Reader Friday: Advice

“If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass. If it persists, you probably ought to write a novel.” — Lawrence Block.

What’s the first word of advice you’d give someone who says to you, “I think I’m going to write a novel.”

22 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Advice

  1. “You’re going to write a novel? {Amadeus cackle} Bully for you! Do this:
    1) Take a vow of poverty.
    2) Go to the library and read a book on writing.
    3) Read 1 novel per week, 1 how-to-write book per month.
    4) When you can’t stop yourself, write your novel. It will stink.
    5) Join a weekly writers workshop.
    6) Read them your novel. They’ll tell you where it stinks.
    7) Revise it.
    8) Repeat steps 3) thru 7).

  2. Don’t have any regrets. If you want to write a novel, sit down and do it.

    I think the more specific a person is if they express an interest in writing a novel, the more likely they are to sit down and do it. It’s one thing to say “I think I’m going to write a novel.” which is kind of generic, as if you are lightly flirting with the idea, vs. saying “I’ve always wanted to write a book about someone who….” I feel it’s more highly likely that that 2nd person is going to follow through.

  3. Finish. Just finish the first manuscript. You may never look at it again, but you’ve accomplished it, and you can do it better, faster next time.

  4. When my nail tech found out I was a writer, she said, “I love to write. I’ve always wanted to write a book.” I said, “Do it.” Let her discover it’s not as easy as everyone seems to think.

    • That was Bradbury’s advice: write a short story every week. He told us: “It’s impossible to write 50 bad short stories.” I imagine that’s true, since most will stop after 5 or 10 awful efforts.

  5. Do it. It’s one of the most illuminating, satisfying, and frustrating things you can ever do. Learn the craft, work hard, and never give up.

  6. It depends on where and who asks. If it’s an open forum like Quora, the question tends to be from people who think that they’ll knock out a book in a few weeks, sell it immediately, and buy a castle next to JK Rowling with the proceeds. I tell them to get a second job at McD’s because the money’s better. If they have a real question, I suggest the public library’s selection of how-to books to get a good overview of the process followed by asking real craft questions instead of generalities.

  7. “When you have the final draft, come talk to me and I’ll show you some pointers on how to self-publish it.”

    No point in talking about the publishing aspects of a hypothetical book.

    Most people don’t come back with a finished manuscript.

    One did: she was serious, and had been helping her husband publish his poetry – and had questions about the expense. It is irritating to most people to find out from their ‘publisher’ that they are required to purchase or sell 50 copies of the product at full price, beyond the other costs. She took to self-publishing like the proverbial duck to the liquid stuff, and is my only successful pupil to date. She got someone to help her format his poetry – not all that hard – and actually did it.

    I have reproduced, as an SPA.

    No other fiction writers, and I’m the only novelist/fiction writer in our retirement community. There’s still time.

  8. Wow, so much negativity. Forearms flung across foreheads all over the place. Lighten up. Writing fiction is fun. You’re telling a story, not finding a cure for cancer.

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