Unsolicited Advice

Jessie: Delighted to be at the seaside in Maine.

This summer, I am finishing my fifth novel. Fifth. Five actual novels. Every now and again that thought moves to the front of my mind and I stop dead in my tracks. A wave of astonished disbelief washes over me which is quickly followed by a fit of joyful giddiness. It seems like the shine ought to rub off the apple at some point but so far, it hasn’t. If anything ,that gleam just gets brighter with every book.

I’ve been asking myself lately why that might be and it has occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it’s because I learn something new during the creation of each and every one. It’s sort of like parenting in that respect. Just like each new child in the family brings quirks and strengths and desires, so does each story.

Writers, like parents, love to share advice and tips from the trenches. Even if the advice is unsolicited. Here, in no particular order, are a few of the things I’ve learned along the way:

-Start working even when you don’t feel like it.The words will rise up to meet you.

-All you have of unique value to bring to your writing is yourself. Try not to worry that you aren’t something or someone else.

-Your writing is not as bad as you fear. It will probably never be as good as you’d like.

-Treat yourself to pens and notebooks you feel are a joy to use.

-Deadlines are your friends. Without them you will sink into the dreaded swamp of someday.

-Writing is work. Schedule time for it like you would anything else that is important. Stick to it.

-Typing is not considered exercise. Get up and move sometimes. Trips to the fridge don’t count.

-Be grateful for all your experiences, even the ugly ones. They create your particular lens on the world.

-You will always feel better at the end of the day if some of it has been spent writing.

Readers, do you have any words of wisdom to share from your own walk of life? Other writers, any tips of your own to apply to the craft?

28 Thoughts

  1. So many of these apply to anyone’s life or passion, Jessie. Great words. Here’s one more:
    You will get through the middle of the book, no matter how hopeless it seems. You’ve done it before; it will happen again.

  2. Typing is not exercise–that made me laugh, but so true! I keep hearing that sitting is the new smoking.
    My advice would be this: Remember that the author you trashed online or in public might be sitting next to you at a panel someday, so review fairly.

    1. I’ve heard the sitting=smoking caution too, Ramona. And thanks for adding your advice. You never can go wrong by striving to be a class act.

  3. Each comment is absolutely on target. The only thing I would add is, enjoy the process. There will be bumps in the road, but if you’re not looking forward to sitting down in front of your keyboard each day, then why are you doing this? (Well, it is nice to see your books on a shelf in a bookstore!)

  4. Exactly what I needed to read today, everyone! Since I’ve just treated myself to a new laptop and have been enjoying some one-to-one sessions at the Apple store, I would add: don’t be afraid to shake up your writing process if it would make your writing life easier.

  5. This morning I sat down at my computer with a sigh, wondering if I would ever get my manuscript into the shape someone would want to offer for it. So your blog was so timely, thank you. I particularly like your point that your writing is not as bad as you fear.

  6. There’s no such thing as writers block. If you get stuck look around and write down everything your character sees, hears, smells, and feels that should get them moving again. I’ve mentioned it before and I learned it from author and creative writing professor John Dufresne.

    1. Valuable advice, Sherry, especially the point about what we feel. In an earlier MWA newsletter, writer Brian Freeman talked just that thing–about not only describing a place, but like you said, how they make you feel. He called it a “sixth sense” of a place. That if we can tap emotional responses to a place (loneliness, loss, fear, innocence, etc.), then we make those places come alive for the reader.

  7. “-Your writing is not as bad as you fear. It will probably never be as good as you’d like.” Ain’t that the truth.

    I have recently determined “You will spend a lot of time waiting. Put it to good use and keep writing.”

      1. Okay, that makes me feel good. You’re on, what, book 5? I haven’t even gotten to the first yet. I play a good game, but I abhor waiting and I have to say, I don’t do it well.

    1. Perhaps an exception can be made if you are only going there to grab some celery. I’ve heard it has negative calories if those needed for digestion are taken into account.

  8. “Start writing even when you don’t feel like it.” How very true for me, even with review writing.

    Does walking to the car count as exercise? Because I am about to do that to drive to work…where I will sit for several more hours.

  9. I love the last one “be grateful for all your experiences, even the ugly ones. They create your particular lens of the world.” Unfortunately when you have those ugly experiences it is hard to see anything positive in them. But looking back at them (after the hurt/anger stops) you can see how it can make you stronger. And I do believe can learn alot about your self from negative experiences. And when you make is past them you realize how strong you already are.
    p.s. great post!

    1. (Jessie had to go out to a funeral, but I know she’ll be back to read your comment – and your compliment! -Edith)
      I agree. The hurt of ugly experiences is hard to get over, but it really does add to the richness of life.

Comments are closed.