I’ve been trying to avoid this post.
I hate hearing writing advice. At its best, I think it’s useless, because everyone’s process is different. At its worst, I think it empowers an I-know-better-than-you attitude.
There ARE writers who offer great advice: Chuck Wendig offers “aspiring” writers his insight. The bestselling author Jim Butcher said it better than I will, but my own advice boils down to two words:
That’s it. That’s all there is. They write stories and poems and novels. They write fragments and essays and blog posts. Writers write. It’s what makes them writers. They write any number of things, and they know that 90 percent of what they write is unpublishable bullshit.
But they write anyway. Writers know that the only way to get better is to actually. Fucking. Write. It took me a long time to realize that talking about writing is not actually writing. It’s like any other craft: you have to put in the time and effort to be really good at it. You have to park your ass in the chair and write.*
I am massively guilty of not doing this. A majority of my life I have coasted by on talent. But here’s what no one tells you: talent is cheap. Talent is the fool’s gold of writing. There are thousands — and I mean thousands — of unpublished novelists out there who are more talented than many people who have book deals.
You know a major difference between the haves and the have-nots? The willingness to put in the work — the commitment to put that round hindpart onto a flat chair and face the empty page. Look at Stephenie Meyer. Or Amanda Hocking. Neither of them are particularly talented. Both, however, worked their asses** off to get to where they are today. I may thumb my nose at their writing. I may consider their work the drivel of juvenile minds run amok.
But they’ve had their noses to the grindstone. They’ve pushed the cursor across the screen until their eyes crossed and their heads hurt. They have emptied their heads and hearts upon the page (no matter how shallow the results). They wrote. And they reaped the rewards. They each took vastly different paths to publication, but their constant was this one thing: they wrote. Period.
Can you say the same? I know I can’t — not if I’m being honest with myself.
Writers write. Despite pain, loss, annoyance, sickness, happiness, distraction, dejection, rejection — hell, sometimes because of those things — writers write.
I have no over-arching advice for structure or plot. I can’t tell you how to fix the holes in your novel. We all work differently. If you want something like that, please consider reading Larry Brooks’ fantastic book, Story Engineering. I learned a ton from it, and I’m implementing things I learned from him, while trying to unlearn other things. He’s far more knowledgeable than me about the mechanics of how and why a story works or doesn’t.
But my advice stands. Write, write, write. Stop talking about it. Hemingway famously said, “You lose it if you talk about it.” And he was right. Stop telling yourself you’ll start tomorrow. You can talk a big game all you want, but at some point you have to produce.
Get your ass in the chair and write.
And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go follow my own advice now.
*My friend T.L. Costa actually writes while walking on a treadmill. I have no idea how she does that, but I’m impressed. There’s absolutely no way I could do it. However she does it, it’s working for her. She landed one of the most respected agents in the publishing industry.
**Stephenie Meyer might be upset that I used the word “ass.” Feel free to substitute “tuchis.”