Monday, August 22, 2011


A while back I came across a blog post entitled Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors by Steve Silberman. Who can resist practical tips? Although most of these authors write non-fiction, some of the tips struck me as brilliant. Here a few. Check out Steve’s blog for the rest.

-Cory Doctorow  Author of With a Little Help, For the Win, Makers, and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

1.    Write even when the mood isn’t right. You can’t tell if what you’re writing is good or bad while you’re writing it.
2.    Write when the book sucks and it isn’t going anywhere. Just keep writing. It doesn’t suck. Your conscious is having a panic attack because it doesn’t believe your subconscious knows what it’s doing.
3.    Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement.

-Ben Casnocha  Entrepreneur and author of My Start-Up Life

1.    Shitty first drafts. Anne Lamott nailed it! But with books, it seems to be more like “shitty 20th drafts.” So shitty, for so long.
2.    Develop a very serious plan for dealing with internet distractions. I use an app called Self-Control on my Mac.
3.    Develop a very, very, very serious plan for dealing with internet distractions.

Josh Shenk  Author of Lincoln’s Melancholy

1.     Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly.
Stephen S. Power says: 
Don’t even think of using song lyrics. They cost a fortunate, and the permissions are so convoluted they’ll just make you hate the song. And, no, you can’t just use one line. Check out Anne Tyler’s “Breathing Lessons”: she had to get permission for one line from the Dead’s “Golden Road.” Although admittedly it might be cool to use a line from a Dead song just to be in contact with Ice 9.

What the best writing advice you ever got? What’s the worst?


Kathy Ivan said...

Great post, Lark! Some very useful information here.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark,
I'm wary of that mouldy oldie, "Write what you know." I'd rather write, and through writing figure out, what I don't know.

The tips you highlighted is fabulous--and perfect for this long, hot, will-sapping month. I especially liked Cory Doctorow's advice to keep writing when the book sucks.

Lark Howard said...

Will-sapping is a good description of August in Houston, Pat.

From the tips I liked, you can probably tell that I'm at the point in the WIP where I just have to keep writing, even if it's crap, just to keep forward momentum. I loved the bit: "Your conscious is having a panic attack because it doesn’t believe your subconscious knows what it’s doing." My consciousness thinks my subconsciousness in vacationing in Jackson Hole for the summer...wish I was. :-)

Colleen Thompson said...

I loved the panic attack comment, too. That's so true!

Thanks for sharing this!