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Writing Advice

I’ve about had it up to here (imagine my hand hovering over the top of my head) with writing advice. Everyone has it, everyone offers it.

There are seven tips from Ernest Hemingway.
Rick Riordan offers writing advice.
Stephen King has something to say about it.
J.K. Rowling discusses writing.
Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for writing are classic.
Here is a link where there are 50 different authors‘ take on writing.

It’s interesting. Some of their points are really good, some are seriously opinionated. Some might have come from the bottom of a bottle. Others reflect an author’s own life.

John Steinbeck offered six tips on writing, but twelve years before those six tips were taken from an interview he gave, he actually set all of them aside when he wrote:

“If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another.”

That’s it. That’s it exactly.

I’ve read an incredible number of books in the last couple of years on writing and self-publishing and all of them have a huge amount of advice. I was supposed to get up in the morning and act like I’m going to a real job (I’m hoping this is a real job, by the way). One author does this, takes a shower early in the morning, puts on clothes that he would wear to a job, goes to his office, shuts the door and writes for four hours. Then he stops for lunch and comes back for another four hours to write or do business work. But, always, always, always, he insists that you write in the morning.

Well, heck … I’m still sleeping in the morning because my best writing happens after everyone else in the known world has gone to bed. I’ve always done that … my entire life I’ve done that. My creativity peaks after ten o’clock. I swear it does. The mornings I tried to get up early and write, all I could write about was the desperate desire I had to go back to sleep. It wasn’t very interesting.

Some authors insist on creating a map of the story line so they know exactly what is coming next, while others believe that limits their creativity, it doesn’t allow their minds to create new ideas while their hands are writing away.

There are authors who will only write longhand because (and it is true), it slows down the process enough for their minds to be elaboratively creative. (made that word up, I did). Other authors use the computer because their minds are working so quickly that they are afraid they will lose their train of thought if they don’t get the words out as fast as possible.

I'm not sure what advice applies to cats, but sometimes TB makes it difficult to write.
I’m not sure what advice applies to cats, but sometimes TB makes it difficult to write.

What do I want to say here? I have taken everything in that I have read and learned about writing and being creative. Some I have set aside, some I have internalized. But mostly what I believe is that creativity should bring freedom. We should be free to figure this out and not worry about what someone else says should be done in order to create exactly like they create.

I’m not Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck. I can’t imagine ever selling as many books as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, but I am me. My words and my characters, my little world of Bellingwood and my time spent with all of these things is … well … it’s mine. I can’t be anyone else. I can’t force myself to become a writer according to their rule set. I can only be me.

You … you can only be you. You can take advice and do with it what you will, but you have to believe in yourself and do what it is that works. If that means you get up at the crack of dawn and work like a man (or woman) driven by the devil himself … then, do that. If that means that you absorb a ton of sunshine before you settle into the task … do that. If you write longhand or love the feel of writing on a paper bag, do exactly that.

The one lesson that I will take away from everything these authors say is that I have to do it. You can’t write until you put the first word down. At that point … you have begun the process.


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