The Only Writing Advice You’ll Ever Need

JordanCraft, Fiction Writing, Writers Persist.12 Comments

There is an entire industry built around telling you what and how to write. Heck, I’m part of it, and proud to be. But I also understand that sometimes it’s daunting or even downright overwhelming to wade through it all and forge your own path. Which school or master do you listen to? What if you take the “wrong” advice and miss the “right” bits? I thought I’d cut to the chase for you and break it down into one single piece of advice which, if you do this, is the only thing that guarantees success for any published writer:

Write your butt off.

Forgive my crude phrasing. I know it’s not very elegant, but neither is the sad, unfulfilled feeling that comes with not writing. No matter what time of day, how many words you get out, whether you write for yourself or an imaginary adoring audience; if you need your lucky shark tooth, six cups of coffee, the blessing of a priest, your baby blanket, complete silence or a Mariachi band playing–set up the circumstances necessary to make yourself write. Consider the possibility that all you really need is something to write on and a few free minutes.

• The more often you write, no matter how long, the more likely you are to stick with it
• Thwart the “20 second rule” that can make or break your success by keeping the instruments of writing near or with you at all times.
• Stop seeking validation for writing. Do it to validate yourself.

Revise your butt off.

Once you’ve produced all that magnificent, burning hot writing, what now? Now you revise it. And revise it. Get to the heart of it. Make meaning. Make it pretty. Polish the sentences until they resonate like  church bells. Cut out the chaff. Get honest with yourself. Revision doesn’t have to be hard. Make it pleasurable by picking small pieces to work on. Imagine yourself burnishing a rough crystal you found caked in mud. There’s pleasure in scraping off the dirt to reveal what shines. Take time away after production of the work if you can’t revise without suffering.

Still need more?

• Read widely–across genres, styles, and authors
• Seek feedback from competent folks who can be honest with you
• Be brave enough to take the critique you solicit
• Separate your ego from your work to view it more objectively

Final Reminders:

• Talking about writing is not writing.
• Thinking about writing is not writing.
• Reading this post is not writing.

Go write!

JordanThe Only Writing Advice You’ll Ever Need

12 Comments on “The Only Writing Advice You’ll Ever Need”

  1. James

    Excellent post. Does writing a comment count? 🙂
    But as soon as I post this comment, I will be writing. Thanks and keep up the great conversation with us.

  2. Andrea van der Wilt

    Very true! And perfect timing posting this, thanks. I read an article yesterday about pacing (what should happen at which point in the story) and thought about a couple of quotes from famous authors, like Neil Gaiman (“Write.”) and Somerset Maugham (“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.”) before I returned to my current WIP without giving the pacing advice another thought. It was quite liberating 🙂

    1. Jordan

      Andrea, thanks for visiting. Obviously, beneath my whip-cracking there are real, useful pieces of craft advice…but for many writers the challenge is just to get writing!

  3. Glen Speering

    I think the “how to write industry” is more about positive reinforcement than anything.

    I haven’t met too many people that read such literature without having at least some good practices of their own. I haven’t read too much on the topic and gone, “Hey, I don’t do any of this”. Which is exactly why I read it – for positive affirmation.

    1. Jordan

      Yes, I think it is a mix of positive reinforcement and reminders, breaking down the big pieces into smaller, more manageable ones. I tend to read it when I’m struggling with a specific issue. And I write it when I see the same unresolved issue cropping up over and over in my clients’ work.

  4. Joyce H. Ackley

    This is an inspiring post. I want to make a comment about one of your final reminders: Thinking about writing is not writing. For me, it is, but I suppose what I do is actively think about writing, and that’s the difference. Sometimes a story will roll around in my head for days before I ever sit down to start writing it. I’ll create dialogue for the characters and develop scenes, conflicts, etc. Then I’ll start writing, and the story practically writes itself. I don’t always write using this method. Sometimes I’ll sit down and start brainstorming at the computer, and just let the thoughts flow.
    I love your post. It’s exactly what I need right now. Thanks.

    1. Jordan

      Joyce, thanks for your comments. And in truth, I agree that ultimately, real writers do indeed think-write. This post was aimed perhaps slightly more toward the writer who comes up with excuses for not writing. And some days that’s me, too 😉

  5. Pingback: The First Rule of Productivity for Freelance Writers | Bonnie Fox

  6. Andi Pearson

    Thanks, Jordan, you make a lot of sense. I often wake up with a sentence or even just a word that I know has to go into a story and I either jot it down or go right to the keyboard and put it in the right place. Then, of course, I find that my seat is in the chair – and I’m off in my character’s world – and getting it all down on the page. It’s good to be reminded that only writing is writing!

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