There are a lot of writing tips washing about on the internet, in books, at conferences, in bars. Some of them are helpful writing tips, some not so much.
In my role as co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, I not only give out helpful writing tips, I also hear a LOT of writing tips, thanks to our weekly author interviews.
So when I hear a writing tip that’s a little bit different or a whole lot do-able, my ears prick up.
Below are 10 writing tips gleaned from some of my interviews for the podcast. They fit the criteria of a little bit different and they’re all eminently do-able – in fact, you can start using them today.
Each comes from a published author who has appeared on So You Want To Be A Writer, and if you click the credit/episode link, you’ll be able to listen to the whole interview (which I recommend as there’s a whole lot more gold in each one).
Set a rejections goal
“This one comes from a dear friend of mine, Kristy Wan who is a poet and photographer. When I started working at Red Room, she said, “Kirl, you need to set a rejections goal – you need to set a goal with a number of rejections you want to achieve in a year.”
“[I asked] Why would I do that? [Her response]: Because then we can go out for a wine, and celebrate that you’ve been submitting to things.
“So I set my goal for ten rejections within a year. And I had to submit to ten competitions or ten writing awards or ten manuscripts to publishers. And I found that a really good drive for writing.
“Because so often our work doesn’t get picked up. And it can feel very much like there’s no worth in the work at times. And that’s definitely not the case – you just haven’t found the right fit for your work. Or maybe it needs to be massaged or have some editing processes done. So rejections goal.”
Don’t listen to anyone
“Don’t listen to anyone. I should clarify that: only listen to people that you respect the opinion of because there’s so many people that are offering advice in the industry – and I mean a lot of it’s good, but some of it’s not. So only listen to the people that you respect.
“And when I say don’t listen to anyone, go with your gut. Most of the time you know the answer to the questions you’re asking and you just want someone to sort of I agree with you. But most of the time you got it right.”
“Get to know other writers, people from the bottom of the food chain all the way up. Go to things and get to know people who are doing exactly the same thing that you’re doing.”
Learn to work with editors
“If you cannot forge good working relationships with editors, if you are going to fight with them about every comma and semi-colon, you are going to be a nightmare to work with, and that is only going to make your working life more difficult.
“You have to understand that you’re not always going to get your own way and sometimes you’re going to have to just suck it up. There is a time to push back. But learning to pick your battles is very important.”
Join a critique group
“I cannot stress enough how important [my critique group was] to my development. Preferably look for one where the people are a little bit ahead of you but not miles ahead of you in terms of their development.
“These were the people that told me that picture books have 32 pages. They pointed me in the direction of writing courses, they told me which publishers were looking, as well as actually critiquing my books on a regular basis.”
Expect self-doubt and write anyway
“Expect to feel like absolute sh*t. Expect to have a very, very, very loud voice of self-doubt there. That’s completely normal. That is your survival brain saying just stick to the norm and don’t, you know, just keep it simple. So [my] number one [tip] is to expect to have the voice of self-doubt there and write anyway.”
Share your work
“I am somebody who started out in fan fiction, and I shared my work anonymously with strangers on the internet, and that was a really wonderful precursor to sharing my work with editors and marketing people and my agent and fellow readers and young people. Share your work.
“I think that could also be the antidote to procrastination: if you have people who are expecting to read your work and to critique your work, you’ll probably work on your work. So share your work.”
Go where the pain is
“Go where the pain is, to wherever it is that hurts the most. When you press that bit, that’s the bit you probably need to put into your book.”
If there’s a problem, go backwards
“If there is a problem [with your story] it usually means it started probably a few pages back or a chapter back. So I’ve found, if I’ve hit a snag, I go backwards rather than trying to work out the problem on the spot. [Go back] and work out where things started to unravel.”
Just write it stupid
“Just write it stupid” was advice from my Dad [a playwright], and it means you do not need to worry about writing the great American or the great Australian novel. You do not need to even worry about writing anything halfway decent.
“You have something in your head, a scene you’re supposed to write, a chapter you’re supposed to write, just write the stupid version of it. Just don’t even try to do anything more. Don’t paralyse yourself with this kind of ideas about awesomeness. Or even confidence. Just write the stupid version and later on you will fix it and maybe actually in the stupid version there’ll be something that turns out to be cool that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
“But your whole job when you sit down to write is just to write the stupid version of your thing and move on.”
Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here.