I have a theory about writers and writing advice: "No advice is good until we're ready to hear it."
Take me, for example. Years ago, having just read Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD, I called up a writer friend to rave about it.
After burbling on about the book's awesomeness for about three or four minutes, I heard my friend give an audible sigh.
"I've been telling you about that book for years," she said (a tad ungraciously, I thought).
It was true. I'd heard my friend discuss BIRD BY BIRD before, but I'd never heard it.
Over the years, different messages and bits of advice have bubbled to the surface of my awareness, depending on where I was as a writer.
Here are some of the most useful nuggets that have stuck with me over the years.
- Write every day at the same time.
- Slice the salami.
- Begin and end each paragraph with a short sentence.
- Think of your writing as a camera. You're not successful until the reader "sees" the story that's filming in your head.I've noticed that there's often a disconnect between a scene that is playing in the writer's mind, and the one that is conveyed on the page. To locate the reader in your story, you need to add context and positioning details. For example, if a minor character is standing behind the main character, about to do something interesting, you need to establish their positions relative to each other in the reader's mind. Otherwise, readers can quickly become disoriented and untethered from the story, like an astronaut floating in deep space. (See a related post, The Real Secret of Bestsellers.)
So, what nuggets of writing advice have been the most helpful to you, in your career as a writer?