“... I thought of the lesson, only lesson I learned and remembered from two years of a creative writing class…”
This quote from one of my commenters on my home blog got me thinking about the resources we tap into on our writing journey and the lessons we take away from them. For instance, each book I read leaves me with one memorable lesson, while each class I’ve taken teaches a new concept or solidifies an old adage.
I have more writing books than a duck has feathers. I have listened to speakers at writer’s conferences who impart great advice. Some of it works for me and some is just out of my reach.
Probably the most common advice I have heard is to “Write every day.”
I would love to, but it just isn’t realistic for me at this point in my life. I have kids who need a taxi driver mom and a dog who demands my affections. I love spending weekends with my DH and nights get crowded with bedtimes—mine included. Every day does not work for me.
“Write what you know.”
What if I don’t really know enough about anything, but I know a lot about everything? To me, this advice is pretty vague. I write for kids. Do I know them? Sure, I was one–30 years ago. Things have changed. I love gardening, but in my own willy-nilly way. Not the Garden Guru kind of way.
As writers, we read blogs and books, attend conferences and cozy up in the comfort of writing communities and critique partners–all in the hopes of honing our craft and getting our byline out there.
So, my question becomes: what have you learned? What is the single most valuable lesson you have taken away from a mentor, teacher or kindly rejection letter? What words do you live by to be the best writer you can be?
My all-time favorite words of writing wisdom come down to this: Create characters readers can care about. If they don’t care, they won’t read. I live by this lesson. It drives my novels.
As people commented on my blog, I compiled a list of their tips. Please add yours to further complete ...
The Best Writing Tips (Ever)
- Leave out the bits that readers might skip.
- Create characters readers can care about. If they don’t care, they won’t read.
- Two words changed my life: “Precise and spare”.
- Finish something, even if it’s terrible, get to “The End”.
- Edit, edit, edit and then edit some more.
- “Cut the crap” was one thing a prof used to always say. It made me smile, and works.
- Don’t just kill your darlings; kill your gerunds. Die, “ing” clauses, die.
- Mind your misplaced modifiers.
- Know your characters. Interview them.
- Type, don’t think.Thinking comes later after you get it on the page.
- Open your brain–to learn about writing and to let your characters in.
- Write, get it down on the page. You can edit crap. You can’t edit a blank page.
- Be true to your vision as a writer.
- Of criticism, know what to take and what to leave behind.
- Do what works for you and your story. It frees me to use any words I want in any way I want whenever I want.
- Don’t compare. My writing journey is mine, not yours. I enjoy my journey and celebrate with others along theirs.
- “Find out what your hero or heroine wants, and when he or she wakes up in the morning, just follow him or her all day.” Ray Bradbury
Cat Woods creates lists every day. Some of them work, while others—like "Piano practice at 4:30" don't always help. To read about her whimsical walk through the writing life, you can join her at Words From the Woods.