Tuesday, August 27, 2013
At speaking events or during interviews, I'm often asked to share my top writing advice to aspiring authors.
Obviously, there are LOTS and LOTS of writing techniques I could share (and have shared on my blog). See my For Writers Page where I have writing tips listed by categories.
But rather than doling out advice like "Make your characters come alive" or "Avoid clichés" or "Add tension to every page" I'd much rather share what has helped me the most. After all, every writer will learn to apply writing techniques in their own unique way. What worked in my story to make it riveting may not work in someone else's.
However, I think there are some general principles that can help ALL writers, no matter their genre, no matter their age, and no matter their publication goals. I've seen this advice work for me, and I've also seen the advice work for other successful authors.
So here are my top 2 pieces of writing:
1. Always keep learning.
Early in my writing career, I read just about every book about how to write fiction that I could get my hands on. No, I didn't agree with everything I read. But I soaked it all in, took lots of notes, and sorted through the advice. The information was invaluable in helping me learn to become a good writer. It was like earning a "college degree" in writing.
Now that I'm more seasoned, I still read writing craft books. I'm a bit more particular in what I pick up, but my favorites include anything by James Scott Bell, Donald Maass, and Noah Lukeman.
My methods of learning have expanded now to include the writing information I find online. See my blog sidebar "Help for Writers" for some of the blogs I follow.
I also learn a great deal now from critique partners and my in-house editors. In fact, I was recently emailing back and forth with one of my editors about some of the techniques he was encouraging me to work on in a book we're editing. He said this: "Keep pushing yourself . . . We’re all of us always in training."
Even the best editors know that writers will always need to keep learning and training in order to stay fresh, relevant, and riveting.
2. Write prolifically.
"Prolific" is a subjective word. What might be an abundant amount of writing for one author might be sparse for another.
When I wrote my first published book, The Preacher's Bride, I could only write about 500 words a day. At the time, I had a baby and a toddler, along with three elementary aged children. Getting in those 500 words a day was a huge challenge for me. I was usually chasing after kids, and by the end of the day, I was exhausted. But I forced myself to eke out those 500 words a day, rain or shine. And the effort produced a full length novel in a year.
Now that my kids are getting older, 500 words a day would not be challenging enough. Instead I give myself much more demanding goals. Rather than one book a year, I've already completed three, along with an assortment of other writing projects.
My point is that in order to become better, we have to write, not dabble at it. We need to push ourselves to accomplish a little more than we think we can. And while we're challenging ourselves to write more, we also need to make a conscious effort to put into practice the things we're learning (in point 1 above).
I can honestly trace my success to the above two pieces of writing advice. And it's advice I'll keep following if I hope to continue to be successful.
How about you? What is YOUR number ONE piece of writing advice?
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