What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Writer Self?

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End of year is a time for reflection. So spill it. What advice would you give to your younger writer self…and at what age?

For an added degree of difficulty…would you listen? We’re all ears…

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

55 thoughts on “What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Writer Self?

  1. I don’t think I would give advice to my younger writer self. The harsh realities of this business can crush a young writer’s dream. The dream forced me to learn, grow, and persevere. Everything happened as it was meant to. Though, admittedly, I would have nudged Story Engineering toward me sooner. πŸ™‚

  2. Be both kind to and honest with yourself and become aware that these two are inclusive and can’t exist without each other. As soon as you will become truly kind to yourself (including honesty) then you will manage to be truly kind to others. This applies to anything including writing. I would tell me this after finishing school and starting the university. Due to the system I grew up within, this was at age 16. But I think here the change in stages of life are the clue. At least I think that I lost some kindness to myself along the way when let out into a big wild world. I’m recuperating it as I consistently write and observe myself through the process.

  3. I’m not sure I would give my younger self advice. For me there are two big issues pertaining to writing:

    1. Enjoying It: And I do write what I enjoy, even if sometimes others don’t agree with my path. So that one’s taken care of.

    2. The big obstacle to writing—TIME: And on this, my older self has still found no answers, so there’s absolutely no wisdom I can impart to younger self on this matter.

    • I don’t think my younger self would’ve listened to me but I may have loved the chance to affectionately whack the back of her head just for fun.

  4. “Don’t be impatient.”

    I actually did get this advice, from the novelist Darryl Ponicsan (The Last Detail). I wrote him when I was in college and he was nice enough to write me back. He gave me some writerly advice and finished with, “Be prepared for an apprenticeship of years.”

    He was right.

    • Loved the movie, had no idea that was a book. Recently learned the film, ‘Friends of Eddie Coyle’, was also based on a novel. Two great movies. I’ll have to read the books

      • Eddie Coyle is a book I reread about one a year. Each time I think I understand it better. At least I learn something.

      • Or not… think about it a LOT, study the craft, and write as you go (which is your point here, I believe; just clarifying, because “just write” is among the worst possible advise floating around out there). Writers who don’t think about what they’re doing, who sit down and “just do it” are the writers who have the longest, flattest learning curve. A good novel is too complex a beast to “just do it” from a position of “not knowing” what is involved. The only thing that awaits down at “the seat of one’s pants” is underwear. The story isn’t there waiting for you.

  5. Do as many crazy, interesting, and adventurous things as possible while you are younger. Learn everything you can and try everything that interests you. Even if you don’t always have the money. Try to find ways to enjoy and experience adventure and new things. Get out move around and “go” any chance that you can. You’ll have plenty of time to write about it later, when you’re older, and life and responsibility slows you down. However, if you can start writing seriously sooner, do so, because it is an adventure too and it will take you a bit to realize that pantsing isn’t quite so much fun as prepping, packing a bag, grabbing your map, and then zooming through scenic mountain passes while being able to enjoy the view and the trip and being able to arrive at the other side. πŸ˜€

    Would I do it? If I mentioned that motorcycles, world travel, other languages and cultures, deserts, mountains, ruins, and adventure were involved and I actively encourage as much of their inclusion as possible…. I think so.

    • Huge! Yes I love the “live an adventure” advice. I’m a bit like Sue in that things for me happened when I think they were intended. I believe an author needs the “seasoning” of life to truly bring something to the table.

      When I would’ve wanted a nudge toward writing in my 30’s, I was living my biggest adventure in Alaska. Those 10 years shaped who and what I would become on many levels. I definitely would not have wanted to take precious time to sit at a desk to write, not even during those long darker winters. There was too much to do and explore.

      Thanks Penny.

  6. I would take my 25-year old working-fulltime-wife-and-mother self aside and tell her not to wait for retirement to start writing seriously. Use lunch hours, kid nap times, whatever it takes.

    • Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar got me writing when he said he wrote his nonfiction books doing it “a page a day.” With his busy speaking, traveling, and grandad duties, he made time for things that were important to him. That was an important thing for me to hear. It got me to stop making excuses. Like Mike said earlier – “Just do it.”

  7. I would tell Little Kathy (as she was devouring Nancy Drews by the box load at age 10) that “regular” people can be writers. It never occurred to me to even try to write fiction until I was in my 30’s, and an editor friend invited me to submit a story idea. I thought writers were special, like celebrities, “artistes”. I would tell her to get her nose out of the books for a second and start meeting working authors. (I would not spoil her reading pleasure, however by revealing that writers were so normal, that Young Kathy herself would eventually pen four stories for ND. Or that, years later, she would realize that many of them were badly written and formulaic. πŸ˜€

      • It was a complete revelation to me. Nonfiction seemed the only approachable thing, so I dutifully headed to Columbia Journalism School. And discovered I was a terrible reporter–switching to fiction, when I finally woke up, felt incredibly liberating.

  8. That I should spend more time with Mrs. Pierson. She was our neighbor, and she had a huge collection of books. Her husband was an auto mechanics instructor. They had no children. She read tons and tons, and eventually wrote an unpublished history of the school where my dad and her husband taught.

    She had huge funds of knowledge on many subjects.

    I think even today that Mrs. Pierson knew I could be a writer. I had riches and in my grasp growing up, and I didn’t even realize it.

  9. I might stick with what Dorthy Parker said. β€œIf you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

  10. To not give up even when people criticize you.

    I was an avid writer as a child until the day my mom made a snarky, uncalled for remark about one of my stories. It came at a time when my self-esteem was particularly bad, so I quit writing, but I always had stories in my head. It’s taken me 25 years to find the courage to write those stories down. Oh, and my mom still hates my work.

  11. I don’t think I ever was a “younger” writing self; didn’t start until my AARP card was well-worn. But I was younger than I am now, if that counts. Since I had no aspirations to be a writer, I’d tell myself to keep having fun. Even after 20 published works, starting a new project instills the joy of discovery. And, since I entered the world of publishing in the digital age, I’d tell myself that there are lots of roads to follow, but they’ll all take work. Nobody’s going to knock on your door and ask if you happen to have a manuscript sitting around that you’d like to see published.

  12. I would tell my younger self to write like crazy and then edit later. I feel I wasted so much time worrying about my writing being great before I typed a word. I didn’t understand that editing gets me closer to greatness but writing gives me something to edit. I can’t edit what I haven’t written.

  13. Network.
    Make friends and listen to their advice. Be open to all ideas and good criticism. Play well with others.

    As I re-read that, I realize it sounds like good advice for kids as you send them off to kindergarten. πŸ™‚

  14. My advice: Discover your own way.

    There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
    W. Somerset Maugham

  15. Those tricky math captchas again! πŸ™‚ When I first got back into writing, after many years hiatus, I thought of many things that I regretted. 1) Not finishing my degree, 2) Not getting serious about it for so many years, and other regrets. I had an inferiority complex about those writers with all the degrees, and felt that I could never be in their league. I am taking forever with my WIP. I see many other writers that have written many books as I work on my first one. I read up on the craft daily, many from the TKZ bloggers, and study the craft. I have come to a realization that is so liberating. I don’t think I would give the younger writer any advice. Now is the time meant for me to write. I needed to experience all the things I have in my life to have my particular slant on things. No one can have my perspective. So, no regrets. I will continue from here and look forward to my writing now.

    • The journey you take & how you choose to make it happen, can only be traveled by you when you’re ready. I’m happy you’re taking tbis journey. You are in a minority. I applaud you. Happy holidays, Rebecca. Keep the faith.

  16. I would have told myself to record or write down my grandmother’s stories before she died when I was ten. She taught me to read, encouraged my imagination, and, more than anyone else, started me on my writer’s journey.

    She probably would have counseled patience, like Darryl Ponicsan whom JSB mentioned. The longer you live, the more experiences you accumulate to write about, and the more insight you have into those experiences.

    Equally important is Penny’s point, to live fully and have as many adventures as possible. My grandmother ran away from home at 16 (wicked stepmother), stole a boat, and sailed from England to Spain. She then became a nurse in the late Victorian era when nurses were considered barely above prostitutes because they saw naked men.

    If only I could remember more of her stories…

    • I can really relate to listening to the many stories of my grandparents too, Debbie. I also regret not keeping up with various diaries I started. One recorded my trip through Europe after my high school graduation. I got too busy living the adventure to take time away to write. Good and bad points to that.

  17. Don’t be scared of the monster under the bed, it’s just Gerald the Troll, and he’s more afraid of you than you are of him.

    Do be scared of Gerald’s brother Harold, the one that’s in the closet, behind the football shaped toybox. He’s the one that changed the heads off your sister’s barbies with the heads off your GI Joes, and then let you get blamed for it, he’s not a nice troll.

    Those funny little men you like to talk to in the woods at the back of the homestead, the ones Granda says don’t exist…they do exist, and you can trust them (mostly), especially Berthold, the beardless one. And you should trust them (mostly) because they’ll be around for the rest of your life.

    When you are 13 don’t do target practice with mom’s knitting needles into the back of the couch, because one of them will miss the couch and embed in the wall right above it and when you try to fix the tiny hole with a spitball and paint you will end up making a dent the size and shape of a knuckle exactly at the spot where dad rests his hand when he’s watching TV and you will practically go crazy worrying about whether or not he will notice it and you will end up getting tar kicked out of your clumsy bad shot of careless expletive, expletive, expletive and suffer stress, chest pain, and even ulcers well into your forties over the guilt of the cover up.

    Don’t waste your time or money on women until you meet that one Korean girl in Fairbanks in September 1987. She won’t speak English yet, but she will be impressed by your desire to speak to her and your ability to get through the language barrier and have conversations with her in spite of her limited vocabulary. She will be so impressed that one night a couple months later she will let you steal a kiss, then she will successfully steal it back, starting a cycle of romantic thievery that will last many decades with the culprits never being arrested as they continue in their crime spree.

    Learn to communicate smoothly and easily with eloquence that conveys the message beautifully, but doesn’t require big sentences or fancy words, but can be understood by a beautiful woman who speaks almost no English. (See Above)

    Learn to shoot and to fight. Learn to shoot accurately at any distance with speed and grace. And learn to carry the fight forward with violence of action. Always be the sheepdog. Seriously, never cease in that role.

    Use all the above in your stories so your dream of becoming a gajillionaire will come true, or at least the stories you tell around the camp fire will sound true.

  18. I knew I wanted to write fiction by the time I was 20, but the usual things like life, work, etc. got in the way. But there were two things I coulda, shoulda done:

    One was learn the craft, at least the basics. It took me about four years of work to get a reasonable amount of it down when I did start.

    Two was make notes of all those stories I ran across for years. I’ve had one of those adventurous lives, and I met numerous exotic people with exotic stories. I remember many of them, but I probably wasted a small library full of others.

    I think my younger self would have listened. I often knew I was hearing or seeing something unusual, but I was too lazy or distracted to capture them in detail. So a well aimed kick up the backside would not have come amiss.

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