What is your favourite piece of writing advice?

I read something the other day that really stuck with me:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

It’s a quote by Terry Pratchett and it’s really speaking to me at the moment since I’m writing the first draft of a new novel. It really takes the pressure off πŸ™‚

What’s your favourite piece of writing advice?

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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35 Responses to What is your favourite piece of writing advice?

  1. kingmidget says:

    Excellent advice and something more self-published authors need to hear. The Parasite Guy posted today about the importance of not rushing to publish. Your post is another great reminder of the importance of patience.

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  2. Just the thing I needed to hear right now. Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

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  3. My playwriting teacher told me that when you first start out it’s good to stick with the “write what you know” construct because it is comfortable, but if you want to become a great writer then you need to be able to grow in such a way that you’re able to break out of your comfort zone and write what you don’t know.

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  4. hncook4 says:

    This is really great advice. I’ve never thought of a first draft that way, but I will from now on.

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  5. I love that Terry Pratchett quote. Neil Gaiman always gives down to earth comments on writing that tend to get me back on track right away:
    8 Good Writing Practices

    1.Write.
    2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
    3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
    4. Put it aside. Read it pretending youve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
    5. Remember: when people tell you somethings wrong or doesnt work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
    6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
    7. Laugh at your own jokes.
    8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, youre allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But its definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

    From an article in The Guardian

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  6. Jim Butcher says “I can’t afford to have writer’s block; I have a mortgage.” While I’m not making any money from my writing, I still take it to heart. I feel guilty whenever I’ve taken a day off from writing. On those days where I’m just sitting and staring at a blank page, I’ve realized that it isn’t a sort of writer’s block at all, it’s me being lazy. Also, Neil Gaiman said something to the effect of “It’s not going to write itself” or “No one else is going to write it for you”… I can’t remember the exact words.

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  7. simonfalk28 says:

    Have little notebooks in your room, car, travel bags, etc. When the moment of inspiration comes, you want to be able to respond as soon as you can. I have little “paperblank” books in various places to jot down verses and lines on the go.

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  8. Cay says:

    I like this one. It definitely takes the pressure off for the time being. But it’s also the approach I decided on even before I really started writing my story, I think. I decided to not worry too much about the language or the number of words, or even the chronology. I just go with the flow and I know that will have a huge task cleaning it up afterwards, when the story has been told and it’s time to make it readable.

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  9. denniskoller says:

    What I worry about is not that first draft, its the 10th draft and the 15th draft. Rule number 6 above is the jewel (at least for me). The damn book is never going to be perfect, so push on. I have to force myself to “push” on. If I don’t, I will always find a better word. I will always find a better way of writing this particular character’s dialogue. I had to learn to tell myself “No more. It’s Finished.”.

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    • jpkenna says:

      What I try to do is get it as right as possible in the first draft (hand written) while maintaining the flow. Then polish it on the second draft (on the word processor). Then, ideally, followup is more about proofreading. It seems to me that too many drafts can weaken the flow, the essence of the plot, the characters. A great book is an extended poem, a song, a painting. “No more. I’s finished.”
      Enjoyed your insight!

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  10. kepagewriter says:

    I must admit, I’ve always sort of thought of it like that. At first, the story is in charge, then you can go back and play with the language and style.

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  11. aliveatnight says:

    All of these different pieces of advice are amazing! Thank you for sharing everyone, it really makes the process much more reassuring when we take the pressure off of ourselves

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  12. Well now this is!!!! I hadn’t thought of it like that and yet it is so true!

    My writing advice to myself has always been, don’t stop writing and don’t worry about it being in chronological order. If the thought comes… Write it.

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  13. Gerri says:

    Jodi, love your blog questions! Here’s mine, for writing and for life in general: “Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.” H. D. Thoreau

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  14. Don’t be fake when you write & don’t hold back ,else, why are you writing?

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  15. Mark says:

    Sound advice from Pratchett. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Hemingway’s take on first drafts.

    I like this one on editing from Dr Seuss:
    β€œSo the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

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  16. Liz says:

    My favorite, and the hardest to follow, is the good old “kill your darlings”. So painful, and almost always the right advice.

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  17. Widdershins says:

    The RUE principle … Resist the Urge to Explain.

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  18. A.D. Everard says:

    For me, it was understanding that you have to write to please yourself. You cannot please all others and you will be miserable if you try. Write what is in your heart to write, write the words you want to read, and the passion will bring others to you who like the same. Then you and they are happiest.

    I love what I write. πŸ˜€

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  19. triplec97 says:

    I really need to do this. I keep going nowhere with my novel rewrite because I am worried about getting everything to a certain quality. I just need to sit down and write without judging and hesitating so much. Thanks for posting!

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  20. Choosing says:

    I love Terry Pratchett! πŸ™‚ The quote is great. A favourite writing advice of mine is from Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist”: “Write the book you want to read”.

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  21. Franky Fingers says:

    First post on my blog, although I haven’t been following it to the letter…

    β€œWrite a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” – Ray Bradbury

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  22. laneswift says:

    Reblogged this on Lane Swift, writer and commented:
    As I finished the first draft of a novella today, and realised even as I was writing the epilogue that one of the characters just isn’t right, this is the inspiration to let him stew for a bit and come back to him later. He wasn’t speaking loud enough to me and I wasn’t listening. Now the writing is done, I’m all ears.

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  23. Years ago I was told to “write what you know.” Now my Creative Writing lecturer says “write about what you don’t know” to learn new things, to test and challenge yourself and your writing. πŸ™‚

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  24. wastor64 says:

    “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story” That’s very insightful… I like that…
    I often like to start with the ending and then figure out how I’m going to get there…

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  25. Very good advice – both an encouragement to plough on and finish that first draft, warts and all, and to then re-draft as often as necessary to get it right. Plus, writing’s like anything else – the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

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  26. “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” – E. L. Doctorow

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  27. wreichard says:

    Reblogged this on The Feth Element and commented:
    So true. Exactly the right way to think about it.

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  28. Bec Graham says:

    “Adverbs are guilty until proven innocent” – Howard Ogden.

    I have a real problem with adverb abuse

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  29. I think that’s wonderful advice. I think it’s pretty true for any written work, whether it’s a report, an essay, a short story, a blog post, etc. You don’t really understand how someone picking up your writing would receive it unless you step away for a few days and take a second look.

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  30. bradfonseca says:

    Reblogged this on The Emporium of Lost Thoughts and commented:
    β€œThe first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” — Terry Pratchett Just wonderful…

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  31. andshelaughs says:

    The best advice was; You’re a writer. You write, and let someone else edit.

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  32. toyzatmidnight says:

    Reblogged this on ToyZ@Midnight and commented:
    this is pretty much what i’ve always said… i write what i have in my mind the way i see it but going back and reading it is basically a nightmare… no one besides me would get it…… but then, that’s why they call it a “rough draft”… rough would be a complimentary team to describe my first draft… haha ^_^

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