Friday, 6 May 2011

Friday Fives - Useful advice

The wonderful people at Paperback Hangover has this funky notion of providing a list of 5 things writerly and/or readerly every Friday. This week's prompt is:

The FIVE pieces of useful advice you have received as an aspiring writer... (in quotes, blog posts, websites, etc.)

So, let's get started!

5.) Write yourself notes about what's up next in your story. I've never actually read this anywhere, but it's something that I've found works wonders for not only my motivation to write daily, but also gives me at least some kind of illusion of having a grip on the story I'm working on.

4.) Muzzle that internal editor. You know the one I mean. The one who won't let you go three sentences without saying 'Is "used" a strong enough verb there? And that adverb looks really uncomfortable over there'. Personally, the internal editor is my arch-nemesis in this first ever draft of a novel I'm working on (yes, I've never written a novel before, only shorts - see also point #5 re the illusion of having a grip). Right now, I'm concentrating on getting the words down so that there at least exists a first draft, which my internal editor can then have a ball critiquing the hell out of in the rewrites.

Continue Reading!

3.) Read voraciously and then write the stuff you like to read. You can't write if you don't read, it's as simple as that. For me, as with most authors I suspect, the love of reading came first. So I make time to read at least a book a week, maybe two if I can manage - and I only read books I adore reading.

Hand in hand with this goes the point made by Laurence Block in his book Telling Lies for Fun and Profit  that if you are writing for a genre in which you have to force yourself through every book you read, you may need to reconsider your choice of genre. You can't produce a passionate, true story if you can't even finish a book that's almost like it.

2.) Give yourself permission to write badly. The first draft doesn't have to be publish ready! You're allowed to suck! As long as you get those words on paper, it really doesn't matter. Let me put it like this: So you have a beautiful piece of literature inside of you that's going to change the world. However, as long as it is inside, you can't magic it into the world to make a difference, and no matter how good you are, your own writing seldom lives up to your expectations - at least if you are a relentless self-critic like I am.

So first get something written, and then you can go ahead and make the writing better, fix the plot whatevers and make the manuscript shine because at least you have something to work with.

1.) Apply ass to chair, no matter how painful.  You are only a writer as long as you are actually, day by day, producing new work. The job description is kind of in the word itself: a writer writes. If you don't write regularly, you cannot call yourself a writer. Together with this, I've found daily word-count goals invaluable. I keep the goal low, so that I can produce the minimum even on a rotten, stinking day where I just want to go hide under the covers of my bed and never have to look the world in the face again. I keep by it, even when (especially when) it feels like, as Stephen King so eloquently puts it, I'm just shoveling shit from a sitting position. Especially lately, I've really struggled to keep up with even this bare minimum I've required from myself, and would find one thousand and one excuses to try to get out of writing today (and excuses are a million a dime), mostly because quite frankly, right now most of what I write feels like crap.

However, once again as Stephen King puts it so delicately: You can shit in one hand and dream in the other, and at least you'll have shit in one of your hands, while the other one will be eternally empty. Or something like that.

So these are the pieces of advice that currently have the greatest influence on my writing. Feel free to share yours, or vicariously disagree with any of them!


  1. All of this is so true. Especially the stuff about perseverance and allowing yourself to write badly on your first draft. Great post :)