50/50 Post: The Best Writing Advice You’ve Received

Remington Typewriter. Image courtesy of stock.xchng® Since you had such memorable experiences to share regarding feedback you’ve received on your writing, I thought I’d turn the tables today. Let’s talk advice. It can be just what you need to hear. It can give you an idea to help you structure your writing or achieve a goal.

Of course, it can be completely off the mark and inappropriate. That’s not what I’m asking you to share today. What’s the writing advice that clicked for you? I’m asking you to share advice that’s helped you—and that you think your fellow writers will appreciate.

I’ll start with two items, one of which I heard recently.

  1. Put your butt in the chair and write. That essay, short story, novel, memoir is not going to get written unless you are writing. For a time, I tried carving out one day each week for writing. That was a bit unrealistic to maintain—and it was too easy to lose that day but not replace it. I’m now trying to write a certain number of words per day and email that total to a friend. This was working very well, until I overbooked myself with copywriting gigs. Still, that daily goal is there for me and I’ve already made good progress on a project because of it.
  2. Don’t let me see that chapter again. The point to this one is to keep writing. If you are hung up on perfecting one element, such as a chapter, you’ll never move on to the next. Sometimes you need to draft the whole so that you can identify the story you’re actually telling. I have a few shiny, polished chapters of a project…and a long gap where I wasn’t writing further because I was still tinkering with earlier chapters. Now I’m determined to get a full draft written so I can break out a box of red pencils and really revise.

Now it’s your turn! Like my other 50/50 posts, this is where you share your opinions and experiences. What’s the best writing advice you’ve received? Please share in the comments!

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8 thoughts on “50/50 Post: The Best Writing Advice You’ve Received

  1. Thank you all so much for sharing your best writing advice. My apologies for falling out of the conversation yesterday.

    @Natalia ~ What a great statement: “You can’t improve upon nothing.” That’s the perfect thing to remember for all types of writing.

    @Ronda ~ I’ve heard the 1,000 words/ 5 days a week advice, but I hadn’t heard the part about writing a charming note to someone in the literary community 5 days a week. How do you do the “charming notes”? Handwritten letters? Blog comments? I’m very curious!

    @Jean ~ The more I practice the advice you shared (getting a draft written), the more I enjoy the editing & revising process.

    @Steve ~ Thank you! I’m going to take “2) You must finish what you write” and tape it to my wall and my laptop. Maybe I should tattoo it on my wrist, too. That is excellent advice.

    @Meredith ~ Thank you so much for sharing the advice from Ira Glass. It’s beautiful and so true. I didn’t think I could be a bigger Glass fan, but your quote proved me wrong. I love it.

    @EC Sheedy ~ How perfect that you found something helpful in the conversation.

  2. This is perfect: “Keep following the thread where instinct takes you. Force yourself to wait things out.”

    It is exactly what I need to hear right now.

  3. The best piece of writing advice is also my favorite quote – I memorized it long ago and have it up on my website and in my office…I say it to myself just about every day and have been doing this pretty much since I heard Ira Glass say it on the radio during “This American Life” more than a decade ago: “Keep following the thread where instinct takes you. Force yourself to wait things out.”

  4. The first two of the four pieces of advice given by the late Robert Heinlein:

    (1) You must write

    (2) You must finish what you write


  5. Nice advice! One that stuck with me is that first drafts are meant to suck so don’t worry about getting them right. Get them written then come back and fix the flaws.

    Or…get it written, then get it right.:-)

  6. Write 1,000 words 5 days a week, and write a “charming note” each day to someone in the literary community 5 days a week – both come from Carolyn See’s Living a Literary Life…I find when I do this, I’m FAR more productive.

  7. My English teacher in high school told me to never stop writing, which I think I needed to hear at the time because I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew I loved writing.

    Also, you can’t improve upon nothing. Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft because it’s nothing more than a starting point. Revise, revise, revise.

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