Monday, October 15, 2012

Top 5 Writing Tips from Missy Tippens

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. 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/

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/

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

Happy Birthday Seekerville


Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oooo, I'd love a first page critique! How fun!

I love all your tips. I've heard 'read your genre'.

And the first book I ever wrote I thought was a standard series romance but the heroine POV was 100%. No hero. And there were all sorts of subplots.

That's more women's fiction, but I didn't know that because I wasn't reading series romance. I was reading... yeah, women's fiction and mainstream romance.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Hi Missy! So you're an unromantic romance writer? I can't say I've ever heard that one before LOL! I HAVE however heard a few of your other tips before and I'm not even a writer. Even though I'm just a blogger I've definitely had writer's block before and know that sometimes the ideas flow but sometimes the great ideas get stopped up. I do however find that the BEST ideas happen at night when you're trying to sleep and there's no pen or paper in sight LOL!

Tammy Trail said...

Great tips! Thanks Missy. Please enter me into the contest for the first five pages, and a kindle. Thank you.

Helen Gray said...

Here's the coffee, served from a new bottomless pot.

How many times have we heard the tip DON'T GIVE UP?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Preach it, Sistah.

Keep moving forward. Keep moving forward.

Christina said...

Would love that critique, too! Got to put that in there before I forget.

The one thing that stays in my head is K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid ( I think there is a better word for stupid but can't remember). I tend to overwrite and can do over do the melodramatic. I'm trying to find the balance of when and where to sink the teeth of emotion into
the readers' hearts.

Hugs, on your dog.

Christina said...

Oh, the best advice I've gotten is 'keep moving forward'. ;)

Melissa Jagears said...

Yay, I get to comment! I've had company over this weekend, and last night's company the electric went out in the middle of cooking!! Had to finish dinner with residual oven heat and grill, ate by the light of oil lamps and the kids played hide and seek in the dark. And I understand why people thought they went blind by reading in the dark, it was a good thing kindle's text can be enlarged, it was hard to read with the oil lamp which is much better than candles....even harder when the kindle's battery dies. :( Soooo I went to bed early--surprise surprise. Glad to have my internet back. :)

BTW, Virginia Munoz is awesome.

Melissa Jagears said...

put me in for the crit.

I agree with everything. Write what you know is a good place to start with that first story, writing what you know is part of the "read your genre" tip as well, you may not personally know it, but it's what you've been reading forever. I think "write what you read" makes a whole lot of sense, especially since you'll be reading it over and over again.

I don't know if it was advice or something I came up with, but since I wanted to be a published author, I listened to the authors talking about how they were writing one book, editing another, and pitching/promoting another. So, I've always tried to have three going in these stages so that when I got the call, I wouldn't be overwhelmed with the fact that they bought a series and I've only ever worked on one book at a time. I feel a bit more confident because I have.

Good crit partners are worth their weight in gold---and they'd never let me get away with keeping that cliche.....

And Renee, I'll hold my hand up as an unromantic romance writer--hubby wishes I were romantic and I always feel like a fraud. hahahahaha

Mary Connealy said...

These are great solid basics, Missy. Good for you.
This goes two ways for me.
1) I never let my critique group see an unfinished work.
I finished it, then started the critique process. Two many voices, when our work is in it's creation stage, can really mess with an author's head. It can redirect the path your story was going to take if you'd been at the wheel alone.
Finish the book, then critique. DO NOT--write two chapters, send them to the critique group, fix those two chapters, then write two more. NO, don't do that. You'll lose your way.
2) Protect the work to me, also means, don't let anything stop you from writing. Don't agree to do volunteer work and favors and fetch and carry for people who can do it for themselves, at the expense of your writing.
Of course we've all got lives and we need to spend time on our day jobs, our children, our husbands, our church, whatever needs doing, but there is a limit and you can easily fill your life up and leave no writing time. PROTECT THE WORK.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Another great preacher takes the pulpit.

Preach it Mare!


I totally agree.

Let the editor be your critique group.

Tina Pinson said...

Great tips, Missy.

Gotta love that chapter five... I have to remember to keep plugging away and for sure work on a story and get it done, they kind of go hand in hand, I figure if my muse is missing in action on one story, she or he will visit on another. Which is true sometimes and others they stay for a few chapters and want to move on.

I have been trying to stay on task with one story.

And I totally agree with Miss Mary... people think since I'm home writing I should be able to take care of things. No is a good word.

although yes is pretty good for contracts and such.

Jenny Blake said...

Im not a writer but point 5 is valid in many things. Life happens be prepared to go with the flow (sorry paraphrasing I think) I am in another wave of grief right now hopefully its easing but I know when it hits its hard to concentrate and do simple things (like cooking something to eat) I admire the authors who have to keep going at this time.
I wonder if having something to do makes it easier to cope or harder. I find I wonder if having something to keep busy would help with the grief.

How is your dog today?

Bridgett Henson said...

Maybe it's the early morning hours but I keep thinking this blog should be titled...(wait for it)....(wait for it)...

Tips from Tippins!


Thanks for the push to keep plodding along.

Enter me for the critique.

Mary, I so agree about the critique group. Wait until finished; then critique. There are too many voices in my head as it is. It's dangerous to add outside opinions too soon.

Annie Rains said...

Best writing advice: Keep Writing.

When I first started writing with the goal to be published I wrote for five years. After that time, with no agent and no publishing contracts, I just stopped. For years! Or I'd try to start writing again, write a few pages and decide it was garbage and throw it away. Now that I'm back in the game, I've decided to KEEP WRITING, no matter what. If it's garbage, it's my garbage and it makes me happy :)

Thanks for today's post. I would love to be entered in a drawing for a 5 page critique.

Hope your dog is feeling better!

Karin Beery said...

Best advice: word counts! I don't have a daily word count (as I don't have a regular schedule), but I do try to meet weekly goals. It works for me :)

Victoria said...

I think the thing I have to work on the most is moving on instead of rewriting and rewriting :) Thanks for the tips!

Please enter me in the drawing for the critique!

Jackie said...

Hi Missy,

Thanks for sharing your top five writing tips today.

How much do you polish your story before starting your next one?

Do you write, let your two crit partners crit it, fix it then finish? Or is there something else?


Jackie L.

Amy Campbell said...

Great tips, Missy!

Missy Tippens said...

Good morning, everyone! Virginia, I guess writing what you love to read is another piece of advice I could have used. :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Renee, isn't that the truth?! And for me, what happens is I lie in bed and think I'll write it down in the morning. And then it's just totally gone! Poof. No memory at all of the great idea. ;)

pol said...

What a wonderful Birthday month for Seekerville....
I never knew so much went into being an author and writing books that I take so much for granted. I have learned so much since joining you ladies on your journey. I tend now to think more of all the work that went into a story as I read and enjoy it.
thanks for your dedication.....
Paula O(

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks for stopping by this morning, Tammy!

Helen, that's a great tip too!! I've also heard that the one who get published are the one who don't give up. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Tina, I've heard you give that advice before! I've also offered it many times. Great minds and all...


Missy Tippens said...

Christina, thank you!! My dog is finally a good bit better this morning! She's up walking around and finally ate a little.

Yes! Great advice, something I've had to remind myself often. K.I.S.S. (I use stupid in my head to myself but say keep it simple, silly, to others). :)

Missy Tippens said...

Melissa, you poor thing! But I bet the kids thought it was an exciting way to play hide and seek! :)

I love your advice for learning early on how to work on multiple manuscripts. I wish I had been given that advice! Thanks for sharing it!

Rose said...

Hi Missy,

I so agree with having someone you TRUST read your work and then if you make changes, make the change but be sure to make it fit your story.

I've received suggestions that if I implemented wouldn't even keep to the theme of the my book or the actions wouldn't be true to my character.

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I learned the hard way that I needed to finish at least half the book before getting critique. It used to stop me from writing for weeks on end when I got chapter by chapter critiques. I've figured out it's more helpful to do brainstorming at the early part instead of critique.

Hey, I like your take on Protect the Work! I need to do more of that.

Missy Tippens said...

Tina P, that's another piece of advice that should be mentioned: Practice saying NO! :)

Jessica Nelson said...

Hi Missy! I'd love to be entered for a critique. :-)
Great tips. My fave is keep writing. Which kind of goes with your tips too. I like Virginia's "read your genre" too.

Missy Tippens said...

Jenny, I'm sorry your grief is hitting you in another wave. It's going to take time to heal. And yes, I think keeping busy can help some.

Thanks on my dog! She is doing better today!

Susan Codone said...

Thanks for these tips! The Keep Writing is the hardest, because so many things pop up. Kids need to be fed...

I've started printing out a few pages and carrying them around with me, writing in bits. It doesn't work long-term, but it helps me stay engaged through the day.

I'd love to be entered for the first page critique and the Kindle.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Bridgett!! And believe it or not, I didn't even see it coming! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Annie, that's great advice. Like don't give up. It's so easy to get discouraged after years of trying. I nearly gave up several times but was just too stubborn. And honestly, I think the only thing that kept me going was my group of writing friends and the writing community. I couldn't imagine my life without them! Well, that and the fact God had other plans. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Karin, what great advice!! Goals really do help lead to progress! Thanks for sharing that. Now I'm wishing I did a list of the Top 10 tips. I guess I can do that for our 10th birthday. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Victoria, it sounds like you have the same problem I always had. :)

Carol Moncado said...

First 5 pages. I'm in. Especially since FIRST IMPRESSIONS STARTS TODAY!!!!

Er, right.

Keep writing even when your team's in the big game.

I did root for Buster, Missy. But I couldn't root for the rest of his team... So sorry.

Er, right.

Protect the work - or some variation there of. Heard that a lot.

To go along with what Melissa said - I've heard you should be working on 4 books at a time:

1. Brainstorming/rolling around in your head
2. Writing
3. Editing
4. Marketing [either to editors/agents or as a published book]

As of today... I have an eleven year old. So birthday cake all around!

Yes. For breakfast. ;)

Missy Tippens said...

Jackie, thanks for the question! I give the mss a couple of read-throughs and then type in my changes. Then I do one more read-through. Then I send off for critique. So it's pretty polished. Of course, since I'm so close to the mss, my read throughs don't fix plot and character problems. My cp's find those. :)

Once I get the critiques back, I go through with both the critique files open, making changes on my mss. Once I get it all done, I have my husband do a final read through for typos and inconsistencies.

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Amy!

Paula, I wish we could somehow show all the angst that goes into writing! LOL But then we might scare you off from reading. :)

Julie Steele said...

Missy, I miss you. Glad I can "see" you here in Seekerville. Great post.

The one that struck me most was "protect your work." I hadn't thought of my writing in those terms.

"Finish one and move ahead." I am sitting down today to get going on finishing my book. The sequel is sketched out. A contemporary is started.

"When life happens...." This is where my own tip to myself comes in. I write to get myself through the tough times. But I also have times when my brain and body don't cooperate. When those down times come along, I read craft books or take an on-line class in order to keep moving forward. See the quote below:

"I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it." ~Ernest Hemingway

Put me in for the prize!

Peace, Julie

Missy Tippens said...

Rose thanks for stopping by! Yes, it's so important to find someone who gets your writing and who gives trustworthy feedback. I owe my cp's so much, I can never repay it!

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Jessica! I agree with your favorite tip as well. Like I said earlier, I need a top 10 instead of top 5! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Susan C., that's a great idea to take pages with you. I used to take my Alphasmart with me to jot a few words while in the carpool line. Nowadays, my kids are driving so that leaves more time to write!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Carol! I appreciate you rooting for Buster even while pulling for the Cards to win. :)

Happy birthday to your 11 year old!! Cake. The breakfast of champions. ;)

Missy Tippens said...

Julie S I miss you too! It was so fun getting to spend time with you at M&M. I hope you'll come back next year!

I love that quote! Thanks for sharing. Yes, we need to refill the well. Sometimes, the trick is figuring out how to do that. For me, it's taking time to read and relax. Or to watch Castle. :)

Janet Dean said...

Great tips, Tippens! Couldn't resist using Bridgett's brilliant title suggestion. :-)

Lots of interest in winning one of your critiques, Missy, which proves these writers trust you.

Relieved your doggy is up and eating.


Kav said...

This is great, Missy! Love them all and found your take on 'write what you know' refreshing. Which brings me to the fact that as I blog hop and read the experts I'm finding that one writer's gospel truth often conflicts with another writer's gospel truth which left poor little ol' me circling in a tizzy.

I'm finally figuring out that I need to create gospel truths that apply to me and my writing. That doesn't mean I discount the pros -- but I have to make it work for me. I was getting bogged down with all the rules and that was causing me to freeze when I sat down at the computer.

Janet Dean said...

Jenny, keeping busy helps and perhaps finding a new activity that excites us, though we need to allow ourselves time to cry. Praying for you.

Hugs, Janet

Janet Dean said...

Melissa, sorry a power outage turned you into a pioneer woman. Congrats on keeping your composure.


Jeanne T said...

Sandra, great post today! I've heard all the tips you shared before, and I enjoyed hearing your take on them. Made a lot of sense to me.

I haven't read the rest of the comments yet, but one thing I have heard is just write. When I began writing, I'd write a chapter and edit it to death. Then, when it felt perfect, I'd try and re-create momentum to write the next chapter. And begin the process again. When I tried NaNo last year, I planned ahead (plotter fanatic that I am) and I just wrote. I wrote 60,000 words and finished my story in January. Discovering that I could turn off the perfectionist and just write has been so freeing! So, that's probably the most impacting writing advice I've received. :)

Please enter me in the drawing for the critique.

Missy Tippens said...

Kav, such a great point. DON'T LET THE RULES BLOCK YOUR WRITING! That probably comes under the heading of protect the work.

You need to be in creative mode (no rules) to write your first draft. Just have fun and put the words on the page. Then you'll have something to revise. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Janet, thanks. Of course, it may just be that they don't know me well enough! ;)

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne T, you confirmed what I just told Kav. Just plow through that first draft! I'm so amazed that you wrote that 60k in a month!! Congratulations!! I assume you'll be doing it again this year?

Jeanne T said...

Missy, actually, after I wrote my story last year, I went to a writing retreat in Feb of this year and realized I needed to re-write it. It's so much better! I got 94K written in 5 1/2 weeks, which took me to the end of May.

Then, summer happened, and the kids were home, we had travel plans and the kids were time for revising. I'm revising now, and I'm determined to finish this book once and for all. :) I'll probably do my personal NaNo early next year. :) Maybe I'll be able to the Book in a Month if you ladies do that again. :)

Zan Marie said...

Enter me in the critique contest, please.

My favorite advice is "kill your darlings." It sounds strange to cut the lovely little images and bits, but we had to be tough when those darlings don't fit the scene well.

Joanne Sher said...

Would LOVE a critique.

And my tip? Keep going. Which I should be doing right now ;)

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

The best advice I've received is:

Read, read, read, then write, write, write, then submit, submit, submit. Only the authors who submit get published by a publishing company.

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne, that sounds like a great plan! It sure worked to get a book done quickly. Now you can play with it and make it just the way you want it. :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Missy! How is your dog doing? So sorry about your sick puppy.

There are so many great writing tips out there that I have to be reminded of! I just remembered one that I had forgotten and I'm so glad I am remembering it again. I'm writing a blog post about it which Audra has invited me to share on Seekerville, so you'll see it Nov. 1st! :-) It is an all-important question that I used to ask myself constantly when I was writing and plotting. Things go much smoother when I remember to ask myself this question! It is all about the romance and the satisfaction of the reader!

Anyway, great post, Missy!

Missy Tippens said...

Zan Marie, I almost included that one!! It was in my mind as I was hiking on Saturday. Of course, by the time we got home that evening I had totally forgotten it. LOL Yes, I need to write things down!

I'm getting better and better with each book about "killing" the stuff that doesn't fit. I manage to do it by starting a "cut" file for each book so that I know it's still there in case I ever want to go fetch it. :) I RARELY use those cuts. Although on my last book I did go back and get one!

Missy Tippens said...

Joanne, we're watching...go back to it! (grin)

Missy Tippens said...

Lena, that's great advice! So many writers sit on their work either waiting to make it perfect or fearing sending it out. You can't sell unless you submit first! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Melanie, she's doing much better! I'm so relieved. As my son carried her to the car at 2 am Sunday, he told her he loved her in case it was goodbye. She was that bad. We really thought she was dying. So we're celebrating today!

I can't wait for your post!!!

Lyndee said...

Happy Monday, everyone! HiI Missy. Great post and you got me thinking right out of the gate this morning.

I've been inspired by Nora Robert's statement, "You can't fix a blank page." That said, I do fall into the pit of writing and rewriting. My son calls my writing style 'fluffing.' It's the 'can't eat just one chip' philosophy. If I write one sentence, I will add two more so it's not lonely, lol.

That's probably why I'm not intimidated by manuscript requirements of at least 70,000 words! The trick is this style needs line-by-line edits and sometimes it's hard to give up some of the fluffy stuff for the hard-chiseled sentences. It's an art, ahem...and as a Mom of Pomeranian dogs, you must know that I REALLY like fluff! ;)

On the other hand, even the dogs shed!

Christina said...

Melissa and Carol, I've been trying to have one in the plotting stage, first draft stage, editing stage, complete stage continuously since I finished my first manuscript.

I have found it doesn't always work, because one will need more attention than the rest.

Lyndee said...

Dyslexia...Not Hil, but HI Missy...Where do those crazy words come from in my brain? ;)

Delores Liesner said...

Great tips - the protecting comment not what I'd expected (was thinking copyright).

I'm just thinking of going over to the dark side of fiction and would love a first page critique!

Christina said...

Annie, I have a dear friend who has always wanted to be a writer. Something happened, probably something someone said, a someone she probably respected and she quit. She picked it back up years later. Not only is she one of the most beautiful people inside and out, she has one of the purest, most lyrical voices I've ever read. Reading her stories is like waltzing to Chopin underneath a full moon. The cadence of her stories are beautiful, enchanting, entertaining (not that I've ever waltzed before *g*). Her quitting robbed readers of that beauty. I can not wait until she is published so everyone can read her stories.

So, Annie, don't quit. Keep writing. God has a plan for you. I'm learning, yes I get frustrated and throw my hands up, too, but I'm learning God's timing is PERFECT.

Christina said...

Jenny, I've never truly lost anyone close to me, other than one of my animals. But I do know writing, even if only in a journal, helped me tremendously when a family member killed himself.

The Artist Way talks about the need for journaling and how it helps get all the crud out of the way so the creativity can flow. I think this holds true for all others too. It helps get the emotions out so they aren't bottled up. You could even write letters.

I will pray for you, Jenny. May God bring you comfort during your grief. May he give you reasons to smile. May he restore your JOY.

Anonymous said...

I love Mary's comment about protecting the work.

When I first starting writing, I started entering contests. I listened to every judge's comments and changed my story. Over and over. I learned to HATE that story and didn't even know how to proceed. Now, 10 years later, that story is still not finished.

Connie Queen

Jan Christiansen said...

"I always, and I mean ALWAYS, hit a wall around chapter five."

I'm so glad you shared this! That's exactly what happens to me. It's about that time that I seriously doubt my writing abilities. I have several 5 chapter starts in my computer. Next time that happens, I'm gonna just push past it no matter what!


Jan Drexler said...

Hi Missy!

And before I forget, yes! Please put my name in for a critique. I'm trying something new in this story, and I'd love to see how it flies.

The best advice I've gotten has been here on Seekerville - and it's been a lot more than only 5 tips.

But if I have to choose one - it's to protect the writing time. Like Mary said earlier, it's too easy for everything else to get in the way, and then you'll never get a word on the page. Set up a time and place to write, and then keep that commitment as if the world would come to an end if you didn't.

Mine is early in the morning before distractions have a chance to pounce :)

So glad your dog is doing better today!

Myra Johnson said...


These tips are right on the mark!

I eschewed crit groups several years ago (always wanted to use that word in a sentence--LOL!). Just couldn't handle exchanging the next portion of our work every week or two and depending so much on "committee" feedback. Mary is right--it derails your personal vision for the story.

On the other hand, pre-publication, I'd have to argue in favor of critique groups. It's one of THE best ways to learn the craft, but only if you respect your partners' experience and knowledge.

Bottom line, as Mary said:


Pepper said...

Oh Missy,
What a great post!
I totally hit my writing 'block' between chpts 4 and 5. UGH!
Having 2 projects going at the same time really helps me with this, though. If I hit a block in one, I move the other until I hit a block, and then I move back.
Sounds confusing.
But it also sounds like my brain :-)
I LOVE the 'be flexible' one - just because it's what HAS to happen in my life on a daily basis, but I can tend to allow those distractions too much time and 'excuse'. I've become a lot more serious about my writing time, lately - but when I NEED a break, I take one.

I just wanted to share something that really inspires me while writing is READING in the spirit of my own writing. It doesn't have to be a CR when I'm writing a CR, but it can be a book with the same spiritual message, or similiar character, or like-storyline - and it really helps my writing, my creativity, and 'the block' :-)

My 14 year old son has been writing for about 2 years. For the first time, two days ago, he sent me his manuscript and asked me to edit it! He's a GOOD writer, and will probably be published before me, but his wordsmithing encouraged my own. Love that!

Pepper said...

Oh good.
3 or 4 books going at one time?
Got that covered. :-) LOL
Thanks for the permission, Melissa

Carol Moncado said...

/copies and pasts Mama's comment/

Jan - I WILL remind you about this next month! You WILL press through!

Pepper said...

Ooo, Mare
Great words!
Protect the work in the creative phase? I hadn't thought about how much that can really modify the heart of your story.

I'm thinking deeply now.
Need chocolate.

Linnette R Mullin said...

Great post, Missy! I needed the reminder to push through. Loved your variations, too, since different things work for different writers. :)

Please enter me in the drawing. I'd love to get your feedback on book 2. :D

Alexandra said...

I'd love a first page critique!

My problem is definitely sticking with it and getting the first draft done without rewriting and editing over and over. Thanks so much for the post!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Lyndee! I love your shedding fluff comment! :) My kids were always like that with art projects. They never knew when to stop. Had to fill every inch. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Delores, come on over to the dark side. You'll never regret it! :)

Christina said...

Pepper, I read your comment about your son on facebook. He inspired me. And what a blessing for you as a mom.

Missy Tippens said...

Christina, what a sad story about your friend giving up. I'm so glad to hear she's writing again. I hope you'll let us know when we can read one of her books!

BTW, the way you described her writing was beautiful in itself!

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

My muse is having a hissy fit! She says you are a very bad influence. She’s calling all her sisters right now! The last thing she said to me before slamming the door was: “If I am going to listen to Miss Missy, then she can supply all my inspiration from now on! Creative women! : )

I love your ‘protect your work’ advice. I can just see you as a mama grizzly and your WIPs as cute little cubs.

I have a few writing quotes I can offer:

“You don’t have to write what you know but you do have to know that what you do write is right.”

“A writer needs to know when to show and when to tell and when to do both. Nothing is either/or.”

“A writer needs to provide his muse with as much inspiration as he receives in return. Musing is a two way street. Don’t expect more from a neglected muse than you would from a neglected wife.”

“Writing is a performance art. It’s not about putting words on paper anymore than music is about putting notes on sheet music. It’s all about creating an experience in a reader’s mind. Always ask yourself as you write: ‘what is my reader experiencing at this point?’”

“None of the thousand different things you need to learn to write well is hard to learn but leaning a thousands things is.”

If you don’t reward your reader for reading your writing your reader will reward the authors who do.”

And for those who love philosophy:

“Have the story that your story is about address the human condition is such a way that your reader feels that she has had a profound experience.”


P.S. Please put me down for a first page critique. The judges said I need to open my story with the heroine and not the hero. And now, I can’t count on my muse helping me. : (

Missy Tippens said...

Connie, I'd suggest looking for the oldest version of that story that you can find. Read through it and then either work with that or just open a new file and start fresh. See if you can find the heart of the story that you had originally.

I'm sorry that happened to you.

Missy Tippens said...

Jan, chapter 5 seems to be a common snag for a lot of writers. I think because you're heading into the "sagging middle" part which can be intimidating! I just sit there and think, "Oh my gosh. I have no idea what to do next!" LOL

Just hang with it. Push through. You'll eventually get on a roll again.

Missy Tippens said...

Jan D, another great piece of advice! Protect the writing time. Man, I need to take that one to heart!

Pepper said...

Thanks, Christina. I'm so proud of him. Not too sure about all this weird 'fantasy' stuff he's writing about, but I'm proud of him. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Myra, I'm so glad I gave you a chance to use eschewed. LOL!! I'm duly impressed. :)

Elaine Clampitt said...

Thanks for the post, Missy. I think #2 is always a good reminder for me. I used to think that published authors must have been "inspired" or had their muse working for each book instead of writing no matter what because they had a job to do. Maybe it's thinking that creativity has to be inspired instead of realizing it can also be just plain hard work.

Good tips!

Pepper said...

btw, Missy - I'd love to be in the drawing for a first-page crit.

Missy Tippens said...

Pepper, what great advice to read something similar in message!

Oh, I love that your son is writing! And that he's having you read it for him. You'll have so much fun working together. You know, you'll have to tell him that at conferences last year I heard publishers are really looking for the next big series for boys to fall in love with. There's a market for anything a boy his age writes (assuming he's writing what he'd love to read). So exciting!

Missy Tippens said...

Linnette and Alexandra, I'm glad you found it helpful!

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, I'm so sorry to have offended your muse!! ;) Tell her that I'm sorry and to please come back out to play.


Thanks for sharing your great quotes! Here's my fav:
“Writing is a performance art. It’s not about putting words on paper anymore than music is about putting notes on sheet music. It’s all about creating an experience in a reader’s mind. Always ask yourself as you write: ‘what is my reader experiencing at this point?’”

I'm such a music lover that this really spoke to me. I'll be doing more of this from now on!

Missy Tippens said...

Elaine, I guess for me it's a mix of inspiration and hard work. Sometimes the words just pour out, and later I'll re-read it and hardly remember writing it. Those are precious moments!

Other times (more often), I struggle through and push words out that I think pretty much stink. LOL Those are the scenes that I end up cutting or revising heavily (especially after getting them critiqued). But they often turn out to be some of my favorite scenes.

Jamie Adams said...

Great tips, Missy! I love to say Missy... it's the 'nickname' I have for the twins when they think they're too big for their britches. (It's totally a term of endearment... when they are in trouble it's GIRLS!)

Anyhow, Keep Writing is the best tip ever. and I'd love to be entered in the 5 page critique!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice, Missy.

The good thing is I learned from my mistakes and no longer run w/every suggestion.


Vickie McDonough said...

Great advice, Missy. I've learned so much about writing since I first started and heard lots of great advice. One thing I'd share is something my agent, Chip MacGregor said at the ACFW conference one year.

Everyone needs a Paul, Timothy, and a Barnabas in their lives. You need someone who is ahead of you to help you continue learning, a peer (friend) whom you can share your troubles and successes with, and someone to mentor that you can help in their journey. (And sorry, Chip, if I didn't quote that just like you did)

Andrea Strong said...

Feeling a bit discouraged, and the tips are helping. "Protect the work" for me right now means protecting the daily writing time...something I'm not doing well right now. It's so easy to let family and church responsibilities interfere and pull me away. And of course, there are those people in my life who prefer it that way.

Thanks for all the encouraging words.

I'd love a first page critique. I'm still thinking of entering First Impressions.

andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

Andrea Strong said...

Happy Birthday to Young Miss Moncado. Carol, give her birthday hugs from Erika and me!

Debby Giusti said...

Nodding my head at all the great advice you offered, Missy, along with the advice mentioned in the comments.

My advice:

IGNORE THE NEGATIVE VOICE, as in that internal negative voice that tries to hold me back.

I'm getting better, but the voice can still trip me up.

Jill Weatherholt said...

Thanks for a great post, Missy! I really needed to hear #3 ~ so thank you. I hope your dog is feeling better.

Missy Tippens said...

Jamie, that's so cute! So when you talk to me, I'll just pretend that I'm being cute and maybe a little too big for my britches. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Vickie, that is great advice from Chip! Thanks for sharing.

Missy Tippens said...

Andrea, there have been times in my writing life when I could only write at night after everyone went to bed. I used to write pretty much from 11 pm to 2, 3 or even 4 am. Of course, I was younger then. :)

Maybe you can squeeze in time late at night, even if for only an hour. Or do like Ruthy and write in the very early morning. That way no one around you feels writing is taking time away from them.

Missy Tippens said...

Andrea, there have been times in my writing life when I could only write at night after everyone went to bed. I used to write pretty much from 11 pm to 2, 3 or even 4 am. Of course, I was younger then. :)

Maybe you can squeeze in time late at night, even if for only an hour. Or do like Ruthy and write in the very early morning. That way no one around you feels writing is taking time away from them.

Missy Tippens said...

Debby, thanks for mentioning that negative voice!! I still battle it constantly. We all need to FORBID that voice and ban it from our heads!

PatriciaW said...

Variations on Trust your gut/trust yourself.

This is about writing process. Pantser or plotter. Best way to plot. Character first or plot first. It took me years to get to a point where I stopped trying to find THE way to write and began trusting myself to write, developing a process that worked best for me. I'm still perfecting it, and still learning from others, but I know there's no "right way" and that what works for others may not work for me.

Variations on The words won't write themselves. Always true. Still difficult at times. I need to get better about protecting my writing time.

Missy Tippens said...

Jill, I'm glad it was helpful. And thanks! My dog is feeling better. She's a 12 year old lab who played with my son's puppy--as in a big, heavy young pit bull who's massive and feels like you're being hit by a bowling ball when he runs into you. The best the vet can tell, she somehow got injured in playing and was in terrible pain. Rest and pain medicine have helped. She finally ate again this morning.

Missy Tippens said...

Patricia, you're so right! We need to trust our own methods and not try to copy the latest greatest method out there. :)

Natalie Monk said...

Love these tips and your thoughts on them, Missy.

One piece of advice I really took to heart on my first draft was, "Don't get it right, just get it written." I now have an 85,000+ word collection of episodic scenes on my hard drive and have only really started learning how to plot and write on this second draft, which differs so much from the first, it's like another book altogether(a good thing).

I think the Lord knew I needed that feeling of accomplishment and "I can do it" from writing "the end" before I found out that I didn't know how to write at all. LOL!
Learning how is quite fun, however, and I'm eager to take these tips to the keyboard with me.

Jo Russell said...

Hi, Missy! You are so right about keepin' on. We have to keep writing in spite of rejections and forget about inspiration, but focus on nailing one's bottom to the chair in front of the computer.
Jo Russell, author, speaker

CatMom said...

Wonderful post, Missy (and prayers for your dog). I especially needed to read #3 about finishing a project and moving on to a new one! I tend to go back over and over a story--striving to make it better and stronger until I reach the point I'm driving myself nuts, LOL. So I may need to print out #3 and put it on my Idea Board that sits on my desk! ~ Another piece of advice that several authors have given me is to take my writing seriously, and even write on my calendar the hours I need to write each day to reach my word count goal. They've said even for unpubbed writers (moi) this is very important. ~ Thanks so much for sharing with us today, and please enjoy the Georgia Pecan Pie I just baked--warm from the oven, with vanilla ice-cream. Hugs, Patti Jo p.s. I never got to talk with you (or get a HUG!) at morning I saw you at a nearby table, but you were talking with someone. Later I never saw you...sniff...

Susan Anne Mason said...

Pecan pie! My favorite!

Thanks for the tips, Missy. I agree with all of them!

Love to be in the drawing for the critique (and anything else that's going on!)

Sue (who is struggling with edits! Why do I find it so hard to fix my stuff???) Where is the chocolate?

sbmason at sympatico dot ca said...

Thanks for your fresh perspective on writing tips. They gave me a lot of encouragement. :)

BTW, I'd love to be entered fro the critique. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Natalie, that's the spirit! I never will forget the first mentor I had. She's a multi-published author (ABA) who hired me as her assistant. I worked one day a week answering fan mail and doing office work for her. In exchange, she paid me plus read my work and gave feedback. After the first mss of mine that she read, she said, "Well, that's the best writing I've ever seen with absolutely no plot! But we can work on that." LOL! I'll never forget that. So funny but true. I had a lot to learn!

Missy Tippens said...

Jo, that's another that I've heard often. Must plant rear in chair!

Missy Tippens said...

Patti Jo, I couldn't believe when I got home from conference and found out you were there! I'm so sorry I never got a chance to see you. I just need to try to meet up with you sometime when we're heading to south Georgia.

Erica Vetsch said...

Such good points. I think the advice I'm clinging to right now is: Write the next book.

Though the one I SHOULD be clinging to is...Turn Off The Internet...:D

Cara Lynn James said...

I totally agree, Missy! I also wish I had several manuscripts waiting in the wings after I sold. I only had one, but it became Book # 2, Love on Assignment. Good thing I had it mostly written (though written badly and as a contemporary, not an historical) because Book 2 was due only a few months after I finished edits on Book #1, Love on a Dime.

I wish I had more stashed away!!!

Missy Tippens said...

Sue, it can be really difficult to fix our own stuff. Much easier to fix someone else's! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Barbara, I'm glad it was helpful.

Erica, I'm with you! I really should unhook for a few days. We were out of town last week for fall break, and I'm totally out of the writing habit. I actually didn't work at all from Monday to Thursday. It was great!

Missy Tippens said...

Cara, I'm glad I wasn't the only one! Although, you at least had one book that was usable. I only had a women's fiction that wasn't ready to publish and probably won't ever be. It's one of my "drawer books" now.

Piper Huguley said...


This was a great column with a lot of good advice. Thank you for writing it, even after your fall break! I am on my fall break now and I am trying do some editing to be able to enjoy it.

I would love to be entered for the critique, so put me in with everyone else who would like the benefit of your wisdom!


Melinda said...

I love the tips given here. I guess what I like is "Never give up" If you believe in your writing keep going....Thank you so much.

Please enter me for the 5 page critique.

Wonderful Post.

Pat Westmoreland said...

Great advice Missy! I would love to be entered for a critique. I haven't finished a manuscript yet but the day will come!

Nancy C said...

Gosh, what wonderful advice/tips in the post and the comments.

The whole 'protect the work' is something I learned the hard way after listening to too many opinions and trying to please too many people. Doing so killed the work. It's in my 'save' file and maybe I'll get back to it someday, but only when all those voices are gone from my memory :-)

Advice/tips I have received and like: Know the rules, and then know why you break them. Treat your writing like a profession and you'll be treated like a professional. When the writing is stale, do research; when the research is stale, edit; when the editing is stale, write; when all of it's stale, take a walk :-)

Would LOVE to be entered for the critique.

Thank you Missy!

Nancy C

Nancy C said...

P.S. So glad your dog is doing better, Missy. Pets are such treasures.

Nancy C

DebH said...

late to the party, but loving every word of it. i'm adding birthday ice cream for all in honor of my child unit who turned three today (mommy and son share birthday month with Seekerville... how cool is that?)

does it sound sappy to say the best advice i've gotten was "check out this blog called Seekerville..."

all the rest of the best advice has been dutifully noted since. noted, but not necessarily acted upon, because as much as i'd love a five page crit. i don't have said pages written. i'm still in the stage of how to adjust to a toddler, hubby and dog after spending the first two score years single. *red faced, embarrassed*

i am so enjoying birthday month here.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Missy, Those five are important. I agree. I also heard write every day, I like Mary's protect your work too. Great advice.

Vince, your quotes are great.

Looks like your offer to critique is popular. There will be five lucky winners out there because Missy is great at this. smile

Mary Curry said...

Late of course. Busy day at work.

I love the article and all the comments. Such good advice.

For me the two most important are:

Write what you love - even if it's not what you know. And the flip - don't write for what's hot if you don't love it.

2. Write. every. day. Something. It doesn't have to be ten pages (or even two) but make sure to get something down. It keeps you in your story but it also keeps your momentum up. It's so easy to get distracted if you don't hold yourself to something every day.

And Missy, I'd love to be in for a first page critique. Thanks!

Missy Tippens said...

Piper, I hope you have a great fall break, too! Enjoy the editing.

Missy Tippens said...

Melinda and Pat, I'm glad it was helpful!

Pat, yes, the day will come! You just have to keep plowing through. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Nancy C, you just need to shut those comments out NOW! Don't let them keep you from doing something you love (I'm assuming you love writing). :)

I love your advice sequence!! :)

Missy Tippens said...

DebH, that doesn't sound sappy at all! We love hearing that. :)

You know, the critique is actually just for the first page. (not 5). So if you change your mind, let me know to enter you! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, hey! So glad to see you. BTW, I don't know if I've said this yet or not, but I LOVE your new cover!!

Mary, writing every day is such good solid advice. It helps so much to establish a habit.

Katy Lee said...

Thanks Missy! Great tips!

As for me, when I started I didn't know anything, but surrounding myself with goal-oriented writers has made all the difference. I have kept my ego out of the mix and am always willing to listen.

Katy Lee

DebH said...

i'm glad i'm not sappy. i think Seekerville is a huge blessing. i guess i got confused with all the 5 theme stuff for the first page critique. that i believe i can do. please put my name into the ring.

thanks! this post and comments have been very helpful.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

LOL Melissa, who knew there were so many unromantic romance writers out there. You learn something new everyday over here!

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

It's probably been said but "BICHOK."

Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.

I've sure found these things don't write themselves!!!

Haven't had time to read comments but wanted to comment myself on your fine post, Missy! Happy 5th birthday SEEKERVILLE!!

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Missy i just saw your reply in response to my first comment. I've gotten some great blogging ideas at night only to forget them in the morning too. I've done it so many times it's hard to believe that I haven't learned to keep the pen and paper on the nightstand.

Missy Tippens said...

Katy, I'm with you on the listening. I'm always wanting to learn more!

Missy Tippens said...

Deb H, I'm glad you're entering! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Renee and Melissa, I meant to say earlier that my husband is more romantic than I am! I'm terrible about thinking to do romantic things.

Missy Tippens said...

KC, thanks for that reminder! We did mention it but forgot the acronym. :)

Thanks for the birthday wishes!

Terri said...

Missy - thanks for the great tips. Happy 5th birthday to all of you at Seekerville. I'd love to be entered for a critique.

Missy Tippens said...

Terri, I'm glad you stopped by! I've got you entered. :)

authorkathyeberly said...

A first page critique would be wonderful. I think the tip that I like best is to write what I know. I can't write about rocket science since I know nothing about it, but if I write about life in the country or in a small town I can fill reams.

Edwina said...

Great advice! I think the best advice I've gotten so far, is BICHOK. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. In other words, just do it.
Please enter me in the contest for the 5 page critique.

Julie Lessman said...

MISSY!!! Please forgive me for being SO late, but WOW, LOVED the post, my friend, ESPECIALLY "You don't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration."

OH, PREACH IT, SISTER!!! Excellent points all!!


Dawn Crandall said...

The tip I need to remember more often than not is the one about life getting in the way. I think I expect too much of myself. I try to get at least one chapter written every week. I also self-edit each chapter about 4 times during the week before moving onto the next. This is a great pace for me... an when I can't accomplish it because out outside-of-my-control circumstances... well, I just feel so unproductive!

Andrea Michelle Wood said...

Thanks fo this great post! Write what you know does seem a little imppossible unless you write a memior. Research skills are a must in writing fiction.

Please enter me in the critique drawing! Thank you.

Mary Preston said...

Excellent advice!!

VisionWriter said...

Thank you for the fantastic article!
I would love to be entered in the drawing for the kindle, but even more so for the first page critique!

Thanks so much!

Amber Schamel
Larkspur, CO

Susan Hollaway said...

Nice blog with wonderful tips, Missy. Thank you.

I'd love to be entered for a first page critique!

Missy Tippens said...

I'm so glad more of you dropped by! Y'all be sure to check the Weekend Edition for a list of critique winners.

Carol Garvin said...

Excellent tips, Missy! I'm sure deep down I've known them all but it seems to take someone else's prodding to remind me of their importance.

I also have to share this with a friend whose writing is in limbo. Maybe it will help her to hear this from you. My nagging hasn't helped.

And I'd love a first page critique. :)

Beverly Varnado said...

Missy, great concise article. I'll be sharing it with my writing group next week. Especially appreciate what you said about writing through ups and downs. During the time when my husband had cancer and another family member had serious challenges, I cared for them but still tried to stay focused to complete a daily word count. Writing can be a constant in a sea of change. Many thanks.

Delores Liesner said...

This column and many other are great. I'm enjoying traveling around your blog/site - there are so many timely and useful topics!

Missy Tippens said...

Carol G., I hope it helps! Sometimes ideas do seem to sink in better when from an outside source. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Bev, thanks for sharing it with your group. You make a great point that writing can be a comfort to us in tough times.

Delores, I'm so glad you found us!

Shirley Ann said...

Missy, Terrific writing tips! Wish I could get them to print out. What I plan to do is write (in quotes, of course :) ) your hint, then stick it near the computer as a reminder. It'll serve to wake me out of doubt, and just get on with the writing. Thanks again!

Annie Rains said...

I'm so glad I decided to come back and read all the great writing tips that I might've missed the other day.

Thank you so much for your kind words, Christina! Love all the great advice everyone had.

And so funny that there is so much confusion over whether the critique is for the first page or the first five pages, lol.

Missy Tippens said...

Shirley Ann, I hope they help keep you encouraged!

Annie, I'm glad you came back! :)

Cindy W. said...

The advice I hear most often and speaks to me from posts as well, is 'just write'. Sit down and write, you can always edit later.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Lady DragonKeeper said...

Even though it's applied to my school papers since I don't write fiction ... the most frequent advice I've been given regarding my writing is that I write too many run-on sentences! (Such as this one?)


Missy Tippens said...

Lady Dragon Keeper, we all have our weaknesses. :)

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Great tips like always Missy! I can't believe I'm commenting on a Monday post on Friday, but there you have it - life :)

cynthia said...

Thanks for the great advice--especially the one about protecting your work. After entering a contest, I think that is valuable advice, especially when the comments have different viewpoints on the same part of the story.