Top Ten Writing Tips #10 – The Road Goes Ever On…

It might feel like that, and there’s always something else to talk about, but all these musings of mine are supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Reading books and articles on writing can easily become a form of prevarication (so can blogging), so for now at least this is the end of my series and I’ll be getting on with my own writing for a while.

I’m sure I’ll be back. Gaie and I can natter on endlessly about writing. There’s this thing, and there’s that. Oh, and then that other thing too.

So what are those things? What else could I write about instead of actually getting on with the writing itself? Here, in condensed form, are:

Five More Top Tips!

1. Give yourself breaks and holidays. When I finish an ms I can crash for a few days. I’ve learned not to beat myself up if that happens. If you run a marathon at least sit down and have a cup of tea* before running the next one.

As a coda to this – celebrate your achievements! You finished a story, a book – Yay! And if it’s a biggie, open the fizz.

2. Give, don’t take. Blogs like this help pay it forwards. You had help and advice, return the compliment by helping those behind you. Getting published is not a zero-sum game.

3. It’s not about you. It can feel like it, but it never is. Criticism, reception, it’s all about your writing. It can be frustrating as hell, but it’s not about you. Unless you’re being a dick.

4. Don’t be a dick.

5. Finish what you start. 10 stories 90% written are no stories finished. You’ve got nothing. Finish it, then write something else.

There’s a coda to this too. If you’re struggling with something, if you no longer believe in it, walk away. I’ve got 20,000 words of a novel I know I will never finish. Half the ideas have been used elsewhere, and I might get back to the rest one day, just not in that form.

Coda to this coda: Never throw anything away, There’s often meat to be picked off an old carcass.

6. Keep your sense of humour.

And there are those books on writing. Two I really like, from the opposite ends of the spectrum are:

Techniques for the Selling Writer, Dwight V. Swain

The Writer’s Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers, Christopher Vogler

Swain’s book addresses the practical nuts and bolts of writing, why you do certain things and when not to, and is full of excellent pragmatic advice. Vogler writes primarily about the archetypes underlying characters. If Swain’s book is about how you do it, Vogler’s is about what it is you’ve actually done. You might not agree with Vogler, you might find Swain’s style old-fashioned, what they will do is help you think about what you’re doing.

On Writing, by Stephen King is also very good. And if you write genre fiction Jeff Vandermeer’s recent Wonderbook is highly recommended.

(And I’ve just remembered on I’ve long wanted to read – John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. Found it! Bought it! I’ll let you know.)

These books are not only worth reading, they are worth dipping back into from time to time as reminders and prompts. Between all that – the writing, and the road.

And Finally:

Beyond the Two Rules there are no rules, only guidelines. If there is a rule it’s that there is always an exception to the rule. (Except for this rule, because that would be a paradox and would also prove it’s not a rule. I digress.) Those two rules are:

1. Writers Write

2. There are no other rules



* And cake. If there’s time for a cup of tea there is inevitably time for cake. And that is a good thing, Frodo.


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