What's the worst writing advice you've ever been given?
Mine is "you have to write every day." Totally impractical for so many of us, but you hear this all the time! I have a writing schedule, but it is *not* daily.
(Full disclosure: I'm writing an article about this on spec and would like to mention some of your "worst advice," so please let me know if you're willing to share. If not, would still be curious to hear your worst advice!)
You're the first person I've heard of who ever got anywhere with what they did in NaNo; congrats on that, by the way! :)
I know the number isn't a requirement to the letter, but it essentially is, because there's only so much a writer can do in one day if they don't make that quotidian quota. I see your point that it could be used to get people into the habit of writing daily and writing a substantial amount, but I think that's something the writer has to perfect and hone themselves, and it's something they'll do through commitment and repetition. It takes a long time to get make it a habit, much more than a month, I think. I think the people who are going to be able to sit down and commit themselves to writing each day and seriously keep at are determined enough that they'll do it with or without Nano--for the most part, of course, since it wasn't the case for you.
I'm glad you got something out of Nano, but I think you may be the minority. For every one writer as fortunate as you to get a publication in the works off of it, I think there are ten people who just got frustrated with writing-or frustrated with the hype and discussion over the event.
Yes of course, the vast majority never publish their Nano work, so I speak only for myself in reference to that good experience. I also joined Nano to jumpstart the 2nd novel and am now well along in the process or rewriting that one.
If you'd like to read about that whole process of finding an agent and publisher, kindly visit my blog at http://marivisoliven.blogspot.com/
Congratulations, Marivi, on your forthcoming novel! Please keep us posted as it moves along through the pub process.
Yes I will! Here's the blog that will keep you updated: http://marivisoliven.blogspot.com/
I think the worst advice I ever got was "write what you know". I felt very limited by that for a long time. I think b/c I didn't fele as if I could step out of myself, female, live in NYC, etc. The rule I know apply is write what you understand, instinctually or intellectually.
I think that when you understand something, you know it, so that would be included. I'm writing largely from the point of view of a man born in 1920 in Europe. I am a much younger American woman. But, I have worked around a lot of men over the years. I have also met people who have lived through the events I am describing and I have visited many of the places. So, I agree with the statement, "write what you know," but I don't think that it requires that we only write about our personal experiences.
I was also told you have to write every day, but I soon realized that it isn't possible for me, I have to let the idea's come to me and sometimes its when I'm not even thinking about it! I do my best thinking in the bathroom, I know it seems strange, but with 2 kids, pets and a husband sometimes its the only place I can get away and have my thoughts all to myself.
It is impossible for me to write every day, but there is so much more to writing than sitting at a computer or with pad and pencil. Observing people for characters, reading both for style and to know more about what you are writing about, even dreaming, helps with writing, and I consider it part of the work I do every day.
I haven't read through the many pages of this topic, so forgive me if my comments are redundant.
I spent many years in the camp of the frustrated who thought it was impossible, even unnecessary, to write every day. I kept journals for nigh on thirty years and I adhered to Julia Cameron's 'The Artist's Way", writing my morning pages religiously, for about three years. But this wasn't the storytelling I longed to be doing. I quit keeping a journal about three years ago, tired of navel-gazing. Even during the 18 months of a non-residency writing program I didn't write every day. I crammed by fiction writing into weekends. I laughed every time I heard an author or say, "Just get up an hour earlier every day." I already rise at 4:30 to get in a run or yoga session before leaving for work at 6:45. Let's get real.
I started a novel recently, and began working my way through Priscilla Long's most excellent A Writer's Portable Mentor at the same time. Once again, like every other writing guide, she admonishes the reader/writer to write. every. day. I thought this time I had to listen, to adhere, if I was going to commit to this novel. She tells the reader to write for fifteen minutes every day in a dedicated notebook. She says:
Writing in your notebook for fifteen minutes every day...underlies all your other writing. It is the key to becoming a writer, the key to remaining a writer. It is the only secret, the only trick. It keeps you connected to the external world and to your interior life. It keeps you generating new writing. It forever eliminates the sporadic work habit. The fifteen-minute write makes the difference between being a writer and wishing to be a writer. It moots the concept of "writer's block."
The face palm moment for me was her suggestion to dedicate these fifteen minutes to your work-in-progress. I pulled out a book I had purchased last year, A Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves. It contains 365 writing prompts, one for each day of the year, as well as brief essays of encouragement and practical writing advice.
I am in week three of my new habit. I still rise at 4:30, but instead of reading (yesterday's) New York Times with my morning coffee before my run, I write. I pick that day's prompt and I write with my WIP in mind. Because the prompts are so random, it forces me to examine an aspect of a story- minute or broad- that I hadn't even considered. Sometimes I write from a character's POV, sometimes I write out a setting. This morning, because it was Saturday, I wrote for close to an hour, creating an entire scene that awaits to be transcribed into my Scrivener file. Some mornings I barely fill a page. But here I am, three weeks later, with pages and pages of story material. Yes, a lot of it is crap that I'll never use, but I'm mining my brain when I am most open, unfettered, uncluttered. There is gold to be found in there too, I reckon.
Three weeks does not a habit make, I know. But I will say that these three weeks of daily writing have been transformative. I feel like a writer. And each time I go to my computer to open the file of a scene, create a new setting, reconsider a character sketch, I have something to say.
So, copies of The New York Times pile up. So does the laundry. But I am writing. Every. Day.
Julie, I am delighted my book, A Writer's Book of Days, is serving your writing practice. Writing everyday, a few minutes when that's all I can get, or a couple of hours, when it feels like a gift from the gods of Time, the channel stays open, I feel like a writer, and the work gets done. Thank you for the shout out for my book.
Oh, Judy- what a delight to find you here. I adore the book and I'm so glad to be making such great use of your tools and inspiration. Thank you for the gift.
Kathy, the worst writing advice I was ever given was by a well known Brit writer (nameless) who I'd asked for some advice on where I should go with my work. He read the first line of my novel Jigsaw and said:
'You're lucky to be published at all'.'
Went on to publish 10 more novels.