work when no one else is watching has kept me writing through times when I really wanted to just say to heck with it and chuck the whole thing. It's kept me picking at my work when I could just leave it alone and say "it's good enough."

Carrie in PA
11-20-2006, 04:22 AM
Do it.

11-20-2006, 07:22 AM
"ALWAYS talk about what you do" - True. This has gained me many writing gigs. Almost everyone, at some point in their life will need some writing done. Can't remember where I heard this first.

Oh, and "Why should I care" - what my first college English teacher said about almost everything I wrote. I thought she was being mean but boy was she right. My writing is so much better after I consider these words.

Take care
~ Jennifer

Sean D. Schaffer
11-20-2006, 08:18 AM
I forget who posted this, but the most helpful advice I ever received, I read here at AW.

Never take yourself too seriously as a writer.


Your words are never golden.

Thomma Lyn
11-20-2006, 08:28 AM
Two excellent pieces of advice:

"Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write." - William Faulkner

"I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day." - Ernest Hemingway

11-20-2006, 05:31 PM
That it's okay to write cr*p, at least in the first draft. Helps me keep going when my writing feels really bad.

11-20-2006, 06:02 PM
Best advice I've received: butt in chair, hands on keyboard.

All the other advice is helpful, but it has to start with the BIC!

11-20-2006, 06:56 PM
Follow your passion and have pride in your work! :D

11-20-2006, 07:07 PM
As a kid various teachers encouraged me to write, but I can't remember much of what they said to me-- I do remember my 9th grade English teacher giving me some very good advice that I need to include more action with my dialog. That was actually very useful, now that I think about it. Most of the advice I've gotten about writing in my life has been negative instead of positive; i.e., "don't do it". The reasons for this advice being given were usually something along the lines of "it's a waste of time" and sometimes with that a further implied or overt caveat was: "All writers are losers." People who I knew that were writers would discourage me from writing because I could never hope to be as good as they were (meaning that they preferred that I support THEM on their campaign to become published, rather than putting myself in the position of possible competitor). And of course a lot of civilians will refuse to believe that one can honestly claim to be a writer if one's name is not (insert name of famous author here).

11-20-2006, 07:07 PM
"ALWAYS talk about what you do"

Iguess that depends on what TYPE of writing you do. I NEVER talk about my writing to anyone. I write fiction and that's it. I'm not interested in writing for the church bulletin or some office newletter.

But I have to echo meowgirl's advice. Best advice I ever got was "sit down and write." Or in the vernacular of Nike: "Just do it."

11-20-2006, 07:09 PM
Two good lines of advice, from two very smart men, who are both very crusty.

Harlan Ellison says, "Don't write crap."

Mark Twain says "Eschew Surplusage."

You'll do fine following those two, I think.

11-21-2006, 01:14 AM
From Jane Yolen's web site (http://www.janeyolen.com/): "BIC - butt in chair." Esentially, you can't write if you don't put your butt in the chair and do it.


11-21-2006, 01:46 AM
Eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may speak.

11-21-2006, 02:45 AM
Never.... Always check your references.

oh, and

Don't quit your dayjob.

clara bow
11-21-2006, 02:48 AM
Never use two words where one will do.

I think that was Hemingway's gem.

11-21-2006, 03:01 AM
And of course a lot of civilians will refuse to believe that one can honestly claim to be a writer if one's name is not (insert name of famous author here).

Ha...I was working on my NaNo novel in class, scribbling away in my journal. One kid remarked how weird it was that I wrote for fun, and that nobody did that besides famous authors. I told him that the famous authors had to start writing out for fun, or how did they ever become famous authors?!

11-21-2006, 04:41 AM
I'm going to go with "Put your butt in the chair. Every day."

11-21-2006, 05:20 AM
Don't give up.

11-21-2006, 06:22 AM
- Make sure there's conflict/tension in every scene.
- Don't be afraid to write a crappy first draft. (Still working on this one.)

11-21-2006, 07:03 AM
Have a rich wife, husband or significant other.

11-21-2006, 08:56 AM
Write something every day. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as you are writing. My creative writing teacher told us this, and I think it's a good point. I can honestly tell a difference in my writing when I don't write something every day.

Sean D. Schaffer
11-21-2006, 09:10 AM
1. Read voraciously.

2. Rid yourself of distractions (in my case, the television was the distraction that finally had to go. I have found a vast improvement in my writing since I got rid of the old beast, and that was only a few days ago.)

11-21-2006, 09:53 AM
I have these two quotes on my cubicle wall where I see them a hundred times a day, & I scribble them in notebooks whenever I need to. They're a kind of advice.

"It's better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." ~C. Connolly

"If it is to be, it is up to me."
(I have no idea who said this, I copied it from a friend's cubicle wall. Wow, over 7 years ago.:))

Sean D. Schaffer
11-21-2006, 09:56 AM

"It's better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." ~C. Connolly


Wow! I like that one. It makes some good sense to me. Thanks for posting it.


11-21-2006, 10:45 PM
Oooh, I've also heard the adage: Just write. It's easier to edit when you actually have words on the page. Write whatever comes to mind and worry about fixing it up and making it look pretty later.

11-22-2006, 05:13 AM
Honestly, the best advice I have ever gotten is simply to "write". And that's what I do. :D

Cat Scratch
11-23-2006, 03:35 AM
I have a quote next to my computer that says "A lot of writer's block is just laziness--an excuse for not applying yourself." It's helped me through the rough times when I just want to stop, along with the quote above it: "Discipline is the difference between a wannabe writer and a published one."

Soccer Mom
11-23-2006, 03:45 AM
BIC. You can't be a writer if you don't write.

11-23-2006, 04:07 AM
The last few responses reminded me of another of my favorite quotes (it's right below Connolly's on my wall):

"Well done is better than well said." ~Ben Franklin

Yes, I love quotes. If someone else already said it perfectly, they've saved me the trouble.:D

11-23-2006, 04:09 AM
"You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who has written today. What's stopping you?"

I saw it on a cup, and I can't remember who said it.
It was a much needed slap in the face at the time.

11-23-2006, 08:17 AM
They only good piece of advice I'm confident in giving has already been posted in Pellgrina's Faulkner: "The more you read, the better you write." Also, I would advise everyone to follow PeeDee's advice.

11-23-2006, 10:42 AM
"It's better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." ~C. Connolly

That's going up on my wall, too. Thanks!

11-23-2006, 03:30 PM
Write for yourself.

11-24-2006, 05:38 PM
Don't write it right, right it down. You can get it right when you revise (and revise and revise) it later on.

11-27-2006, 09:12 AM
Mine came from published authors I've met, and have more to do with the business than with "doing it" (I don't have a real issue with doing it...I LIVE to run off at the keys). Three that I tend to refer to on a weekly, if not daily basis are:

1) Bob Mayer: Most writers' first books won't get published because they aren't truly ready. So, finish the novel (or short or whatever) and put it away for a year (yes, a YEAR) and work on something else. Work on the next novel in that series, a new novel, short stories, whatever. Then, when that year is up, take out the completed work and re-read it. You will see every single thing that's wrong with it and be able to fix it up and THEN it will be ready to go. Do this with everything you write until your agent tells you that you can stop.

He was right (oh, SO right).

2) Ben Bova (about the idea of self-publishing): Young LADY...THEY pay YOU, you do NOT pay THEM.

Needless to say, any time I flirt with the "it would be so much easier" idea, I return to that conversation and send out another query letter. :D Ben's advice also applies well to scam agents.

3) William F. Nolan: You will continue to get rejections even when you are at a point in your career when you think that they cannot possibly reject you NOW. They can. They will. You have to force yourself to ignore the rejection and send your work out again, and again, until it finds a home.

Currently, I think about what Bill told me every single day. Many times, more than once a day. I'm looking forward to the day when I can think of it just, say, once a week. ;)

11-28-2006, 03:07 AM
My teacher in Creative Writing impacted me tremendously. He had a very loose, free spirit and you couldn't help but like him.
He told me something along the lines of, "Form doesn't matter. Just write it."

This advice screwed me over when it came to formal essays and such but I've tried my hardest to just relax with my writing since then.
Wait...I think my style is an oxymoron. :(

11-28-2006, 04:04 AM
There are lots of excellent quotes out there about eliminating unnecessary verbage that have helped me--but the most important thing for me was being encouraged to actually SUBMIT my work for publication. It's just something I'd never have done otherwise. So, 'put it out there' is the advice I'd pass along.

11-28-2006, 04:09 AM
I follow my own advice: Plenty of coffee in the morning, a piece of chocolate during the day, and a shot of peppermint schnapps on ice in the evening. Best way for me to write.

As for following someone else's advice about writing: It was from my father. Years ago, when he saw that I was submitting my writing to magazines, he said, "Don't ever give up." I haven't and I won't.

11-28-2006, 04:34 AM
"Nephew, it does not matter if you write brilliant prose, have awe-inspiring dialogue, are a syntax genious, or write the next american masterpiece if no one wants to read it. This job is about telling a story...one people can identify with. More importantly, you must connect with your readers...always remember that." My uncle Mike. :)

11-28-2006, 04:42 AM
My sophomore year in college, I took a creative writing class wanting to learn from an expert. Dr. Rigsbee gave us an assignment to write either a short story where we were invisible for a day or a poem from the POV of a crow witnessing a murder. I did both, but chose to read the poem to the class. I started to say that I apologize in advance if the graphic violence offended anybody, and he stopped me mid-sentence with this:

"Never apologize for what you write. If you apologize for it, then you're ashamed of it, and you ought not share it."

I nodded, took a breath, and read the damn poem. The class loved it.

I write a lot of fantasy, and I tend to write blood-soaked fight scenes. Sometimes I go over the top, and when I edit them, I feel like I'd have to apologize, I tone it down. If not, I keep it.

Rarely do I feel the need to apologize.

11-28-2006, 04:48 AM
Oh, and I never write when intoxicated (or never did I should say..I went what the punkish emo kids call "straight edge" about seven months ago). It may have worked for Faulkner, Fitzgeral, Poe, and Stephen King, but us struggling young bucks need caffeine to keep us awake and alert. So when I really need to get the juices flowing, I hit up on some chocolate or coffee.