What Writing Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Writing Self?

Many of you have been writing for a long while, been traditionally published through big and/or boutique houses, or self-published. All of these struggles have brought knowledge gained through experience.

For discussion – What advice would you give your younger writing self when you were first starting out? Knowing what you do now, please give your top 3 tips.

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31 thoughts on “What Writing Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Writing Self?

  1. Study story structure and the mechanics of why a story works years earlier, rather than rewriting the first novel umpteenth times.

  2. Get rich early so you can retire and do all the writing you want & have the ability to do the research you want.

  3. 1.) Stop allowing your characters to take over your story and do whatever they want. They aren’t writers. You are.

    2.) Plot and structure matter, even to a pantser. You don’t have to do a 90-page detailed outline, but have a bird’s eye view of a story’s framework. Write it on a cocktail napkin.

    3.) Settle down with the flowery prose. (Yes, you can overdose on adjectives.) Simple works if you choose the right words to create imagery or explore the emotions of a character,

  4. 1) Be kind and honest to yourself, simultaneously. Only then you will be able to be kind and honest with others and in your writing.
    2) Don’t look for your voice. You have one already. And it’s always changing. Discover it in each moment anew.
    3) Pay attention to your fun-detecting-antenna. Fun is not a bonus, it is a must, and a tool to guide you both in learning how to write and actually writing.

  5. Based on where I am in the current WIP …

    1) Keep track of EVERYTHING. Don’t wait for a 6 book deal to decide your book might end up part of a series. Characters, yes, but also the details that will come back to bite you. Recurring settings. Vocabulary. Everything.

    2) If you’re serious, writing is a job. Treat it as such. (But yes, it has to be fun.)

    3) Read. Read. Read.

  6. Wow, easy. You’ll forgive me the use of the royal we since I’m talking to myself here.

    1. Follow (adhere to) Heinlein’s Rules.
    2. Trust your subconscious mind. It’s been telling stories since before we were aware there was an alphabet.
    3. Drop into the story and run through it with the characters (vs. being The Almighty Writer on High). Act as their recorder. Remember it’s their story, not ours. They’re living it.

  7. 1. Don’t think your first novel is the greatest story ever written and a publisher will instantly snap it up.
    2. No matter how much talent people say you have, it still takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to proficiency.
    3. Go back and thank those mean old critics who told you the truth you didn’t want to hear back then.

  8. Assuming we’re talking about writing a novel . . .

    1. Write the damn story. (Yes, that again.) Improving your skills through classes and workshops is fine–maybe even necessary–but reading about writing and talking about writing is not, in fact, writing. Tie butt to chair. Write. Revise. Repeat.

    2. Accept and embrace the fact that your first story (or the first three, in my case) will suck. As long as successive stories suck less than the preceding ones, you’re making progress. Writing is a craft, and there is no better teacher than a swing and a miss.

    3. Remember that it’s only a story. It is not your identity, and it’s not your job (yet). Criticism is not personal. Family and bill-paying activities must always come first.

  9. 1. Don’t base characters off yourself and friends

    2. Don’t try to recreate someone else’s story

    3. Don’t try to please your friend with what you put in your story (because it was plagiarism, and you hated it anyway)

  10. Not to believe the professor who said, “Learn the short form and the long forms will take care of themselves.”

    Meaning, if you learn to write short stories, then you will have learned to write novels. I quote Erma Bombeck, who was not a novelist: “It ain’t true, McGee.”

    You don’t learn to fly 777 airliners by learning to drive Volkswagens. I find the sage advice by us third graders more useful: “You got to be taught by a Hottentot.”

  11. Here are three things I have learned:

    1. Don’t let other people in too early.
    2. Trust yourself and your ideas.
    3. More than three days away from the story seriously screws with flow.

  12. I agree with so much of what others have said. Here are a few thoughts:

    1. Find a way to write more when you’re younger. The years fly by. One day you’ll wake up and wonder if you’ll have enough to time left to write all the stories inside you. It’s sad when you have to say, “Maybe not.”

    2. Don’t let anyone tell you that the arts are unimportant. Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg once said (paraphrased): A doctor bragged at a party that being a doctor was better than being a musician because doctors save lives. Her reply: “Yes, but musicians make life worth living.” Writing, music, and the arts are worthwhile pursuits. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    3. Read less. Write more. Divide your time. If you’re always reading, you’re not writing. No regrets about the time spent editing/beta reading, because analyzing the work of others is educational.

    4. Take more acting classes, even if it means you have to get down on the floor and pretend you’re a piece of bacon in a frying pan while you’re wearing a dress. Don’t ask.

    Better stop here. This group makes me too chatty… lol!

  13. 1. It’s okay to be weird, you’re a writer after all.

    2 Write…fail…write more…fail more…write better…fail better. Recognizing your own failure means you’re on the right road.

    3. When you think you are about to go over the edge … go.

    3.1. Pay attention to John Gilstrap’s three. They are gold.

    • I love “Write…fail…write more…fail more…write better…fail better”. Brilliant! 🙂 There is always progress, in everything. Even failure is not absolute. And we can choose to see it as a valuable lesson and not something negative. 🙂 “fail better” made me grin happily. 😀

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