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What’s the Best Writing Tip you’ve Given or Received? #IWSG #WWWBlogs

Insecure Writer Writing TipThanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writers Support Group every month for the past few years! Go to this site to meet the other participants: each insecure writer, trying to feel secure, from across the blogiverse!

As a writer, one of the questions I’m asked at meetups is “what is your best writing tip?”

Now, I’ve writing for a little while, and have a smattering of writing credits, but the more I work on my writing, the less qualified I feel to dole out a writing tip or two.

So, as is usual practice on this blog, I’ll throw the question to you:

What is the best creative writing tip you’ve ever given or received?

I’ve collected all the links on my blog that share insightful writing tips on this page : Advice from Authors, Editors, Literary Agents. Many authors, writing tutors, editors and literary agents have shared insights into their own writing processes, and given out a concrete writing tip or two that much of this blog’s audience has found useful over the years. Collating it all took time: I hope it is worth the effort. Check it out.

And then, in the comments, share your ‘best writing tip.’

Not a writer? Share your ‘life tip.’ Both tend to work together, I find: what’s good for life is often good for writing.

Who are your heroes in writing (authors), in fiction (protagonists), and in life (people you admire)? Why?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Write a detailed outline first!

  • I’ve just read two novels, with lots of research on particular, interesting subjects woven well into the stories – BUT the characters in both were out of central casting and deeply unsatisfying. All parts of your/my writing need the same in-depth attention.

  • So many good nuggets in the comments here. 🙂 My best writing tip is more of an author tip, but the tip is to know *why* you (the specific individual) write, and to be able to clearly articulate your reason(s). Knowing your purpose for doing what you do can keep you from straying away from it–in the high times, and especially in the low.

  • My advice, a distillation of King’s and others’ advice, is simple: read a lot, live a lot, write a lot.

  • Heather says:

    I’m not an expert at writing by any means, although I do enjoy it. I often struggle with writer’s block, like any writer, and in those times when I lack inspiration I can be tempted to just give up before I even start. Probably the most helpful thing I can do is just to start writing. Eventually, even if it takes a while, the muse will show up and I’ll be amazed at how the writing flow starts gushing. Then I look back on what I’ve produced and get inspired to keep going.

    Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

  • Amit Misra says:

    Three tips: read, Read, READ 🙂

    (In the book All About Words)

  • Bun Karyudo says:

    The best tip I was ever given is quite similar to what several people have already mentioned. I was advised that whenever I was completely out of ideas, I should start writing anyway–even if it meant writing about having nothing to write about! In such situations, I just sit down at the computer and start typing any old thing. Very often, I’ll find I have three quarters of a page of random nonsense, but then suddenly I’ll hit a key sentence and I’m off. I don’t know whether it works this way for everybody, but it’s a piece of advice that has really helped me out a number of times.

  • lexacain says:

    You have a lot of really wonderful agents, editors, and authors in your list and I bet their tips are great (so glad you included Alex!). I love too many writing tips to mention, but my “life tip” is not to be too upset if life veers away from your planned course. Very often detours end up to be amazing, educational, and inspiring and will take you where you are meant to be. Have a great Friday & weekend, Damyanti!

  • dgkaye says:

    Just write. Don’t stop and edit, keep writing until the first draft is done before any edits! 🙂

  • Hemangini says:

    I think starting anywhere is good enough for a start and then just don’t stop, ideas won’t come but keep writing. Things will seem mundane and whimsical at times but stay strong and keep writing. Take breaks and have fun too. Overall have fun writing 🙂

  • upasna1987 says:

    Observe more
    Note down whenever something touched you
    Be consistent

    These are the writing tips that helped me in the last 1 year of blogging. As always, thanks Damyanti for bringing out so many views in front of us.

  • Amy Laurel says:

    Hmm, I’m not sure I’m any more qualified to give writing tips, but I would say don’t write and edit at the same time. Do one and then the other. You will get farther in each process and have more to show for your hard work. Thanks for starting this discussion, the comments are full of great tips! I appreciate it!

  • It’s funny how sometimes success makes us doubt ourselves more. I think it’s because we’re out there more, so now it’s not just us seeing how we’re doing. I’ve felt the same way. Best writing tip? Figure out what works for you and do it. Don’t just blindly follow others’ advice.

  • Maliny Mohan says:

    The best writing tip I have ever received it to write from my heart. I know that I needn’t join the bandwagon and churn out stuff that suit the list of best sellers these days. If I believe in what I write, then nothing can stop me!

  • Catrin Lewis says:

    Think of your characters, major and minor, as real people, with their own lives, histories, and desires outside the world of your story. That will keep you from treating them like puppets to be manipulated and help you steer clear of unbelievable situations and plot holes.

  • Excellent list, Damyanti. Well done. I’m in the midst of a cold, so my head is a little clogged, and I’m going to beg off on adding any words of wisdom. Happy New Year. 🙂

  • Brian Bixby says:

    Read. Thinks about what you read. Analyze what works and what doesn’t. Read more. Read different types of material. Hone your analysis until you can explain not only why you do or don’t like something, but why your feelings and judgment are sometimes at variance. Read some more. Apply all this learning to your writing, as appropriate.

  • subharajag says:

    Write from your heart.that is the best writing advice I have received.

  • Diane Burton says:

    Persistence. Love what you’re doing. Don’t give up. And the best tip–finish the damn book.

  • Nikita Dudani says:

    Just to write ‘Dil Se’ and let your thoughts flow freely but in a creative style.

  • G.B. Miller says:

    I don’t think that I’ve gotten any tips beyond “be yourself” as the best writing advice.

  • I don’t know that it’s a “tip” per se – but participating in NaNoWriMo has taught me how to break writer’s block. You just write. Write anything. Write your shopping list or a description of your desk. It doesn’t matter what. Eventually, you will start to write again.

  • Not sure if this is the best writing Tip I gave buddy, but anyone seeking advice, I always insist to write straight from the heart and it shall automatically connect to your precious readers’ heart.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – as I’m not a writer .. but have been blogging a while – the thing I’d say is finding your voice – which seems to be thing that people comment on … so write on everyone … and good luck to one and all for 2017 … cheers Hilary

  • Misha says:

    My best tip was “Just write.”

    I usually over-edited so much while I was supposed to be drafting, that I never actually managed to finish something.

    Now I can say I pretty much routinely finish stories I’ve started.

  • dehelen says:

    My favorite writing tip is to write every day. Make time. Even if it’s 10 minutes or 15 minutes. If you write every day, you won’t have to start from scratch every time, and you can accomplish much more than you think if you adopt this practice.

  • yakinamac says:

    Great resource – thank you! My best tip would have to be “don’t wait for the Muse”. In other words, turn up and get typing. I read once that looking back at what you’ve written, you won’t be able to tell the difference between when the words were flowing and when it felt like pulling teeth. I’ve certainly found that to be true.

  • Writing tips can help so many so that’s a great move. Happy New Year!

  • omachona says:

    Hello! Thanks so much for liking my stories and also for your blog. One of the most useful blogs I’ve ever come across. Thank you! Please regularly check out my blog. I hope to learn from you!

  • That page clearly shows your effort! Well organized and put! Must sure have taken a lot of time.

    My advice is, “Describe and let the reader pick the word and emotion!”

  • I write coz I have an inexplicable itching to ink my thoughts/emotions. But, a lazy duck I don’t write daily

  • matheikal says:

    I write simply because there is no other way for me.

  • Tip #1: Push through the first draft without reading what you’ve written. This is where writing that first draft with a pen on paper makes sense. Tip #2: Once you’ve finished the first draft and keyed it into a word processing program, send it out to your critique group. Corollary to tip #2: find a critique group you can work with — their advice can be priceless.

  • doreenb8 says:

    What a great list! My favorite part of being a writer is knowing other writers that share what they know and put together great lists like this! Thank you. Happy New Year!

  • BellyBytes says:

    That was an amazing list to compile! I’ll need some serious reading time to go through each one. The best writing tip I’ve received was to note down ideas, sentences, words as they pop into my head. But then I’m always looking out for the paper and pen and of course my reading glasses!

  • Kris P. says:

    What a wonderful list! Thank you for sharing it all!

    As for a writing tip… I always used to hear “write what you know.” Instead, don’t. Write what you don’t know. Writing is about finding your voice, finding your passion, finding yourself. Learn. Explore. Trust that you, with a bit of help from your imagination, will find the way. And if you take a detour here or there? Enjoy the journey.

  • firobertson says:

    Hmm, I guess I’m always comforting myself with Anne Lammott’s concept of ‘shitty first drafts’. How they’re ok. How we all write them (well, except for maybe the odd writing genius). How good stories can come from what initially seems like pure garbage.

    And how persistence is key. Because we can’t control editors, judges, or publishers but we can be stubbornly persistent.

  • simonfalk28 says:

    Far be it for me to give tips. I agree with what I’ve read in the comments so far. I know that I write better, and it flows more freely, when I am reading well. As for other writers who have inspired me – there is not enough space. It keeps growing as I keep reading and responding to great blogs like this one. 🙂

  • Use lots of adverbs and adjectives! I’m kidding. :-p Really all of it is helpful. I will check out the tips page now.

  • Read your work out loud when editing. Amazing how many mistakes you pick up that way.

  • The most useful tip, and one I try constantly to employ, is in writing a short story, don’t forget to revisit the beginning and see what you can find there to bring back into the ending. You’ll be surprised at how this can deepen and enrich a story, can anchor it and make it more convincing. I heard this from Ron Carlson in a Master Class public lecture in Florida..

  • fenster says:

    The best tip I’ve every received- Don’t write for readers you don’t have. That has always stuck with me. I also think it applies to writers who already have readers. Don’t write for readers. Period. Maybe that’s controversial, maybe it isn’t.

  • Stephanie Scott says:

    My favorite tip, that I don’t always do but should, is take a few minutes before you dive in to freewrite your plans for the chapter/topic. Get ideas down without worrying how pretty it sounds. It gets the juices flowing and leads to more productive writing. When I get stuck, this always works!

    My IWSG post this month is about how to set realistic writing goals. The post is here on my StephanieScott website.

  • My favorite writing tip: Find your voice. Storytelling isn’t about plot or characters or setting. There are only so many of those. It’s how you tell the story.

  • Impressive list. 🙂 My favourite writing advice sprawls across may favourite authors, so it would be hard to pick just one to share. I collect favourites, rather than having any single source of inspiration. However, the theme I tend to take notes on in writing and in life is when authors advise to “learn the rules so you can break them.”

    Art has always been and will always be both objective and subjective. Yes, there are rules. If we have poor grammar, if we don’t express ideas clearly enough, if we don’t understand how objectives and plots or character development works, the art turns out weak … or even bad.

    But art and inspiration are very personal, so what one person likes another might detest. Someone might advise “get rid of adverbs,” while someone else will defy that and say, “I love adverbs!” (Steven King vs. Anne Rice) One author might say keep it short. Another likes it long. (Which is why we have entire genres for both: short stories and epic fantasy.) I’ve seen people despair over certain vampire books not being scary enough, when they’ve missed the fact that they’re reading YA romance, when what they prefer is horror. (So, they don’t understand how genres work.) I once looked up advice on whether to italicize invented languages or not. Technically, an invented word is not in our dictionaries, so as foreign words, italics would be the rule. But authors inventing their own fictional languages for their own fictional universes often don’t set single words apart as something foreign to the reader because the narrative is from the character’s perspective, and to him it’s a common word. I found writer forums where writers were advising different ways to handle foreign and invented words in fiction. But I also found many writers advising not including invented words or foreign words at all because it’s “tiresome” for the reader and bogs them down. I’m a linguist. I *LOVE* languages, invented or otherwise! I can’t imagine Tolkien without his Elvish dialects. I can’t imagine Star Trek without Klingon. I thought, “How can they tell people not to do this — ever — just because they themselves don’t enjoy that?”

    My final straw on the disparity in writing advice came when I ran across multiple writers telling other writers they should not give character descriptions — to let the readers come up with that themselves. One person said she hated when romance books describes the men as all “ripply with muscles” because she doesn’t find that attractive. I answered that the guy didn’t have to appeal to her, it’s not her story. The story is about what happened to the main character — not her. Readers should be able to relate to the characters on some level, but she is not the character in the book … unless it’s a choose-your-own-adventure novel. What matters is what the main character finds appealing. And if that is how the author has designed that character that’s her prerogative. George R.R. Martin said, “Art is not a democracy. People don’t get to vote on how it ends.”

    I began to see disputes about writing advice like this as the difference between colouring books and paintings. Both are fun. Both have their purposes, depending on how much you want to interact and how much you want to just appreciate someone else’s creation. No one would dream of telling a painter that he shouldn’t colour his landscapes or portraits. That painting, complete in every detail he decided to put down to his own satisfaction, is exactly what he wants and needs it to be. He is presenting it for everyone else’s enjoyment. Not everyone will like it, but it is what it is. It’s his vision. His creation. His unique voice … as Neil Gaiman likes to stress is so important. On the other hand, if you want to contribute a little to the art, but prefer that someone else provides the structure, you can buy colouring books. Colouring books give part of the design, but allow for artists to use their own palette to finish the unfinished design according to their own preferences. It’s fun. It’s personal. It’s unfinished toward that purpose, but that doesn’t make it better than, nor should it ever replace, fully coloured paintings. There is room enough in this world for both.

    So, my best writer (life) advice is don’t *EVER* take writerly advice as if it was carved in stone and signed in blood as an absolute. 🙂 Learn the basic rules of the craft, but then go with your gut instinct based on your own preferences and your goals. (Your goals might set limitations; for example to be published by a specific publisher, you will have to dance to their drums, not yours.) Trust yourself. Not everyone will like your creation, but it’s impossible to please everyone. Pleasing everyone should not be the goal. Instead, present your work with pride in your vision and knowledge about your craft, so that when you do encounter critics, because critics are inevitable since people are diverse, you can recognize and simply agree to disagree about personal preferences.

  • ccyager says:

    The best writing tip I ever got was “Trust the process.” Writing or any kind of creative activity is a process. Listen to your own inner voice because your process will be unique to you — so while hearing about other writers’ processes may be interesting, maybe helpful (sometimes), stay true to your own process.

  • Not sure if there’s an actual tip. The Beat Sheet in Save the Cat really helped me. So did NaNo, which taught me to plow through the first draft and get it done.

  • “Don’t listen to Others trying to give suggestions… follow your inner emotions and ask good beta-readers for advice, when the writing work is done.”
    I am pretty sure you don’t have to please everyone, for this very reason you can’t make a full audience. The topics are innumerable and it really depends on what you feel in the deepest inside of you… the best thing is to keep writing when you have the opportunity… :-)c

  • I see this one constantly: from Stephen King in “On Writing” to the various sites and blogs I’ve visited. Write, write, write. Every day, whether you feel like it or not.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I don’t know if I write seriously every day, but I do tend to write something or the other most days.

  • shoreacres says:

    The best writing tip I ever received was on a bumper sticker: “Shut Up and Write.”

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      That’s really the Only advice sometimes. Thanks for sharing it, Linda.

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