With NaNoWriMo right around the corner (I’m not freaking out, are you freaking out??), it felt like the perfect time to get into the writing mood by — what else? — giving some writing advice. But this post isn’t just going to be me rambling on and pretending to know things. We’ve got something much better than that!
I reached out to some of my fellow bloggers/writers and asked the question: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received OR what is a piece of writing advice you’ve figured out and want to pass along?
So these are their answers! Read on to learn some truly wonderful writing wisdom, gain inspiration for NaNoWriMo, or just because you’re curious. Who am I to judge why you’re reading this post?
And a huge thank you to all the bloggers who took the time out of their busy lives to answer my question. You’re all brilliant and I loved reading your writing advice. It’s an honor to have you all on my blog!
Caro @ Bookcheshirecat
It’s so tough to choose between all the great advice I’ve gotten over the years. However, K.M. Weiland’s approach to Character Arcs is truly what revolutionized how I write my characters. Back in the day I didn’t even concern myself with character Arcs, which definitely showed in my stories 😅 Reading Weiland’s post series showed me how important it is to write realistic character growth. It can help you truly understand your character’s biggest insecurities and fears, which will drive their actions. In her posts, she approaches how you can find out your character’s Lie = the misconception they have about themselves & the world around them e.g. believing that money is all that matters, as well as the character’s Truth = what they need to realize in order to grow as a person e.g. that there’s more wealth in human connections. These two polar opposites drive the character growth and impact the direction your plot takes (though there are even more factors involved like the background story and what the character wants). This is especially important as character and plot are connected and influence each other, so you’ll want to write a character whose actions make sense and a plotline that fits the character instead of feeling forced on them. For more information check out the link I listed above, it dives deep into how your character deals with their misconception, wants, and the truth they need in the traditional 3 Act structure (perfect for plotters, but I’m sure panters can also take some tips from these posts!). I also highly recommend K.M. Weiland’s other series about developing scenes and plot 💕
Sophie @ Sophie’s Corner
The best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received is to accept imperfection and power through the first draft. Before my first NaNoWriMo, I’d begun a few novels that I’d never finished because I wanted each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence to be perfect. As a result, when I wasn’t satisfied with what I’d written, or when I wasn’t sure about the best way to write a scene, I’d hit a stumbling block and stop writing. I spent way too long deliberating over word choices, scene descriptions, who says what, and other details!
The truth is that a polished work of fiction requires multiple drafts, even for well-established writers. However we don’t typically see all the work that goes behind a book when we pick it up from the shelves—we only see the final version. Because of this, it’s so easy to compare what we write for our first draft to what we see on the bookshelves, when that isn’t a fair comparison at all.
NaNoWriMo has taught me that the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done. Revision and polishing can be done later on down the line, but you can’t edit a blank page.
When I had gone back and revised my previous manuscripts, what had surprised me was how much I had decided to change, so much that the little nitty-gritty details like word usage didn’t matter much in the long run. Many scene components that I had agonized over ended up being deleted anyway. This is not to say that the first draft isn’t important, it is so important for laying the groundwork for your novel and establishing the building blocks, but I’ve found solace in the fact that the first draft isn’t permanent, it isn’t written in stone. There is room for finessing and editing later.
Go on writers! Write the dream novel that you’ve always wanted. Some scenes will inspire you (and some scenes probably won’t and that’s perfectly fine!) Fight the urge to go back and edit—believe me, I’ve been there and I still have those moments—and keep on writing.
Eleanor @ Wishing Upon a Star
Writing is a very commendable art to pursue. It’s not an easy feat, as it is our job as writers to craft real, three dimensional characters, whole worlds, and intricate events with only our words. Words are peculiar things — they can be strong and powerful just as easily as they can be fragile and delicate. They are slippery when we need them most, they flow when we least expect. Frustration, sulkiness, and loneliness are inevitable emotions that we feel during the writing process. But despite it all, I truly believe that each moment I write is completely worth it. All setbacks have helped push me further. Each little success propels me to achieve a larger one.
We as writers are like our characters — we both need the motivation to continue and go on. So it’s essential that we know exactly why we are writing. The purest form of writing ideally comes from the heart. Not the desire for fame, awards, or even self-validation. It is for us. It comes from the depths of our souls. To put it simply, writers enjoy writing. We want to put our words out there. We are willing to shed blood, sweat, and tears for our stories to come to life. We want to inspire, make change for the better. We want to be there for the voiceless. We write because it is a gift and a duty. Not just to other people, but to ourselves. No one, and nothing, can ever take that from us.
Xandra @ Starry Sky Books
One of the best things I’ve realized over the years is that I really need to do things on my own time, in my own way.
I used to put pressure on myself to finish certain chapters by a certain date, or to complete a draft by the end of the year, but this never worked for me. What I really needed was some time to slow down and let the story unfold with time.
Everyone has different writing methods! To me, writing is a very personal thing. I’ve learned what works for me, and I have figured out how to pace things so that it all works out whenever I want it to.
Along with this realization, I’ve also discovered that I should really go with the flow when it comes to writing a first draft. I used to edit as I wrote, making sure that every paragraph was beautiful and made sense before moving on, but this really slowed down the writing process.
Now, I find it much easier to draft when I just let go of my editing worries and move on to what I want to write next. If I’m writing a scene and it’s not working out, that’s okay! I’ll just skip it and move on to the next scene, or maybe I’ll write a scene from a few chapters ahead.
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo and you’re a plotter like me, outline ahead of time! But if your outline doesn’t go as planned, that’s okay, too – for NaNoWriMo, what really matters most is that you get the words on paper. Try writing chapters or scenes out of order, or attempt to expand on an interesting side plot or character. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself on track, even if that means you write just 400 words on a particular day. Even if it’s hard to keep up with the 1,667 words per day, at least you’re doing something, rather than putting off the task for another day!
Ultimately, my advice is to try different things and see what truly works for you! If one thing isn’t working for you, try something new. I know it sounds difficult or scary, but you might just find a new favorite method of writing!
I will never forget the day I met Susan Dennard. For years I admired her books and meeting her in person was unreal. I was the last person on her line, with a bus to catch soon back home, but there was no way I was leaving without seeing her and the experience was so worth it. I told her I wanted to be a writer, just like her. “Writing is hard.” she told me. And I nodded, just so happy be there and so happy that she could relate. At the time I was struggling to focus on my WIP, nearly ripping my hair out and stressing and stressing. The words wouldn’t come and I felt so uninspired. But there she was a published author, validating me and showing me her struggles and telling me truth. Writing IS hard. So hard. Creating a whole person, a whole world, a whole plot OUT OF NOTHING but your thoughts is hard. But then, as she autographed my book she wrote “Write on!!!” in the margins just like that. That is the advice I want to impart to you all that she shared with me. No matter how hard it gets, and it gets hard, no matter how much you struggle you just have to keep going. If this is what you want then you KEEP GOING. As Susan Dennard told me “Write on!!!” And you’ll get there. I know you will.
Mary @ Mary and the Words
The best piece of writing advice that I’ve figured out over the years is something I learned from fitness—write even when you don’t want to, and create a schedule that holds you accountable.
You’re only going to be motivated to do something once, and everything after that is about determination. If you’re determined to write a book, then you’ve got to write it even when it’s the last thing you want to do, even when writer’s block is screaming at you, even when it feels absolutely impossible. If you wait for motivation to strike, you’re never going to write more than a couple words here or there. But if you put in the work, actually write the words, even when it feels like pulling teeth—well, eventually it’s going to just happen naturally. When you push beyond the fear of failing, or the desire to do anything else, or whatever it is that’s holding you back, when you just write the words, no matter what else life is throwing at you, the words start to write themselves.
For me, utilizing that determination on a schedule has also helped my stories blossom. I write in the morning, and I spend the afternoon and evening wondering and plotting and dreaming about what I might get to write the next day. This schedule has taken that determination and lit a fire beneath it so that I feel like I have to write or else. I have to answer the fire of that determination at a specific time, even when there are a million other things I want to do more, because the only way to write a book is to write a book.
Okay, now for my (Margaret’s) writing advice. These are tough acts to follow because everyone else’s was so good! But I’ll do my best.
You know that phrase “write what you know”? It’s not the most helpful, since only writing stories about people with the same life experiences as me would make for some truly boring reading material. Plus, how would any fantasy or science fiction or anything imaginative at all exist?
According to Maggie Stiefvater, that phrase shouldn’t be used to refer to events or experiences, but rather to emotional truth. How can you use the experiences of your life, take away the details, and write the emotional truth of it for another character? Maybe you haven’t been a child soldier in a magical war against goblins, but you did go through some pretty intense friend drama in high school. It’s not about the details; it’s about how you make the reader feel.
To take my current WIP as an example, I’ve certainly never been a world-famous athlete in a dragon sport. But so much of the story is all about loneliness, and during covid-times, that’s felt uhhhh…quite relevant. I may not have been through the exact same things as my characters, but if I can capture the emotional truth of what I’ve experienced and apply it to them, I’ll have done pretty well.
Thanks for reading, everyone! And thanks again to Caro, Sophie, Eleanor, Xandra, Jai Lynn, and Mary for joining me on this post. I appreciate you all so much! ❤
What do you think of this writing advice? Are you planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year? What’s the best piece of writing advice YOU’VE ever received?