Last week on Publisher’s Weekly, bestselling author Ann Packer wrote a great article about five important writing tips. They all really resonated with me and spoke to my own personal experiences. Therefore, I thought I should pass her pieces of advice along to you. You can never repeat good advice enough. Repetition helps us to learn.
1) “Write what you want to write.” Ann suggests not to write what you think people want you to write, but rather what you want to write. This is true on many different levels and it’s really great to hear a successful author say this herself. If you are writing about something you have no interest in the quality of work will certainly suffer and it will most likely be much more difficult to write. You may be able to get the words onto the page, but can you really convince your reader to believe what you are saying? You want your audience to feel your conviction and if that conviction is never there in the first place, your readers will notice. This also applies to writing something you believe in, even if other people tell you it will never work. If you believe in something so much that you feel the absolute urge to write about it or you might just explode then write about it, no matter who shoots you down in the process. Writing is a great way to express passion and passion always makes for a great read.
2) “Let yourself explore silly ideas.” Ann suggests that you never know where your main story line will come from. She recommends writing down any idea that comes to you, even ideas that you know your internal voice would not usually approve of. I think this holds true not only for story lines, but for book ideas in general. You just never know where you will get your next book idea from and you might not even realize it at the time. You might get another book idea while writing minute details for another book- write it down. You might notice silly/odd behavior out in public at a grocery store, the shopping mall, or restaurant that just makes you stop to think. If it catches your attention, write it down. You never know what will develop from it months or even years down the road. Feel free to indulge even in the craziest of ideas, if only for a moment or two and nothing else. Inspiration comes from the places we least expect, don’t miss it.
3) “Find some people you trust, and ask for their help.” Ann suggests having someone else look at your work who can give you advice, but you must be weary. Only pick and choose what advice you want to use, don’t feel like you need to listen to all of it or any of it for that matter. The hardest part of this for some writers, especially some self-published authors, is that you may not have a trusted person to bounce ideas off of or someone you can send pages of your work to for an honest opinion. If you are just simply someone who enjoys to write, perhaps it’s just a hobby for you, you may not have had an opportunity to cultivate those necessary relationships in the classroom, at a workshop, or in a professional setting. Lucky for you, this person doesn’t need to be another writer or a publishing professional. If you don’t have access to someone like that, entrust the help of a spouse, a friend, a sibling, parent, or co-worker. They will have a totally different outlook on things that might end up being your most vital tool. Always seek opinion, but proceed with those opinions with caution. Trust your gut.
4) “Revise, revise, revise.” This is personally my favorite, and certainly the most important, tip. Revisions are always key. With each revision your work gets stronger and stronger. It’s your only opportunity to take out words that were doing nothing but clogging the page and to add on to areas that were left unaided and overlooked. Personally, I would revise this tip to read, “Revise to the 10th degree.”
5) “Allow yourself to not work.” Lastly, Ann suggests that we all need to take a break from our work. She makes a very interesting observation that due to the “unscheduled working of your unconscious mind, you will be in a different mental position from the one you occupied when you left.” Spoiler alert- our minds continue to work even when we take breaks. New ideas will still sprout up and new details can still emerge. Trust me, don’t skip your breaks- your mind will cover for you while your gone. You will probably think of things you never would of thought of or noticed before.
It is always great to get solid tips from such a wonderful author, take this advice and practice it. We can hear this or that all day long, but it means a whole lot more coming from someone who has been there. Especially when the advice mirrors so close with reality. Advice like this really helps to keep us all in check. Write on.