I’ve received a lot of writing advice over the past five years. And while it was always shared with good intentions, some of it was great, some just okay, and some downright terrible. It’s often to hard to determine which pieces of advice to follow – especially when you’re just starting out.
But I’ve been lucky enough to receive some pretty great tips and want to share my favorite with you! Let’s dive in…
#1 – Set small actionable goals.
When working with an 80-120K word project, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. But breaking it into small manageable chunks will not long make you feel better but make you more productive too. Maybe it’s to edit one chapter or write 500 words per day. Whatever works for you!
You can read more about setting actionable goals here!
#2 – Protect your writing time.
I am a strong believer in prioritizing what’s important to you. But sometimes that’s really hard – especially when you have multiple things that are important. Making a schedule really helps me block my time, but once you’ve decided when you’re going to right, you have to stick with it and not let anything else interfere. If I make my writing something that can be easily rescheduled, then it will set a precedent to happen more and more often.
#3 – Use the hero’s journey to start plotting.
I was first introduced to the hero’s journey back at the beginning of my writing journey, and I could not imagine what I would’ve done without it. It explains that every story should have 12 specific stages (usually in the same order), and knowing that makes outlining so much easier!
If you’re new to plotting – or looking for a more efficient way – I’d recommend starting by determining those 12 scenes and then filling in the blanks.
Unfamiliar with this method? Check it out!
#4 – Write dialogue first then fill in the rest.
This is a newer trick that I’ve started, and I don’t use it for every scene. But when I get sudden inspiration for a specific scene, I’ll just down the dialogue and simple dialogue tags to tell who is speaking. Once the conversation is over, I go back and add sensory details, body language, internal thought and emotions. But sometimes knowing how the scene will unfold can help channel the correct story beats and help me layer the rest.
#5 – Stop for the day when you know what happens next.
This is tough to get used to because if you actually know where you’re going with the scene, it’s so tempting to keep writing. But if you do that and only stop when you’re stuck, you’re likely to still be stuck the next day. By stopping when you know what’s going to happen next, you’re preemptively battling writer’s block! Just remember to make a few notes so you don’t have to worry about forgetting overnight.
#6 – Let your first draft suck.
Even Stephen King agrees on this one. First drafts are meant to just get words on the page and to teach the author more about the story. It doesn’t have to be perfectly paced or beautifully written. In fact, if you expect it to be that way, you’d likely work yourself into a fit of imposter syndrome that will keep you from writing at all. So go into your first draft knowing it’s probably gonna suck and then worry about fixing it later. For now, just enjoy the adventure.
#7 – Take a break between drafts.
It’s so tempting to dive straight into revisions after you finish that first draft, but I beg of you – DON’T! Stick it in a drawer and work on something else – or sit back and relax – for at least a month. Longer if you can stand it. The time away gives you fresh eyes to objectively spot your manuscript’s problems.
This break between drafts is a great time to send your novel off to beta readers. Learn more about where to find them and what questions to ask here.
#8 – Find your tribe.
Writing can be a lonely business, and most people outside of the industry don’t understand the trials and tribulations that come along with it. That’s why it’s so important to find a core group of writers to call friends. Upon being introduced to and incorporating myself into the online writing community, that loneliness vanished. My mental health improved, my writing process advanced, and even my daily word count got higher and higher.
#9 – Don’t let anyone compromise the integrity of your story.
Between writing and publishing, a lot of other people – agents, editors, coaches, critique partners – are going to read, give feedback and provide suggestions on your writing. Some may super helpful, and it’s the best feeling in the world. Some may be terrible, and you know you’re never going to take them. Others might be decent ideas… But if you pursued them, it would turn your book into something it’s not.
Remember that ultimately it’s YOUR story, and you have final say. If by saying no to a revision request, you risk losing that opportunity then it wasn’t the right fit in the first place.
#10 – It only takes one.
One great idea. One agent. One editor. You only need one yes to take the next step in your journey, so don’t get too discouraged by the rejections. And there may be a lot of them; it’s just part of being a writer. Instead, deconstruct any good feedback, bounce back and keep trying. The only way you can fail is to give up.
So there you have it! The best writing advice I’ve ever received.
If you happen to try some of these out, let me know how they work for you! And if I am missing any wonderful tips – or terrible ones – share in the comments below.