If there’s one thing I love about So You Want To Be A Writer, my podcast with Valerie Khoo, it’s the fact that I get to sit around and talk writing with some of the best in the business. And we all know that, like most writers, I like talking about writing even more than I like writing!
This week, our podcast hits the 30-episode mark, and to celebrate, I’m sharing five surprising writing tips from some of our interviews.
“Be a planner. If you are new to this game [be a planner], because I see constantly people who managed to write about half a novel and give up. I know exactly what’s happening, they can write the first act, the first quarter, because it’s the premise. And then they get to the middle part and what they lack is escalation, they can’t write the thing as an escalating story, it just falls away, and it’s because they don’t have a plan, they lose confidence. If writing by the seat of your pants is not working, try the other way.”
“I really despise when other writers say, “You must write everyday and you must write your ten pages.” It’s like, “Well, yeah, I’ve got two kids, a husband, and a cat, you know? I can’t write everyday.” That’s just now how life works … It’s not set in stone and you do not need to write everyday and life happens … I think if you can manage to keep writing and keep squeezing it in where you can, then that’s what really matters.”
“It seems to me that probably the best way to begin writing would be to sit down in front of a computer, open a file and then to do the best to like fill it. This is just me speaking. I think all of the excuses about writing, about not writing –’I’m too tired to do this, it’s not working, I’ve got writer’s block’ – it’s all bullshit. All it means is that you don’t want to do it. And if you, in fact, do not want to do it, then you might as well admit it to yourself and come up with some other way to spend your day … If you don’t enjoy it, you probably shouldn’t do it, and if you want to know if you enjoy it or not, check to see whether you do it or not.”
“I think it’s really, really important just to make time for reflection, to be present in the moment. The next time you get that urge, that twitch reflex to get out your phone and go on Facebook, don’t. Look at a tree, and I swear to you that if you do that more often, your life improves, time slows down, you have better relationships and you write better.”
“People actually care, they really, really care [about your characters]. So you do have a responsibility, you can’t just kill people off willy-nilly for no reason. If that’s what has got to happen, then that’s what happens, but you don’t do it lightly, and you don’t do it spuriously without any reason, or you’re going to annoy readers.”
Like more writing tips? Join Write With Allison Tait, my online writing group, to get up close and personal (via Zoom) to a brilliant writer or industry insider each month. Details here.
Thanks everyone for sharing. All food for thought. I have to be in the right head space for writing or producing art. I write when the urge takes me. That maybe at 4am when I have an idea. I close the door of my study and leave the mobile phone in another room and get to work. It’s amazing where ideas come from once you begin.
So true Desley!
I suspect Graeme Simsion is channelling his character Don Tillman when he espouses the need for planning. What he needs is for Rosie to break the shackles and make him live a bit more dangerously and less structured. But it’s interesting to see how people think and work differently — and if it works for them, great. Personally, I like Mark Dapin’s non-bullshit approach. Maybe it’s because we share a newspaper background. I learnt from early in my career to put a piece of copy paper in my typewriter and just fill it. I’ve haven’t worked with a news editor yet who’d accept “sorry, boss, I have writer’s block” as an excuse for not making a deadline.
You are so right there. Whenever people tell me that have no time, I suggest that perhaps they need more deadlines! It’s amazing how galvanising they can be.
I completely agree with Allison’s comments. We write when we can and it gets done. No need to add guilt on top of it when we have other responsibilities.
Great tips every one! The planning thing has been the most surprising which is… surprising! I have found the need to be so organised with everything, not something I had ever associated with the creative side of writing. Like Bron, I think Mark’s tips are terrific – especially the one about writer’s block. Thanks for the post!
Yes, the planning thing can be surprising but with so many words to manage I think every creative person needs to get their heads around it to some degree. My degree is small, tis true. But it’s there.
Love it, some really great advice here. I especially love Allison’s comments. I was once told at a worship that to be a serious writer I had to find a special place to be quiet, clear my mind and think. My special place is the lounge room after the kids have gone to bed! Not sure that was entirely what they were looking for…
Sounds good to me!
I like what Mark has to say best: All it means is that you don’t want to do it. It’s too easy to make too many excuses. If you want to do it, then do it. x
Yes, he certainly has a way with words…