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July 28, 2008

Writing Advice from Other People

by Michael Langlois

If you’ve ever looked around for advice on writing, you’ve probably noticed that there are an uncountable number of books, websites, and essays on the subject.  There are books by people for which their only writing credit is that very book on writing, and books by superstar authors whose advice is largely anecdotal and serves only to point out that talent is, indeed, just as mysterious as everyone thought.

There is one piece of good advice that all of them have in common.  Know this, and you can happily discard 90 percent of the pile.

Write every day. Thinking about writing improves your skill in the same way that thinking about lifting weights improves your strength.  Also, you don’t have to be on fire with inspiration to write, you don’t have to ‘be in the mood’, and you don’t have to have worked out every detail in advance.  Writing happens when you’re writing.  Things take shape and happen on the page in the process, so don’t spend all day trying to come up with it beforehand.

There you go, that’s the most important thing there is to know about writing.

Want to hear it said better?  Got you covered.

That said, there are a couple of foundational books/articles/things that I would recommend.  In fact, I would go so far as to say, read these, take what’s useful to you, and then go write.  Stop reading things about writing for a good long time and just write.

Jim Butcher’s Structure Advice

Jim sat down, and with little to no fanfare, pomp, or circumstance, gave out for free the book and story structure that he uses for everything he writes.  And he did it in simple clear terms with examples.  You know why?  Because he’s AWESOME.

Brian Sanderson’s Lecture on Plotting

You know the guy who finished the Wheel of Time series?  Well, he just happens to have some good advice about plotting in this lecture that he gave at JordanCon in 2010.  Hint: it’s pretty good.

Story by Robert McKee

The book talks a lot about screenplays, but don’t let that fool you.  This is for everyone who wants to understand how stories are built, and why they work.

About Writing by Samuel R. Delany

If you could only talk to one person about the history and creation of literature as an artform, Mr. Delany would be the one.

Hollylisle.com by (duh) Holly Lisle

This site probably has more articles on writing and the writing life, with more meat in them, than any other place I know about.  Maybe other places can beat Holly in quantity, but in quality AND quantity?  Unlikely.  More importantly, Holly is a full time writer who came up the *very* hard way.  She knows of what she speaks.

Looking into getting an agent?  You probably can’t do better than to ask Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Tor fame and Neil Gaiman.  Read all about it here.

And finally, a quick word from Elmore Leonard.

Now get out of here, reading about writing gives you hairy palms.

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