Writing advice is cheap. With the democratization of writing, most of it is free. The fact that it is free is neither here nor there. Some of the free advice happens to be really good. In the decade and more of my writing life, I’ve often been confused by advice from experts. A lot of it seems to directly contradict each other. It took me a bunch of writing (and writing workshops) to understand that no writing advice fits all. What’s diamonds for me might be coal for you. On occasion, you might pay for advice that has no value for your writing. At others, a casually-dropped nugget at an author talk could save you from months of misery.
It all depends on who you want to be as a writer, what you want to write, and where you are in your writing journey. I listen to all manner of writing advice. I also solicit it for this site, because I get asked for advice often, and I don’t think I’ll ever become an expert. I accept what fits my work, and let the rest be, hoping it might help someone else.
Here are a few nuggets of wisdom shared by authors I have come to respect, advanced in their craft, and generous in their efforts to share their wisdom.
Writing Advice 1: How Do You Develop Your Setting into a Character?
Setting in fiction hooks in a reader, letting them sink into a world of the author’s making. It has been my abiding fascination in my own writing–how setting can become part of the plot, and how the way characters interpret setting gives us a clue into who they are, their state of mind, and their evolution through the character arc… read more
Writing Advice 2: How Do You Create Suspense in a Story?
Mystery and thriller writers are very familiar with creating suspense. They are the foundation of those genres. But to a certain extent, every good story needs suspense and mystery. Otherwise, there is no reason for the reader to turn the page… read more
Writing Advice 3: What Sci-fi Thrillers Have You Read Lately?
Sci-fi is usually seen as plot-driven, but this is not true. Some of the best sci-fi books of all time have been character-driven. To me, the best science fiction explores relevant ideas that stem from our own contemporary society, and might impact our future. As a crime fiction author with a love for thrillers, I love a book that marries the best aspects of sci-fi and thrillers, marrying technology with non-stop tension… read more
Writing Advice 4: A 101 guide to Writing Backstory
Because writing is linear—words on a page—it is a challenge to include past information without throttling the forward motion of our story. It’s best if we add it in ways that drive the story… read more
Writing Advice 5: Crafting Short Stories–Benefits for Novelists
Writing short stories has taught me much about the writing craft, and though the short story writing format and novel writing differ in significant ways, writing a short story teaches you a whole lot about condensing time and space in a line, about showing character with economy, and invoking setting without sacrificing pace… read more
Writing Advice 6: Why do Some Thriller Books Read Like Movies?
You can visualize the descriptions and action. You feel like you’re there with the characters. And if you don’t turn the page to find out what happens next… it might just kill you… read more
Writing Advice 7: Revision Strategy: Tips from an Author and Writing Mentor
Trimming down a long book by this much has a lot of challenges, especially if you’re working with a twisty or non-linear narrative, or if you have multiple points of view in your story. There are a lot of interconnected parts to keep track of, and even if you weren’t aiming to cut words, revising anything always feels like it risks bringing the whole structure down like a house of cards… read more
If you’re working on your writing craft, as I am, you might consider picking up my free writing gazette which goes out on the second or third Tuesday each month.
Are you a reader or a writer? If a writer, which of these pieces of writing advice resonated with you? As a reader, what was the last read that has stayed with you?
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Hi Damyanti – developing one’s voice too – can be challenging and needs lots of practise. I know nothing about blood spatter evidence – just tv images! Cheers Hilary
Hahaha. TV is definitely more fun! I completely agree with the fact that it takes a lot of time to develop one’s writing voice 🙂
Sci-fi is usually seen as plot-driven… that makes sense. And since I usually write character driven stories, that’s why mine is different from what people expect. And maybe why people I meet ‘don’t like scifi’. Hmm. Food for thought. Great list – thank you.
I’m so glad you found this theme useful Jemima 😀
Thanks for sharing these fascinating articles. I found the concept of ‘Callbacks’ by Ren Hutchings really useful. While editing my second novel I’ve noticed that I had characters figuring things out that they already knew, and that I could simply reference back to the previous time they had come to a realisation or were told something by another character. I’m going to spend more time plotting my third novel before writing it, so Ren’s advice on noting the key elements of each scene is timely.
I’m so glad you found this theme useful! Thank you for visiting 🙂
Thank you Ian 🙂
Of course no piece of writing advice fits all. Which is true of all advice. Being open to a variety, and willing to experiment has to be a help though.
The last book that stayed with me was Antonia White A Life by Jane Dunn. Antonia was a difficult and damaged woman and that was made very, very clear.
I consider myself very fortunate to have gone to school for creative writing. What I learned has stood me in good stead all these years and taught me how to separate the wheat from the chaff with current writing advice.
Lots of great suggestions here. The one that really spoke to me was ‘setting as character’. I discovered this by accident and found it to be such a powerful story motivator. I love how you’ve detailed it to make it easy to replicate.