Sunday, July 02, 2006

Tipsters Giveaway

In between all and sundry, I've been slowly working my way through Ralph L. Wahlstrom's The Tao of Writing. Lovely book, beautiful theories, great points, no way in hell could I ever write like this. But I'm enjoying it all the same. As Mr. Wahlstrom points out:

"The problem is not that we don't get the right tips on how to write, we're buried in them. It's more than we have not learned to see the connections between the written word and the world in and around us."

I agree. I also think everyone connects differently. If we all made our writing-to-world connections in the exact same way, we'd only need one how-to writing book. We'd all write the same way, and produce identical stories, and I'm already imagining being trapped on that all-the-same world in A Wrinkle in Time, aren't you?

The Tao of Writing is one approach, and one way of making connections. I haven't finished it yet but I think it's a solid read for any writer who struggles with blocks and structure and accessing the muse or the inner well or whatever labels your imagination.

For those who are more interested in boosting their productivity but have problems reading e-books, I've put together three hard copies* of my own e-book on writing, Way of the Cheetah for a giveaway.

In comments to this post, list a writing tip that has helped you with your work (and, if you remember, from whom or where you got it) by midnight EST on Tuesday, July 4, 2006. I'll pick three names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners a hard copy of Way of the Cheetah along with a surprise. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

*Hard copy in this case means printed on 8-1/2" X 11" bond paper and bound in a slim, three-ring binder.


  1. Anonymous12:52 AM

    A thing I still struggle with some days when Life gets nutty.

    Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.
    --Ernest Hemingway

    Every damned day. It might be crap and there might not be as much as I like, but I strive for every damned day.

  2. Everything is hard until it becomes easy.

    I don't know who said this but it's great encouragement on those days when every word I write seems to be crap and the only thing my characters want to do is sit around in Starbucks and drink coffee. It works for other things in life too, not just writing.

  3. I have so many writing books; I'm addicted to them. And I really want yours too, but I'm embarrassed at how many I have. My life is awash in advice...which I admit I use a lot while trying to still find a way to do things my way, because after all I am writing my stories. Probably for that reason, this is one of my favorite bits of writing advice. It comes from The House at Pooh Corner.

    'And that's the whole poem,' Pooh said. 'Do you like it, Piglet?'

    'All except the shillings,' said Piglet. 'I don't think they ought to be there.'

    'They wanted to come in after the pounds,' explained Pooh, 'so I let them. It is the best way to write poetry, letting things come.'

    'Oh, I didn't know,' said Piglet.

  4. Best advice I ever got: paraphrasing - to go ego-blank during the writing, not thinking about if it's any good, just getting it down on paper. Something like that. ;) -PBW

    That advice has gotten me farther than I ever did on ANY novel, and this one is almost 300k. So it definitely works.

    Erin K.

  5. One of my own writing tips: When rewriting a short scene (500-800 words) it's sometimes quicker to start from scratch.
    When rewriting a longer scene, cut it into short scenes with clear, one-sentence goals. Then apply tip #1.

  6. From Holly Lisle:

    "And as for thinking that your writing stinks . . . don't worry about it. Just keep writing. You'll get better and your internal editor will eventually shut up. And then you'll discover that you're a lot better than you thought you were."

    Keeping this in mind has done wonders for me....


  7. Anonymous3:43 AM

    "Get out of your own way." Dean Wesley Smith.

    Cheers, Dayle

  8. Anonymous5:10 AM

    The one tip that I have always found incredibly short and to the point:

    Don't stop writing.

  9. "Just do it" - Nike :-)

  10. Schedules are a good guide and a bad master.
    One begins to focus on the wrong goal and not the writing.

  11. Got two, actually:
    At a reading in Edinburgh, Janny Wurtz said, "Read Dwight Swain", and she was right.

    Much later, a Pro told me, "Join a writers workshop/crit circle" and he was right.

    What it comes down to is:

    1. Read books on writing by people with credentials
    2. Get other people to look at your work

  12. Best tip I got: use a timer and write fast and nonstop until it goes off. Snagged from Ray Bradbury in Zen and the Art of Writing.

  13. I've got two:

    A card I bought from the Sylvia Beach hotel in Oregon with a quote from Jane Austen: "Success supposes endeavor."

    And I've got a timer I use to force myself not to waste time. For that half an hour, or whatever, all I do is sit at the keyboard. When the timer rings, I allow myself to get up, check email, get tea, etc. Then it's back to the keyboard and the timer and on again. Repeat as necessary. I got the idea from suggestions for how to help my seven year-old son survive transitions.

  14. Anonymous8:05 AM

    The best tip I ever got was from a writing book (the name of which is lost in the misty depths of my memory) and it was:

    Don't be afraid to write badly, just so long as you keep on writing.

    I used to get stuck at about chapter three with every single project I started; re-writing, revising, polishing, until I'd written away any spark of interest or life in those three chapters and had to give up on the whole thing. I just couldn't let go until I was sure what I had done was 'perfect'. But once I realised that it was okay to write something that wasn't brilliant, so long as I kept going, I seemed to break through that barrier. Now I have two publishing contracts and a possible series in the works. Thank heavens for that book (whatever it was called) and that little snippet of advice that stayed in my head.

  15. Don't pick me. I already have the ebook. ;)

    But I just wanted to comment.

    Things I have learned:

    When stuck, go back a bit and rewrite. I've been stuck a couple times, usually because something went wrong along the way and I had no clue what to do. Everything go boring. I find if I just go back a page or two to when I was the most excited and start from there then it becomes clear.

    You do have to turn off everything to write. That TV, you AIMs, that video game and get away from those books you pick up and will read while you are trying to think. Blank screen (or paper) and you.

    I've learned it isn't easy but I like it anyways. ;)

  16. Anonymous8:19 AM

    Oh, please pick me! ;-)

    Anyway, from Holly Lisle:

    Find your themes -- your REAL themes -- and write them. I dare you.

    I have this one posted to my laptop. It does double duty -- both inspiration and focus.

  17. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Don’t think, write. Even the worst draft will have a seed of story that you can nurture later, so put it down on paper first, worry about its flaws second. – Paraphrased from my 11th grade Creative Writing teacher

    I like her, she was very much in the business of showing us how to plant the seeds of a story and grow them into something larger. We never plotted or outlined or really did an of the ‘real’ exercises you’d expect out of the class. She was all about the creative mindset, which sometimes got in the way because we never learned how to finish anything. But she did teach us how to write without self-editing… ^_^

  18. Lots of wonderful advice here!

    The one that swims through my head is something I read on a sig line on the Nanowrimo boards:

    Just keep writing
    Just keep writing
    Just keep writing writing writing
    (sung to the tune of Dory's swimming song from "Finding Nemo")

    When I get stuck or boarded or frustrated, this song gets stuck in my head. Following its advice seems to be the only way to shut it up.


  19. In a recent issue of Writers' Digest, a gag column featured an "ad" for the Time To Write Stylus Pen (TM). Features: This pen actually stops time, so you can turn that one hour lunch break into a whole writing day! Caveat: The time stopping property only works while words are actually being put down on paper.

    I cut it out and taped it to my monitor. Now I like to pretend I have a Time To Write Keyboard. I've written an average of 2000 words every day since.

    It'll work for a while. Then some other writer-ly gimmick will catch my fancy, and I'll tape *that* to my monitor, and I'll be off again. I think there's enough writing advice and tips out there to keep me going a long while yet. :)

  20. I don't remember who originally said it, but "I can't fix a blank page" kicks around in the back of my head all the time.

  21. Nora Roberts at an NJRW Conference in 1995 said, "You have no business going back to edit Chapters 1-3 if you haven't written 4-10." She's also the writer I credit with first saying, "The only page I can't fix is the blank one." Maybe she didn't say it first, but she's the first person that I heard say it.

    At the time, I was caught in that trap of endlessly writing, re-writing, polishing and re-editing the beginning of my first manuscript. If I'd polished those chapters any more, I could have stuck legs on them and used them for an end table.

    The other author to whom I give enormous credit for helpful tips is Stephanie Bond. I heard her workshop on Self-Editing at the RWA Conference in 2000. Her worksheet on things to check in your manuscript was invaluable, as was the entire workshop. (She has a good deal of her workshop material and articles up on her website.)

  22. Holly Lisle's article on outlining with notecards. It's helped me think through the reason for every scene and re-order with complete abandon.

  23. Courtesy of my Storytelling prof, and the comic book Kabuki:

    You can do anything, if you can get your ego out of the way.

  24. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg is probably the first writing book that made an impact on my life. Another favorite is a journal writing book by Marlene Schiwy. Wish I could remember the title.

  25. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Here's the best tip ever -- makes me laugh every time I read it over my desk:

    "Write a page a day or burn in hell."
    -- from Jennifer Stevenson of Trash Sex Magic

  26. On View Point:
    I enjoy working with a broad palette of characters in my sprawling, never-ending epic. When Mel Odom read it, he said, "You have a lot of characters, but you can't tell all their stories!"

    Goal, Conflict, Disaster. I write that at the beginning of each scene (or chapter) with a brief one sentence summary.

  27. Anonymous5:43 PM

    “If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it” --Toni Morrison


  28. Stories are like fossils. They need to be excavated carefully to uncover the truth. Plotting should be your last resort. Stephen King

    Love it. Love it. Love it. :D

  29. Like many other people, I've heard and read lots of tips. The most useful and hard to follow is:

    Write something every day.

  30. My favorite, and I don't know where I got this exact wording, but it's paraphrased everywhere:

    "Just write."


  31. This applies not only to writing, but to life in general as well.

    "Don't worry about making the right decision. Just make a decision, then make it right."

    I read that once, and it always encourages me when I need a little push. You do not have to do things perfectly right away, but you do have to take that step forward.

  32. The best advice I have heard, and I've heard it form a few sources so I can't attribute it directly is: Dare to suck.

    Pretty much sums it up for me.

  33. Anonymous10:41 PM

    I loved reading all the tips that inspire everyone else. ;) My favourite:

    If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. -Stephen King

  34. Three tips:

    Hockey player, Wayne Gretsky:

    "You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take." Hah! Brilliant and encompasses the writing, the editing and the selling of work.

    I don't know who said it, but it's perfect, is: "You have no right to keep your imagination to yourself."

    And the idea I picked up from Holly Lisle's Mugging the Muse about giving your character a reward before you take something important from them.

  35. "If you're going through hell, keep going." If a scene is rough, don't avoid or skip it. Write it. Chances are, the story will be better off because of it.

  36. Anonymous11:16 PM

    One of the best writing tips was one I got off Orson Scott Card's site. It was about the importance of not consciously trying to force a theme:

    "...That's why, when you really love a book, it makes you think about important ideas and issues and fresh and powerful ways. It isn't because the writer planned it that way. It's because the writer let his unconscious mind have a lot of chances to control elements of the story. It's because the writer got out of the way and let the truth of his heart dominate the opinions in his mind."

  37. "Discipline is key."

    Because that's something I tend to lack.

  38. Anonymous4:42 AM

    "...when writing is fun the words just seem to come easily." (said by catrinp at Forward Motion).

    When I first started writing I was having fun, and her thought reminded me that my best writing has been done when the writing is fun.

  39. There are a few pieces of advice I use almost daily:

    "Leave out the stuff that people skip." Elmore Leonard I think. That one sentence has improved my writing immensely.

    Paraphrased from On Writing: "If you think you need permission to read, then here it is. I give you permission to read." I remember this every time I accuse myself of "wasting time reading".

    Finally, Mary Balogh: "Dig deep! Be real!"

  40. The best advice I ever got was at a peer workshop. When people critique your work, don't defend it. Listen.

  41. Anonymous8:51 AM

    Two pieces of advice, really. The first one, and I don't know who it was, was "Don't give up." And I haven't. Writing is the most challenging thing I've ever done, but I'm still going. And the second piece of advice, from tambo, was to find a crit group. I did, and I've learned an amazing amount from them.

  42. Anonymous9:15 AM

    "Git-r-done!" --Larry the Cable Guy

    Also, end each day's writing on a cliffhanger/disaster. I think that comes from Chris Baty of NaNoWriMo.

    (my apologies if this is double-posted, Blogger doesn't like me this morning.)

  43. Anonymous10:27 AM

    All you need to be a writer is to WRITE.

    Linda Ellerbee.

    Linda write this to my daughter as she signed dd's writers notebook.

    Simple, straightforward, succinct.


  44. Two pieces of advice have been the most important. The first is to 'just write.' Forget thinking it's crap, just put it down. Stuck? Just write something, move forward. Fix it all in revision when you have something to gnaw on. Not sure, write it anyway, and the thoughts will begin to flow. So very true.
    The second; write every day. Can't say I've followed this as much as I should, but I try to slide something in, whether it's a plot point, updated scene, map adjustment or whatever.

    Credits: Holly Lisle and PBW.

  45. In terms of writing advice, I think yours has helped me the most. If I were to pick the one tip that has aided me above all others, I think it would have to be your suggestion to plan out characters in a little bio sheet before starting to write. Although I have always planned out my characters before jumping in head first, I never had a biography on them; I had to keep refrencing back in my work to figure out who my character was.

    In terms of a writing quote, I like this one:
    "You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist." --Asimov
    That quote paired with your advice to write a little bit of something every day has really helped my writng.

    Thanks PBW! Happy Fourth of July!

  46. Anonymous5:53 PM

    I have the Way so don't count me in on this one.

    After I got depressed over losing the Golden Heart and being rejected by Silhouette for the umpteenth time, you wrote this:

    "You wouldn't be upset if you were selling a truck and someone looking for a sportscar didn't want to buy it, right? So why expect editors to adore every single thing you submit, every awards committee to hand you a trophy, and every reader to love you? Isn't going to happen. Don't take it personally."

    That e-mail is framed. I also often think of two words you wrote here once upon a time:

    "Be valiant."


  47. To paraphrase, "Apply butt to chair, apply fingers to keyboard." Basically, just write. I think that was some Holly Lisle wisdom.

  48. Anonymous5:11 AM

    I think the advice that has helped me to survive is best summed up by don Miguel Ruiz, in his book "The Four Agreements". It isn't a book about writing, per se, but each of the four points he makes may certainly be applied to the writing life.
    Rather than go over each one here, I'll simply post a link:

    Have a look, and see if any of this advice is helpful to you, too.