Monday, February 21, 2011

Best and Worst Writing Advice Ever Given

Blog post on LTUE panel #1!

Authors on the panel: Frank L. Cole, Anna del C. Dye, Mette Ivie Harrison, Tyler Whitesides and James Dashner

One reoccurring theme I've heard from a few authors (and was mentioned in the panel) is to set a goal for a certain number of words that must be composed daily. James has given this advice himself in previous panels and admitted that this was possibly the worst advice he's given. Daily word counts can be very limiting or the writing becomes poor because you're trying to crunch out a certain number of words per day. He suggests instead to set a daily amount of time in which you spend writing.

I have noticed in my own writing that this method works much better. I've gone the word count route and although that will motivate me to get the words onto the page, the quality of my writing is not nearly as satisfactory as when I'm just spending a certain amount of time crafting my story. Oftentimes when I go the way of the word count, I end up going back and rewriting those passages because, for lack of a better phrase, they just suck.

Another point that was made is the idea that you shouldn't fail to write something just because its already been done. As writers, we know that practically everything has already been done. You're not going to bring something new to the genre. Not completely. Stories on vampires, wizards and demons have been done, yes. But don't be scared of a genre/topic just because you've read something similar. Create a different spin on it. Make it your own. If you really want to write a paranormal romance, do it. Twist the concepts of commonality and create a story that will shine on you as an author specifically.

Now onto the best advice the panelists had to offer . . .

Once you finish a book, write something else! Many writers remain unpublished because they finish one book, submit it to an agent or publisher and fail to receive an offer. For most authors, their first book is the "exploratory manuscript". The novel by which you learn how to create a novel. Many authors will publish their first book, but find it will not be their ticket to publication. If you've completed a book, congrats! What an accomplishment! Go ahead and submit it, but don't stop writing in the process. Even if you do receive an offer for publication, editors and agents are interested in those who are constantly bettering their craft and working to further their career. If you don't receive an offer, finish the second one and submit that. Your writing will improve the more you write.

New York Times Bestselling Author, Brandon Sanderson, was working on his thirteenth novel by the time he published his first one. Don't ever give up. Don't ever stop reaching for your dreams. If you're willing to work hard enough, you will get published!

Continue to read, read, read! Particularly in the genre you desire to write. Find out what authors are doing, how they're doing it and what readers expect in any given genre.

Don't just follow a "hot topic" because that's what's selling now. If your story is well-crafted and appealing to readers, a publisher will buy it. Write what you're passionate about. If you don't absolutely love it, no one else will either.

Don't stop promoting. Start with networking and getting others excited about what you're writing. Spread the word. Once you're published, do plenty of local signings. Even if you only sell two books in a three-hour signing, that's two books that you wouldn't have sold otherwise. If you write for a young audience, school visits are also very beneficial. They get budding authors excited about writing, and young readers excited about your story and books.

The importance of networking can never be emphasized enough--especially if you're still unpublished. Build a well-designed blog and build up your followers. Go to conferences and writing conventions. Agents and editors frequent those events. You are far more likely to get published if you pitch a book in person to an agent/editor and they personally request that you send the material, than you are by just joining the ranks of writers submitting manuscripts to publishers and agencies cold.

Develop thick skin. Before you get published, you will get rejected a few (maybe many) times. Expect it and don't give up. Once you're published, you'll have some nasty critiques as well. You can't please everyone. Write the best story you can, establish a solid group of beta readers, work hard to bring your story to life and overall your readers will love it. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Take every critique you receive (from either a beta reader or a writer's group) with a grain of salt. If one reader said a certain element of your story didn't work for them, don't take it as doctrine.
If six of your beta readers had the same problem, it may be something you need to look at. You are the engineer of your own story. You know where it's headed and why. If something is unclear or confusing, figure out how to clarify it. Be wary, however, of people who tell you how to fix it. It's your story, not theirs.


  1. I have so many friends who attended that con and tweeted how much they loved it. But this is a wonderful, thorough recap of the panel.
    James is always an excellent speaker.
    Thanks for sharing all your notes. I look forward to reading more installments. :)


  2. Hi Emily

    Great article.

    I think I'm with you about daily word counts. They're a useful tool for motivation, but I find that if I work to them, the quality of my writing surfers - I mean, suffers. At the moment I'm fine-tuning the second draft of a novel, so I'm not getting much actual writing done and have to rely on the 'time spent' method in order to feel that I've accomplished something.

  3. Wow, awesome post! I'm so glad you posted on my blog, because I find your blog to be fascinating! I have been working with the word count since the beginning of the year, and I agree that perhaps it's time to rethink it. I am astounded at the variety of actual wordcounts I get day to day. It sounds like this convention was teriffic, so thanks for sharing... your article is very clear and informative!

  4. I am new to writing, but I've been wanting to for awhile, and that was a good interesting post!