3 writing tips I live by and 3 tips I despise.
Stop trying to make "write every day" happen, it's not going to happen.
Let’s be honest: not every writing tip is going to work for everyone. I have author friends who can’t write a word of their first draft without a 20-page outline. I also have author friends who can’t write a full synopsis until they hit “The End.” (*cough* me)
So that’s the disclaimer before we dive into the writing tips I live by and the writing tips I F*CKING hate. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. Anyway, you ready? Let’s rumble.
The Writing Tips I Live By
1) Goal, Motivation, Conflict
I first came across this concept while reading Susan Dennard’s newsletter, and it blew me away because it’s such a powerful way to build your character and plot arcs. Basically, your Main Character (MC) needs to want something desperately (Goal) because of a reason (Motivation), but there are people or situations holding them back from achieving it (Conflict).
Here’s a neat little post I made on my Instagram about GMC using The Hunger Games as an example.
2) Where are your secondary characters?
This is another tip I got from Susan Dennard’s newsletter, just so you know. When you’re stuck on how to push your plot forward or thrust your MC into the next scene or act, ask yourself, “Where are my secondary characters, and what are they doing?” Maybe introducing a subplot or using them to add on to your main character’s GMC can get you out of that writing rut.
3) Write fanfiction of your book
You probably know I don’t write outlines or plot my manuscript before I dive into the first draft. My writing process mainly includes playlists, moodboards, fancasting celebrities as my characters, ~vibes, and the occasional 2-line chapter summary.
What I do love is writing random scenes of my characters interacting and doing nothing in particular. Funnily enough, even though I don’t intend for the scene to further the plot, it almost always ends up being included in the actual manuscript. And if it doesn’t, hey—it’s bonus exclusive content for when my book gets published!
Detaching from the “all my scenes have to have a goal” mindset can be very healthy. Writing without expectations and without any purpose is freeing and helps you understand your characters better. What do they do when they’re not following the outline? This is how you figure that out.
The Writing Tips I Despise
1) Write every day
Habits are important. I love the idea of routines and doing certain things every day. Like eating four meals, taking a hot shower, or spending time with my loved ones. Those things set the tone for how I live my everyday life.
But I don’t think writing every day is essential to my well-being, my health, or my survival. In fact, forcing myself to write on days when I physically or emotionally am not able to? That’s only going to make me a resentful writer. And that is the worst kind of writer to be.
Some people thrive when they write every day. I do not. Instead, I write when I can. I set a project goal—write the first 10,000 words this month, for example—and not a daily word count goal. Maybe if/when I’m a full-time writer, I’ll have to reevaluate how I feel about this tip.
But not today.
2) Write a shitty first draft
I’m sorry. I just don’t want anything I do to be shitty. Including first drafts. And honestly, my first drafts are never shitty. They’re almost always underdeveloped and dialogue-heavy, but shitty? Psssh. Nope.
It’s not because I’m a phenomenal writer and I know the Secret to Writing Perfect First Drafts™. It’s because I edit as I write. Every time I open my manuscript from where I left off during the last writing session, I reread what I wrote previously. I edit for about 15-20 minutes, get into the zone of that particular manuscript, and then I write new words.
This might not work for some people. But knowing that my last few pages are better than they were yesterday motivates me to keep going. Try it, and you might be surprised!
3) Show, don’t tell
Nope. Nope, nope, nope. This writing “tip” is ruining manuscripts. Look, the right thing to do is show and tell. Because if you show everything, your manuscript will be 200,000 words long and repetitive and boring.
Instead, try showing when you have things that propel the plot and your character arcs forward in the present moment, and try telling when you’re emphasizing or indicating something not totally in the present. Like a time jump, or a summarization of off-page scenes, or your character recalling something in the past that already happened on-page. There are exceptions to Show and Tell, but this is a good rule of thumb I personally follow.
What are some of your personal Dos and Don’ts when it comes to writing? Hit ‘reply’ or comment below and tell me. And I’d love for you to share my newsletter with your writing besties and spread the word about me.
PS: I only have TWO spots in September to work with me. If you need a manuscript critique before you query literary agents, or you need a copy/line editor to work on your manuscript before you self-publish, read more about my services here.
Well, until next Friday, then!
Love hard & dream big,