Writing advice should come from someone with runs on the board

 

You write and you may have mentioned it once or twice to a few others. Very often they’ll offer you abundant unsolicited writing advice.

Aunty Joy

‘What have you been up to?’ Aunty Joy clasps you into her bosom and plants warm kisses on both cheeks. You love her smothering embraces and the cooking smells that float in her house.

‘Writing.’ You pick up a chopped carrot from her board and munch. She passes you a bowl and you string runner beans. She dices.

‘Still?’

‘Takes a while.’

She’s quiet for a moment. A bunch of spring onions are lined up for a beheading and she waves the knife dangerously close to your nose.

‘Can you put some humour in it? So serious and sad some of those books.’

‘If it fits, I’ll try.’ You inch along the bench.

‘Wouldn’t be able to recommend you to my friends otherwise. Meredith hasn’t smiled since nineteen eighty–six. Humour.’

‘Got it.’

 

Writing and reading in your genre

Just do it! Write for yourself; write with abandon, joy and don’t edit during this creative phase. This is how the first draft is usually constructed- free from constraints. Read everything in your field that’s similar. If you write historical fiction read lots of it, or if you write crime, likewise.

Then there’s your Grandmother

‘So proud.’ You smile and spoon something creamy, heavenly and full of chocolate into your mouth. You’re at her local café. She almost tears up. You soak up the, ‘I’m the most loved grand-daughter,’ feeling.

‘I hope there’s a lot of nice gymnastics,’ she wiggles her eyebrows up and down, ‘and not that shady stuff.’

The chocolate mousse cake suddenly becomes a lump and you struggle to swallow. ‘Um.’

‘Just because I’m of a certain age, doesn’t mean, you know.’ You nod furiously.

‘Of course, I understand. If it fits…’ She’s not listening.

‘Women my age, we’re always the grandmother. Who says that’s all we are?’

‘Not me and that’s not strictly true.’ You clear your throat. Too late, she’s off.

 

Read Books that offer Writing Advice

If you’re planning on publishing, there are excellent books worthy of your time and cash. Despite the differences between authors, several consistent messages emanate from their pages on the craft of writing. Some of these points are mentioned in earlier blogs.

You may find these useful books to keep in your library: Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande (an oldy but a classic), On Writing by Stephen King, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. There are others and if you look them up, you’ll see these names and more.

Izzy who’s Fifteen

Your teenage daughter waltzes into the kitchen and holds open the fridge door whilst you’re writing a blog, paying bills, and listening out for the oven timer to announce that a vegan pie is ready. She’s flat out on FB on her phone and you bite your tongue because, you know, the fridge door is still open. She needs FB on her phone when she moves from FB on her laptop in the study to come to the kitchen.

‘Your book, it’s not lame and full of stereotypes?’

‘Define stereotypes, the new version.’ She ignores you.

‘It’s not embarrassing is it? I couldn’t live with that. It’s not about love? Yewck. People don’t sit around in cafes, do they?’

‘Uh, well…‘

‘Oh my God Mum, that’s so 2000.’ She flicks a thousand messages out.

‘What are we having for tea?’

You show her a picture on your computer.

‘Vegan pie?’

‘Something’s changed?’

‘I’m into just eating real food now, I hoped there’d be pork.’

Nope, no stereotypes here.

 

Courses with great writing advice

The web is full of options. You can learn from: other people’s blogs, forums, watching YouTube, listening to Ted Talks as well as reading.

Writing courses in real buildings are still very popular. For some, sticking to a schedule and being around others helps with learning the material and provides an instant network. Quite often the presenters are intelligent and engaging, and give relevant information for the current writing scene. Often they are presented by authors and hosted by writing associations and universities.

Work Mates

Dave, your colleague, smiles benignly at you as you stand by the coffee maker.

‘So how’s that book doing?’

‘Great thanks. Published soon.’

‘Really?’ You’ve kept him updated. He asks weekly.

‘About a month away.’

‘Good for you.’ He almost pats you on the head. You almost want to bite his hand.

‘You know,’ yes you do know since he’s told you weekly, ‘I always wanted to write a book.’

‘You should, nothing stopping you.’ Same answer, weekly. The coffee gurgles and sprays out.

‘I love history.’ You nod. Brilliant, there was I thinking that today we’d discuss what would happen if Hemingway and George R. R. Martin were locked in a lift.

‘There’s a lot of call for historical fiction.’ You pull your cup out and consider the effort of working the milk frother.

‘Have you got some history in your book?’

No, not worth the effort of frothing. Black coffee it is.

‘Not really. See you Dave.’ Still, when he’s not talking about history, he’s very likeable.

Best Friend For Life

She arrives like a vision with champagne, chocolate and a take away dinner. She understands you’ve been slogging away and that you’re on the edge.

You talk about holidays, kids, work, movies, and then finally she says, ‘Oh wait, I’ve got to tell you.’

‘What?’

‘Shelly’s Nanna wrote a book and now Hollywood want the rights. Overnight success. A complete blitz.’

‘What’s it about?’

She pours a glass of bubbly and you dish out the takeaway rice, fish and vegetables.

‘It’s about this older lady in her eighties who’s sent back in time, finds a hot lover, and alters the course of history. And it’s a comedy. A lot of the beginning scenes are set in a cafe. How great is that?’

‘Fascinating.’ You may have lost your appetite. You may want to be alone.

Bit At The End

The best writing advice is: find out what works for you, investigate what’s going on in your local writing community and library, and network with others, especially authors.

Have you found a great source of writing advice? I’d be interested to hear about it.

AJR

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