The Best Writing Advice

There’s a lot of writing advice out there, some good and some not so good. As writers, we have to pick and choose what works for us. Stephen King has a ton of great writing advice floating around out there, but this particular gem resonated with me this week and helped me overcome some serious barriers to getting my book finished.

“You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right – and breaking your train of thought and the writer’s trance in the bargain – or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don’t have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it … but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.” ~ Stephen King, Everything you need to know about writing successfully.

 

This advice might not mean much to some of you, but for me, it’s incredibly helpful. Here’s what happens when I break my train of thought:

Mr… Mr…. What did I name that drama teacher I mentioned back in chapter three? I’d better check my spreadsheet. Fredericks. That’s right. Mr. Fredericks. While I’m taking a break, I might as well check my email. Oh, look! Susan has a new blog post. That looks intriguing. I’d pop over and check it out. Better leave a comment too while I’m here. And Tweet. I should tweet this. Oh, it looks like I have some new followers on Twitter. That’s nice. I’d better check out their profiles. Well, this lady has a book that looks interesting. I’d better add it to my Goodreads shelf. Okay, now back to writing. But, while I’m already on the internet, I should go ahead and check Facebook. You know, so I don’t get distracted again. What an adorable picture of Grumpy Cat. I swear she gets cuter every day. Oh, there’s a message from Maegan. She says she sent me an email. I’d better go check…

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what one of my writing sessions looks like. I know some of you are wondering what the hell’s wrong with me. But for some of you, my writing session might look kind of familiar.

Today, I wrote 3600 words. When I got hung up on something, I made a note in parentheses and highlighted it. I can always go back later to find out how far L.A. is from the Mexican border. I can always go back and look up the name of that girl who sat next to my main character in History class. Or the name of the drama teacher (it’s Mr. Fredericks, by the way). If I’d stopped writing to look stuff up, well, I might never have written 3600 words today.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received?

 

67 thoughts on “The Best Writing Advice

    • All of that is good advice. I don’t have an office, so I often write in the middle of the living room with the TV blaring and kids talking. I used to be able to tune out all the noise, but not anymore. A distraction-free environment is essential.

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  1. Your description is totally me … except I’d be saying, Oh, look! Tricia has a new blog post. That looks intriguing. I’ll pop over and check it out. Better leave a comment too while I’m here.

    The best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received is, First, turn off the internet. I never follow that advice, of course, but I do know, in my heart of hearts, it’s the best advice possible for me. There’s probably a very good argument here for picking up notebook and pen and writing longhand …

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  2. That is the advice I always give. Write, just write, and don’t stop to fix or format anything, just keep going and when you are done then you go back to the first page, re read everything and start fixing and formatting everything.

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  3. This is really good advice.

    The best writing advice I’ve received is to clearly define the conflict and to be able to sum up the plot in one breath. When I write I tend to start out by fleshing out all of the characters, and in my early days the plot would often be a vague, last minute kind of affair.

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  4. Well, not really advice, but two things I always remember. One is what my father always said: “There is only one rule in writing — write well.”

    The second is a quote from Andy Warhol: “[I]f you say that artists take ‘risks’ it’s insulting to the men who landed on D-Day, to stuntmen, to baby-sitters, to Evel Knievel, to stepdaughters, to coal miners, and to hitch-hikers, because they’re the ones who really know what ‘risks’ are.”

    I always find that thought enormously freeing.

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  5. Pingback: Friday Finds: Week 23 | Avid Reader

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