What are your writing tips?

All writers know that writing is fraught with questions. For example, my question of the moment is; what will I write next?!

I’m sure most writers can identify with this at some point. Particularly if you have just finished one book or project and you’re not sure what you would like to move onto next.

I’ve just finished my third children’s book. But I’ve no idea what to do next. Do I write another children’s book for a similar age group? Or maybe, I would like to write for older children? Or, should I take a mini-break from writing for children and write for adults or even have a stab at a screenplay?

Oh, so many questions.

For me, beginning a project is one of the most difficult aspects to writing. Ernest Hemmingway once replied when asked what was the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, he said, “A blank sheet of paper.” 

Others can sit down and write away and instead fear the re-writes. It’s different for everyone, but I thought today I would share some writing tips from some great writers, which would apply to all writers, no matter the question or obstacle standing in their way.

1. Ernest Hemingway advised that each day’s work should only be interrupted when you know where to begin again the next day. This helps any writer avoid the terror of facing a blank page.

2. Kurt Vonnegut said, “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”

3. Anne Lamott in her fabulous book “Bird by Bird,” explains that the secret of writing is to get started, and in order to get started you need to break the overwhelming task of writing into small manageable tasks. Then get going with the first task.

4. William Stafford said: “Every day I get up and look out the window, and something occurs to me. Something always occurs to me. And if it doesn’t, I just lower my standards.”

5. “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair,” Mary Heaton Vorse said. Good point:)

What do you find most difficult about writing? Or do you have any tips you would like to share?

14 thoughts on “What are your writing tips?

  1. I thought you might like this quote:

    “If you don’t have a sensation of apprehension when you set out to find a story and a swagger when you sit down to write it, you are in the wrong business.”
    ~A.M. Rosenthal

    Wait for inspiration. You’ll know when it strikes.

    Sometimes I get a story idea, but if I’m not interested in continuing after chapter one, I move on to another one.

  2. Great post Olive,
    Maybe write for older children? It seems to be a busy market.

    I hope number 2 is the right way to write because thats what I do, write what comes instinctively to me, rather than concentrate on how I write.
    I always feel slightly inferior to most writers, as they all appear to have a beautiful use of words, is the story more important? Or is the style of writing? I’m never sure.

  3. I find plotting difficult, I listen to my characters and they lead me on a merry dance. Well done on finishing your third book! Why not take a mini break and write for yourself…see what comes out, pick what ever sparkles and run with that…

  4. Brigid’s comment is interesting. I suspect we all feel a little inferior – perhaps in different degrees but I don’t think Ive met a writer who really thought they were TOPS. That being said, to write you have to like your work a bit (I wrote a poem about it once….)

    The best tip I read was from Stephen King. He simply gave me permission to write. I know it sounds silly but I think I needed to be told that I was allowed!

  5. @Theresa; thanks, that’s a great quote! And I’m a bit like you I think, there’s absolutely no point in slogging away at a story, if you’re just not feeling it.

  6. @Brigid; I can see from your writing that anything you write about, you do care about. And I definitely would say that you have a beautiful style of writing & manage to balance it so well with the story. Your style of writing most certainly doesn’t suffer:)

  7. @Niamh; Yep, I think I’ll take you up on the idea of a mini-break. Not from writing, but just from writing for a particular genre. We’ll see what comes from it:)

  8. @smander; yes, it’s definitely a common trait that many writers feel inferior and uncertain when it comes to their writing. The best writers I’ve met so far are the ones who are the most uncertain when it comes to their writing.

  9. Lua

    “Particularly if you have just finished one book or project and you’re not sure what you would like to move onto next.”
    This is exactly where I am right now- and with the whole “packing/moving” thing going on, my head is not getting overwhelmed by new ideas for new projects…
    Maybe I should lower my standards like William Stafford? 🙂
    Thank you for the great quotes and tips Olive

  10. Olive, I love reading advice from other writers. For me, rigtht now, I need to listen to the advice: accept that your first draft won’t be perfect.

  11. @Lua; I can imagine that with all the moving plans, it must be really hard to get inspiration for new ideas. I’m sure when you are settled in London, it will be all good:)

  12. @Julie; Absolutely. My first drafts are usually so rough, the next draft ends up being something almost completely different!

  13. Love the writing tips – applying seat of pants to seat of chair – sometimes thats the hardest!

  14. Really liked this post! Some really interesting (and funny!) quotes!

    I like the second quote in particular – Writing from the heart 🙂

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