Monday, December 14, 2009

My Favorite Writing Advice

Writing advice is sort of the equivalent of your in-law's suggestions about your career choices/parenting style/etc - you use what works and toss the rest, without the guilt. Everyone is different and what works for one person won't work for another - it's not a one-size-fits-all profession. For instance, in more than one place I've seen writers recommend rising at 4am to get in a solid few hours of writing before day breaks. God bless 'em but no one would want to read the junk I'd crank out at 4am - plus, I'd just fall back asleep and get drool all over my keyboard. I'm much better at the late-at-night-when-the-household-is-sleeping kind of writing. So, you have to test out what works best with your own schedule and personality.

I will share my two favorite bits of writing advice that have helped me and they are both from a book called On Writing by Stephen King. I'm a huge fan of his novels but was surprised by how inspirational I found this book. NOTE: I read this quite a while ago so if I remember anything incorrectly, I sincerely apologize to Mr. King for any errors (and adverbs).

1) Write 2,000 words per day. This doesn't seem like a lot of words until you sit down after a full day of working either inside or outside your home/have fed and bathed the kids/have folded laundry and washed dishes/etc. However, when I wrote my YA novel a few months back, I set that as a goal and it worked. I'm not gonna say I didn't cheat - some nights I'd type 5,000 words if I was going out the next night and knew I wouldn't write but I did AVERAGE 2,000 words a night, 5 nights a week. Of the 2 nights off per week, one night I'd type a blog post and review my critique groups' work and Sat. nights are sacred date nights w/ the hubby. Now that I'm revising, I'm on a different schedule but I'm 20K into the next novel and will start this schedule again in a month or two. NOTE: I'm pretty sure Mr. King advises a minimum of 6 nights per week of writing but I did finish my book so I was pretty satisfied with my results.

2) Read as much as you write. Okay, I admit I was doing this anyway but it was nice having Mr. King validate it for me. I think it's important to read extensively in the genre you write but also to read outside the scope of your work. Recent reads for me have included The Book Thief, The Help, and Catching Fire and next up are The Heretic's Daughter and Hush, Hush. Reading as a writer has been a different experience for me than just reading for fun and has made me a better writer - I hope.

Enough about me - what about you? What's your favorite piece of writing advice? Favorite book on writing? Favorite recent read?


  1. Hey, Kristi, I love that you keep Saturday night for 'Sacred Hubby Business'. My husband and I have done this for over two decades now and I really think it's one of the most important rituals in our marriage.
    Wow, sometimes you do 5000 words in an evening? That's huge...I suddenly feel really lazy...but you're right it can be done if you put your heart into it.
    The best advice I ever received is to leave your finished manuscript completely untouched for two to three months then have another look at revision. I'm always astounded at the mistakes I've missed.

  2. I haven't read King's ON WRITING, but I've heard so many good things about it, I may just pick it up this week. One of my favorites, from the few I've read on writing, is HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL by James N Frey. It doesn't so much offer advice on when to write and how much to write, but it explains a good bit about plot structure, characterization, description etc. I enjoyed the tone of the book and I found it helpful when I put it to use. Others have told me they didn't like it. Proof that advice, even from a book, is not for everyone.

    I, like Kristi, prefer to write in the evening. Writing is never easy in my home between my kids and my husband, but somehow I squeeze in time. I PREFER to write in the evening, but that doesn't mean I always get to. As it is lately, I write when I have the chance. I've got another year of full time mommyhood, and then the tiny one goes off to preschool and I can set myself a schedule!

    I'm close to hitting 50 novels this year. Some of my favorites were the Vampire Academy series and The Luxe series. Presently I am reading FALLEN by Lauren Kate and I'll follow that up with BEAUTIFUL CREATURES and then possibly start The House of Night series.

  3. Maureen, that is great advice--step away!

  4. Maureen - I love that advice and just did it but I only took a few weeks away instead of a few months. Congrats on two decades of marriage - it's only going on 14 for us but the date night ritual has been amazing.

    Lacey - my littlest one also starts pre-school next year! It'll only be a few hours twice a week but still...actual daytime writing hours!!

  5. I enjoyed your post, Kristi. ON WRITING is one of my favorite writing books too. I consider 1000 words in a day a huge achievement, so I'm impressed by your 2K average. I keep hoping that when my youngest starts kindergarten in a couple of years I'll be able to write more.

    Jeanne (from your 'other' critique group)

  6. Jeanne - I hear ya. I dream of the day when I can write (and read) all day long!!!

  7. As much as I love spending time with my tiny one, I'm ready for preschool!


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