Tag Archives: writing advice

Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing

Writer's Blog

zadiesmith5 Zadie Smith (Photograph: Francesco Guidicini)

In the winter of 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing published in The New York Times nearly a decade earlier, The Guardian reached out to some of today’s most celebrated authors and asked them to each offer his or her rules. My favourite is Zadie Smith’s list — an exquisite balance of the practical, the philosophical, and the poetic, and a fine addition to this ongoing omnibus of great writers’ advice on the craft.

Smith counsels:

  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
  3. Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation.’ You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle.’ All that matters is what you leave on the…

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The Types of Writing Advice You Should (and Shouldn’t) Take to Heart

Novelty Revisions

How do you know if the writing advice you’re being given is worth listening to?

Does it matter if someone is a published author or not?

Who is “qualified” to give the best advice?

These are all tricky questions. So here are some of the types of advice you’ll generally get about writing, who they tend to come from, and how to apply them (if at all) to your own writing life.

From a well-meaning acquaintance

“I never, ever do it that way. I always do it like this, and it’s definitely going to help you too.”

Unfortunately, there are a lot of (I suppose) well-meaning people out there who don’t know how to think outside their own mindset. They see the world only from their perspective. So even though they might want to genuinely help someone by offering advice, it’s usually very one-sided and closed-minded. But you should never…

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How Long Should A Book Be? Word Count Guidelines by Genre.

First Edition Design Publishing - a hybrid publisher

A constant complaint I hear from agents, editors, writing teachers, and reviewers is that they see too many manuscripts with inappropriate word counts.

If you’re getting a lot of form rejections or simply silence from agents, reviewers and editors, this may be why.

Word count guidelines have been trending down in the last decade. Most editors won’t look at a debut manuscript longer than 100K words—a little longer if it’s fantasy or a non-romance historical. They were not so rigid ten years ago.

Now publishers—and many readers—won’t take a chance on any long book by an unproven author.

While readers will happily plunk down the big bux for an 819-page book by George R. R. Martin, they’ll turn up their noses at a book that long—even if it only costs 99c—if it’s written by Who R. R. You.

I know the “accepted wisdom” in the indie world is that…

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12 Things to Tell Yourself When You Start to Believe You Can’t Actually Do This

Novelty Revisions

1. People who criticize my work just to put me down aren’t worth paying attention to.

2. And just because I receive constructive, negative feedback doesn’t mean I did a bad job.

3. There are always going to be people better and more successful than me. I still matter.

4. If I want other people to be happy for me, I really need to try to be happy for them when they succeed.

5. I want to be a writer. No one is making me do it. This is my dream and I’m not giving up on it.

6. Every writer writes terrible first drafts. What matters most is that I finish it.

7. Everyone doubts themselves. This is normal. There is nothing wrong with my brain.

8. The more I push back against my self-doubt, the easier it will be to get up next time it knocks me down.

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Real Writers Persist. Always.

A Writer's Path

by Lauren Sapala

When writers first start out writing they tend to concentrate on all the wrong things. The big question always seems to be: Do I have talent? This is followed closely by: How do I get an agent? When I was a new writer I also agonized quite a bit over these things. It’s very normal. Whenever a person begins to truly take risks and follow their passion, the first challenges to surface are always questions of self worth and approval from others.

And make no mistake, that IS what the talent and agent questions are really all about: self worth and approval. Every human being goes through it in one form or another. For writers, anxiety and obsession about how much talent they have and getting an agent is just how it typically manifests.

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12 Reasons You’re Not Writing What You Want to Write

Novelty Revisions

1. You don’t know what you really want to write about yet.

2. You have a lot going on, and just haven’t made the time for it lately.

3. Or, more accurately, your time management skills need some work. (You know who you are.)

4. You’re not sure spending time on the thing you REALLY want to work on will actually be worth it.

5. You’re mostly writing about what you know your friends/family would be interested in reading.

6. You’re sticking with what’s most popular, because it’s safer.

7. You know what’s going to — and what isn’t going to — make you the most money.

8. You haven’t broken into your “niche space” yet, or don’t know how to.

9. You’re convinced it’s not “unique” enough to matter.

10. Two words: Self. Doubt.

11. You know getting it “right” is going to take a lot of work, and…

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Things to Consider Before Starting A Second Blog

Novelty Revisions

Some people find they love blogging so much that they want to do more of it. And sometimes, the urge to start and manage a second blog becomes too tempting to resist. That’s why many blogs fail — because people aren’t prepared for them. You’d think, already having one blog, you’d know better. But we’re writers, we’re not perfect — sometimes we make bad decisions that can hurt one or both of your blogs.

In this post, I’ll mostly be talking about starting a second blog on top of one you plan to continue keeping up with — not starting another blog to replace one you’re leaving behind. Most people assume they can keep up with more than one blog simultaneously, underestimating the amount of work that goes into each — causing both to fall apart. I don’t want that to happen to you. So here’s what you should think…

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Just Write! Stop Waiting for the Good Stuff

Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“A day of bad writing is always better than a day of no writing.” ― Don Roff

When I think of peoples’ job titles and descriptions, I get an idea of what they do every day.

  • Counselor? They listen to people talk about their problems, help them find solutions, and, well, counsel.
  • Artist? They draw, paint, and create, well, art.
  • Welder? They join metals together, fusing, compressing, and well, welding materials together.
  • Writer? Well, duh, they write.

I’ve said before that I have a hard time thinking of other professions where people are allowed to say, “I’m not feeling it.” Oh, maybe they say it, but they show up anyway. We writers, on the other hand, can avoid the pen/paper/computer/laptop and find umpteen reasons not to sit and write.

I think one of the poorest excuses we give ourselves is that we don’t have anything good…

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