The Best Writing Advice I’ve Ever Received

Writers of fiction are creative people. We think outside the box, we create things that seem unimaginable, we escape to foreign places, we have imaginary people speaking inside our heads and we spend all day talking to them back. If we are so creative why would I think we all need to have the same writing process?

When I first started writing, I read numerous books about the writing process, attended conferences, read blogs by other authors. I took detailed notes and then attempted to follow all the “rules” set out for me by these other authors. One of these “rules” was that I would write a complete rough draft of my book without ever looking back and then once it was complete I would allow myself to edit.  Most books I read on writing suggested that this was the best way to write. The thinking behind it is that once you have the skeleton of your story down it’s easier to go back and make changes to it. Well, honestly, this didn’t work out so well for me. I ended up shelving two books because once I went back to edit there were so many problems with the manuscript that I found it too daunting. It seemed easier to just start over from scratch then try to break apart my manuscript and piece it back together.

A few years ago I attended a writer‘s conference here in town and Camille Minichino, writer of cozy mysteries, was the speaker. She talked about her writing process and said that she edits while she writes the rough draft. I spoke to her between sessions and told her that I liked her writing process better than what I had been trying.

She said that as a writer I needed to find the process that works best for me, not for someone else. It seemed like such simple advice, yet for me it was so freeing.  I spent the next year or so trying to find the writing process that worked for me. I like to call my writing process “doing whatever I need to, to get it done.” And that’s really what it is. I’m not a rigid person. I’m a creative person, and therefore so is my writing process.

We are all individuals. Our books are different, so why shouldn’t our writing processes be?

If you are curious what my writing process looks like read on:

I always start with characters. Often I don’t know what they look like, but I always know their motivation – what drives them. And I usually have a general idea of the story. Then I set out to write the first few chapters. When that is complete, I will do a rough outline – chapter by chapter. I say rough, because it’s only a line or two per chapter and I know it will be changed numerous times before the book is complete. Then I write a couple more chapters. After that, I always jump forward and write the last chapter. I like to know where I’m going…and also, I’m super impatient and it helps to slow me down when I’m not rushing to write that last climactic scene. After that I write whatever I want. I don’t necessarily write in order. I write the scenes I want to write. I can always go back and check for flow, but why write in order if I’d rather write a different chapter? It’s my book. I can do what I want. I think it’s the reason I rarely have writer’s block, because I write what I want when I want.

I do edit as I go, but the bulk of the editing is done afterward (and much of it is done by other people, because the truth is I’m not very good at it).

That’s my writing process in a nutshell. What does yours look like? Feel free to comment about your writing process or share the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten. I’d love to hear from you!

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5 thoughts on “The Best Writing Advice I’ve Ever Received

  1. Awesome Post Amber. You are correct in having your own way to write a book. The most suggested way you described in writing out the entire book first and then edit it, doesn’t work for me either. I am a scatter brain and I thrive on a messy assembly of a novel. In the end, it get’s a tied up, smoothed over and turns out much better than writing it all without editing. To each their own, make it work however it works for you is the best advice for a writer there is.

  2. I really enjoyed this post & comparing it to my own experience. I find that my writing style is evolving. With my first novel, I had no outline, wrote the middle of the book first, then wrote the beginning, then the ending and edited after the first draft was done. I ended up taking some writing classes and it was highly recommend that I utilize an outline. So for my sequel I started with that. I like the outline as I was able to go back and easily insert or delete items as it was developing. I’m writing this book from beginning to end and find that the outline keeps me on track. However, next time, I think I will add even that much more detail to the outline because I can already tell that I’ll have some extensive revisions.

  3. Very nice post, Amber. I love it when people talk freely about their process. I agree; it’s about what works for you. That said, it’s taken me a while to feel comfortable saying ‘this doesn’t work for me’ or ‘this isn’t quite my way’. I guess maybe that stems from school, where we’re all taught to write papers or assignments a certain way, and if we don’t, we’re somehow wrong. It’s liberating to realize that, with creativity, the process can be unique as every other part of the book.

    For myself, I’m rather scattershot on process. I often say my process is “beat head against wall till novel comes out”. I make notes and plan, launch into book and then go back and plan, and repeat as necessary until finally I’ve got a good enough grip on the characters, their motivations and the overall plot that I can go into the novel and just play within the bounds I’ve gotten set up. And yes, knowing where I’m going is crucial!

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