Monday Musings 10-7-19

Last week on the writing blog I manage, I asked each of my authors to share their personal top five writing tips. Advice is a funny thing. We all come from different backgrounds and we’re all at different points in our careers. For me, some bits of advice had no meaning until I’d actually worked in the industry for a while. Others were helpful straight out of the gate.

When pulling my top five together, I realized once again that these reflections likely transcend the writer’s world and may be universally helpful, especially if we’re moving into a new career. So, feel free free to replace “writer” with any number of other occupations!

Finish what you start. 

When new writers ask me for one piece of advice, this is usually it. Why? Because an unfinished manuscript will never become a book. Every writer will experience a lack of momentum, a conundrum about a plot twist, or a crippling moment of insecurity sometime during the writing process. The shiny newness of writing the first few chapters will eventually wear off, and we’ll have to power through the tough days to hit the finish line. I believe it’s worth powering through even if it’s only for the sake of getting to the end. We may have to rewrite, or even trash, some of our manuscripts, but until the whole story is out, we won’t know what we’ve got.

Patience, young Padawan.

Whether you’ve dreamed of sitting down at your writing desk and cranking out a finished manuscript by month’s end, or you thought the moment your story went live, thousands of readers would flock to read it, you will come to realize that everything in the writing and publishing world takes time. Like a construction project, your writing project will probably take more time and require more resources than you thought. We’re in this for the long game.

Kill your darlings? Yikes!

Wait, kill who? This alarming bit of advice made me quite nervous when I first heard it. Would I be required to kill off a beloved main character even if they were supposed to live happily ever after? Probably not. What I’ve come understand from this little nugget is that we have to be willing to sacrifice good bits of writing in our manuscript if they don’t serve the story. I’ve had to scrap entire well-written scenes because when I started editing, I realized the story was stronger without them. The idea here is not to become so attached to a piece of your own writing that you aren’t willing to change or discard it for the sake of telling your story better.   

Recognize the things you can and can’t control.

You can’t control reader response. Not everyone will love our stories, and that’s okay. We don’t love every story we read. Variety is the spice of life after all! Let this go. We also can’t control book sales. There are many things we can do to impact our book’s visibility and accessibility, but ultimately, we have no direct control over this. We can’t force people to read our book. We can control our work ethic, professional behavior, and commitment to our craft. We will have more satisfaction and less frustration as artists if we keep our focus on the things we can impact.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

I’ll end here with a sports metaphor that my son has posted on his bedroom wall. We’re storytellers. Likely we have some talent at it if we’re in this line of work, just like a good athlete probably has some natural talent. But at the end of the day, if we don’t work to improve our skill, commit time and energy to our projects, and meet our deadlines, we really won’t have much of a career. 


I’ll be at the Tapped Apple Winery, with my friend and fellow author Mike Squatrito on Thursday, October 17 at 6:30 pm for a reading, Q&A, signing, and more. This place makes amazing hard cider and apple wine. Come spend a couple of hours with us!