Top 5 Writing Tips--The Good...and the Not so Good
by Missy Tippens
In honor of our 5th birthday, I thought I'd share the 5 top writing tips I've been given over the years. But as I started thinking about the tips, I realized it's not so much the BEST tips that I remember as the ones I received most frequently. You know the ones I'm talking about: Those mentioned in workshops, on blogs, in chapter meetings.
So...here are the 5 I've been most often given and what I now think of them.
1. Write what you know.Well, this is a mixed bag. I do think we, as writers, tend to have similar themes that we write about--themes that apply to our lives. And I definitely believe we should use our well of experience to put emotion into our stories, to invest our passion into our writing. But if I only wrote what I know, my stories would be pretty boring! I've found that it was good to write what I know in my early books. But after 5 books, I've had to stretch myself. In fact, I had to start stretching in book one! Even for contemporaries, I've had to do research on careers,and child custody, and banking, and knitting, and community centers. I've written about characters who are very different from me in personality. So even though I've leaned toward writing about forgiveness and desiring to be loved for who we are, I've pushed beyond what I know, to write about characters who are different from me.
|image by donskarpo/Crestock.com|
2. Variations on advice on listening to your muse, or harnessing your muse or what to do when your muse is silent.Call me unromantic or jaded, but I say forget the muse. When you have a contract, your signature on the dotted line becomes your muse. You don't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration. This holds true before you have a contract as well!
Believe me, I totally understand feeling like all creativity has fled or feeling like my brain won't hold a thought for longer than a second. I, too have been there...often. I always, and I mean ALWAYS, hit a wall around chapter five. (Do I hear heads nodding? I always get nods of agreement when I say this!) But I can't sit and wait for inspiriation to strike. I have to keep writing, even if it's terible and even if I end up throwing it out later. I advise tossing the thought of a muse out of your head. Instead, be inspired by anticipation of the end result (whatever that might look like for you): sharing what God has put on your heart, wonderful letters from readers, royalty checks, seeing your name on the cover of a book. :)
3. Don't keep re-working the same story. Finish one and move ahead.I still think this is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten. I worked three years on my manuscript that sold. Once I sold it, I can't tell you how badly I wished I had something else (in the same genre) to offer them. So learn from my mistake. Don't write and re-write the same story over and over. You'll get better with each one. So write "the end" and keep moving forward.
|image by jallfree/istockphoto.com|
4. Protect the work.This piece of advice isn't one I've heard often, but it's shouted the loudest in my head. And maybe because it's been the toughest for me to figure out. This is another tip that can be filed in a gray area, and here's why. I think we need feedback on our writing before we send it off to an editor or agent. Or maybe I should say that I need it. Early on, before I sold, I took contest feedback seriously. If two or more judges gave the same critique, then I changed my work. Nowadays, I have two critique partners. They tend to notice different problems in the manuscripts, but when they both pick up on the same thing, then you can bet I change it. In fact, I almost always address the issues they bring up, even if I fix it in a different way from their suggestions. Since they're both big readers, I trust them when they say something doesn't make sense or doesn't work. But notice the key: I TRUST THEM. You have to find people you trust to read your work. So that's where protecting the work comes in. In the end, it is ultimately your story--until your editor gets hold of it. ;) So find critique partners you trust, and then trust yourself to make the final decisions.
5. Life happens. You have to be flexible and go with the flow.This piece of advice that I've heard numerous times is a double-edged sword. Sure, when life happens, we need to be present for our family and friends. And we need to be kind to ourselves and keep a positive attitude. But we can't use it as an excuse. Sometimes we just have to write through the hard stuff. I've heard authors say they had a terrible time writing about romance and happy endings while their mother or husband or son was sick or dying. But they had a contract obligation and had to write anyway. As I was writing this post, my dog got very sick. I spent Saturday night at the emergency vet. And believe me, when I came back to writing the blog, I would have preferred going back to bed to sleep! Instead, I'm pushing through, writing in bits and snatches as I tend to my dog. It's a matter of making an adujustment and changing the way I typically write. So, yes, be forgiving and allow yourself to be present for family and friends (and pets!). But don't forget writing is a job like any other job.
Now it's Your Turn...
So what's been the most frequent advice you've been given--good or bad? Or if you'd rather, what's been the one writing tip that's most meaningful to you?
Don't forget the Week 3 Birthday Present!!
|Week 3 Birthday Present: Kindle Paperwhite|
And TODAY: I'll be giving away Five (5) first-page critiques! I'll give you my opinion on how well your first page hooks me into your story, and how well I bond with your protagonist. I promise to be kind so you can protect your work. :) Please tell me you'd like to be entered for the critique! I'll only enter you in the drawing if you ask.
Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com
|Happy Birthday Seekerville|