Whether we are brand new writers or we’ve been at it for years, we hear a lot of writing advice. It’s important to filter through this advice and find what works for us, because like most things, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for making us better writers. Some advice will ring true, some won’t. Some advice will resonate early in our career and some later. With this in mind, let’s have a look at a few common bits of advice floating around the writing world.
Write Every Day – Maybe?
This little gem works for me when I am on a deadline writing a first draft. Writing every day, even for just a little while, keeps my head in the story. It’s a good habit that keeps my project moving forward.
But sometimes the stress of a rigid schedule is simply too much. Or I’m at a point in the creative process which requires me to step back and gain perspective on my story. Sure, I could write something else during this time just to stick with the habit, but that also might be counterproductive.
For me, the takeaway around ‘write every day’ is that we need a healthy writing habit that keeps us making progress and also honors our personal process.
Kill Your Darlings – What?
Wait, kill who? This alarming bit of advice made me quite nervous when I first heard it. Would I be required to kill off a beloved main character even if they were supposed to live happily ever after? Probably not. Here’s a great post that explores how, when, and why to actually kill off a character: When to Literally Kill Your Darlings.
What I’ve come understand from this little nugget is that we have to be willing to sacrifice good bits of writing in our manuscript if they don’t serve the story. I’ve had to scrap entire well-written scenes because when I started editing, I realized the story was stronger without them. I’ve come to understand there is a difference between story and plot. The plot can and should be tweaked to best serve your story. Here’s more on that: Have You Lost the Plot?
The overall idea is not to become so attached to a piece of your own writing that you aren’t willing to change or discard it for the sake of telling your story better.
Finish What You Start – My One Tried and True Piece of Advice
Okay, I stand by this ninety-nine percent of the time. In fact, when new writers ask me for my one best piece of advice, this is it. Why? Because an unfinished manuscript will never become a book. Here’s more on why I think you should finish your manuscript: Just Finish It! You’ll Be Glad You Did.
Every writer will experience a lack of momentum, a conundrum about a plot twist, or a crippling moment of insecurity sometime during the writing process. The shiny newness of writing the first few chapters will eventually wear off, and we’ll have to power through the tough days to hit the finish line. I believe it’s worth powering through even if it’s only for the sake of getting to the end. We may have to rewrite, or even trash, some of our manuscripts, but until the whole story is out, we won’t know what we’ve got.
Advice can come from many sources, through different media. At this point in my own writing career, I like to think about the intent behind the sound-bite and see if it applies to my project, process, or habits.