Best Writing Advice I’ve Ever Heard
Hey, thanks for welcoming me to your blog. Hi, everyone. I’m Stant Litore. I write The Zombie Bible, which is far darker/more serious than it sounds—a retelling of biblical tales as past risings of the hungry dead.
Someone asked me recently what advice I’d give to writers who are just starting out, and that started me thinking about the advice I’ve received over the years that has proven really meaningful. Admittedly, there has been a lot of absolutely awful advice—from “don’t self-publish” to “don’t write genre fiction,” in fact, a whole lot of Do Not’s, which rarely tend to be useful—but there has been some really good advice, too.
Here’s some of the best advice I've received as a novelist:
- "Be fearless."
- "Write for yourself. Then find out who you want to read it to. Know those people inside and out."
- "Don't jump into bed with the first publisher who winks at you just because you think you need a relationship, any relationship. Figure out what you really want, what your goals are. Then go get it."
- “When editing, cut everything you can. If you can't cut it, don't."
- "On that first page, invite your readers to have an adventure. To be adventurous."
I am especially fond of that last piece of advice because it did not come from a real person. Or rather, it did, but it’s complicated. It was my favorite author—the dream version of him. It was around 3 a.m., I was fast asleep, and we were sitting together on a porch watching the rain. And that’s what he told me.
Yes, that sounds pretty loopy to me, too. But I take great advice where I can get it.
What I’ll Add
Now that I have several novels out, I’ll add my own advice to the list. Here it is. Listen to it if it’s good, chuck a tomato at it if it’s bad. But it’s the best I know how to give.
Your novel needs to tell the truth and take no prisoners. You’ll hear all the other advice from other writers, agents, and editors. Advice about discipline and perseverance. Advice about plotting and pacing and character. So I won’t repeat it here. What I will say is find out who your characters really are, let them show you, and find the truth your novel has to tell. Nothing matters more than that. Do not compromise or take shortcuts. Do not chicken out under pressure and write the easier path for your story. If that means you find out two thirds the way through that a near-complete rewrite would give you a story nine times as powerful, you do it. If you won’t have the courage to let your story dig deep into the heart, you’re wasting your time.
There it is. I hope some of this advice that has been great for me will be great for you, too. Maybe not. Writers aren’t cookie cutter people.
What advice has been great for you?