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The Best Advice on Writing I’ve Ever Received

Daily (w)rite went on an involuntary hibernation last week due to a WordPress Technical glitch. But thanks to the awesome staff at WordPress, it is back, and so is the Writers’ Guest Post Schedule for November.

Today we have amazing writer, and lovely blog-friend Corinne O’Flynn. She is here to talk to us about how writers ought to treat their writing, so without further ado, I hand over the post to Corinne:

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This might sound strange coming from someone who has yet to have her book published, but bear with me. There are ways to measure the quality of your writing before it is published.

There is so much advice out there about writing and paths to publication, much of it is right on. It runs the gamut from grammar, to character development, world building, and the practice of writing itself.  If you’re like me, a lot of this advice speaks to you relative to your own work.

The best advice I’ve ever read comes from Jane Friedman through an article that was printed in Writer’s Digest Magazine last July/August. For the writer who has publishing aspirations, this is important. You ready? Ok, here it is:

“You have to view your work not as something precious to you, but as a product to be positioned and sold.”  – Jane Friedman

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

I will remember forever being on a plane and reading those words. I had a gigantic “aha moment” and sadly was stuck in my seat, alone, with no one to share my epiphany. I must have read the article twenty more times while on that flight. Those words resonated with me and as soon as I could get back to my desk and my work, they found their way into my revisions.

The results were interesting. Once I took to revising my own writing with this outward-facing view in mind, I was able to see the things in my writing that were holding my work back—holding me back.

My ability to identify and therefore cut the junk and improve pacing became sharper. I could locate the places in my work where my own writer’s pride kept me from cutting something I thought was especially fabulous, even though it had no place in my work.

Did I instantly start getting nibbles from publishers and sell my books at auction? No, but responses to my work changed overnight. My critique partners didn’t know what I was doing differently, but they felt that something had changed and the quality of my work had improved. My entries into writing contests started getting positive attention. My confidence in my work skyrocketed.

Approaching your work as something you want to sell and not as a slice of your soul changes what you see when you’re reading it. For the better. The results can be the difference between writing that is genuinely good and writing that grabs hold of your reader and takes them for a ride.

Writer Corinne O'Flynn

Writer Corinne O'Flynn

Bio:
Corinne loves to write about fictional dark and fantastical things. You can find her on her blog and on twitter@CorinneOFlynn

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Thanks Corinne, for the wonderful post, and now I open the floor for questions and comments from readers!

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 forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be 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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24 Comments

  • Thank you Tim, I totally agree. Even if you’re not planning to publish anything and just writing for pleasure and sharing. Your audience needs to be part of the equation when you’re writing.

  • It’s a good reminder that while we craft our words as lovingly as any painter paints, in the end a great book is only great if you can sell it to readers. Nice post!

  • J. R. Nova says:

    Too many writers abuse their readers. We’ve got to do everything in our power to take care of our readers! Make it easier for them. Easy reading is hard writing 😉

  • Well said, Pamela. It is interesting to see how the writers who do the work of producing the amazing novel are then made to feel so inferior in so many ways to the publishing industry. It is backward.

  • Great post, and something that a lot of beginners need to read. Now, this idea needs to be taken to the next level: remember that when you’ve produced a product for sale, please don’t give it away for nothing but vague promises! Respect yourself and your writing enough to turn down ridiculous offers from publishers who want to take advantage of you. All authors would be better off if more writers demanded respect for the craft.

  • A brutal realisation, but true without a doubt.

  • Margo Kelly says:

    Great post! Thanks. 🙂

  • Good observation, Corinne. Since I came through college with a business background, I faced this truth early-on in both my writing and my custom furniture making. Both can be viewed as precious creations; extensions of my soul. And that’s fine if I want to keep them for myself, but if I want to get others to buy them, they have to be shaped and marketed as commodities. Sometimes it feels a little like selling my children, but… (shrug).

  • Novel Girl says:

    That IS one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard.

    Writers should remember that people are only give up their money if the book is written well!

  • Anna says:

    Great advice, but very difficult and painful to take.
    Thanks Corinne.

  • You’re right, you have to think in terms of marketability. My first book was a passion although I wrote it with the idea of creating an epic story like Star Wars. (Hey, aim high, shoot low!) The second one was created almost totally for my fans. I just happened to enjoy writing it as well.

    • Alex, I laughed about your grand plan for an epic ala Star Wars… When I wrote my first novel, I was thinking the same thing. Oh, it was going to be EPIC!!! But of course that was my passion speaking many, many (many) drafts ago. I think we all need to feed that passion and let that out in order to move on. Isn’t it funny though how difficult it is to take that step away from your work?

  • Raine Thomas says:

    Great advice, Corinne! This is probably the hardest thing for any writer to do, as we really do leave pieces of our “souls” in our work. That’s where being open to suggestions by objective readers is especially crucial in editing. Best of luck on the WIP!

  • Vikram Karve says:

    This post is an eye opener for a budding writers. I had never thought of looking at my writing as a “product” to be positioned and sold. I think it is high time I do.
    Thanks for posting this lovely piece.

    • Thanks Vikram, it sounds like that advice did the same thing to you that it did to me! You’ll have to let me know if you discover changes in your work. I am still amazed at what I’m seeing in mine. 🙂

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