This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
In putting her top five writing tips down on paper for us, Driving Home for Christmas author A.L. Michael discovered she really only wants to impart one big and very valuable writing tip.
by A.L. Michael
Originally, this started out as five top tips for writers, but when I started writing my number one top tip (the same top tip and my first thought whenever anyone asks me for advice as a writer) I realised I was quickly filling up a page. So I’m just going to focus on this one thing and why I think it’s important.
So here goes, my one piece of advice:
Don’t talk about it more than you’re writing about it.
You won’t hear me talking about my work in progress. Yes, I may give you a brief outline or a synopsis if you ask, I may tell you about my character, or when people ask how the book’s going I’ll say: “the storyline is giving me some trouble” or “my main character’s being a bitch this morning” but the story itself needs to stay inside.
There are a few reasons for this.
Firstly, if you’re talking about it all the time, it’s not growing internally. You’re not mulling stuff over, giving it time to percolate in your brain. You’re sending it out into the world, mashing it up in the way you say it. You’re not perfecting it, putting it on the page in exactly the way you need to. You’re wasting the energy you have assigned for this task.
Secondly, you’re not discovering. Writing is as much about discovering a story as it is about creating one. If you’ve told five different people the ending, you’ve no doubt told it five different ways. When you actually come to write the damn thing down, it’s redundant. You’re not discovering the ending, letting it be natural and flowing, you’re just writing down dead knowledge that’s old news to you. Write like you’re bored and your readers will be too.
I’m hoping that you think of yourself as a writer, if you’re writing a book. Hell, if you’re writing a poem, a short story, a journal or a reality in which you want to be a writer, I hope you think of yourself as one. But don’t forget that if you are a writer, writing is yours business. Why would you give away for free the thing that you are creating to be paid for? Planning on giving away your book for free? Fine. But think of the value of your book. By all means, give away excerpts, write blogs, share your work. But don’t tell people that what happens in chapter five is awesome – show them chapter five and let them decide for themselves.
Here’s the next part about readers – they want to read your work. They don’t want the author to tell them about a book they haven’t read yet. Sure, sell it, promote it. But don’t tell them the story, they want to experience it for themselves, and you’re robbing them of that journey. If I wanted an author to tell me their story, I’d buy an audio book. Don’t forget as well that your friends are the people who are probably going to buy your book at first, mostly out of support (or pity). So why make it any harder for them to do that? Just shove them a link and a blurb, keep it brief and let them get on with it. They’ll decide what they like. You talking about it isn’t going to persuade them.
Also … it’s really freaking annoying. As a reader, or someone who hangs out with writers, sure I’m going to ask how your process is going, I’m going to want to hear how you are doing with it. Does anyone want to hear the exact details of the best character ever, or that amazing plot twist in chapter seven when they’ve never even read the first chapter? No. No they do not. Keep it to yourself, and write the damn thing. Then, when you haven’t bored the bejeesus out of them, or ruined every twist and exciting part, they can actually read it and be enthusiastic with you.
I’m sure a lot of people won’t agree with this. Writers love to talk about writing. But I think you can make a distinction between talking about writing and talking about your work in progress. Your WIP is malleable, alive, it’s delicate and is molded by you, by your state of mind and confidence and experiences. Don’t put it out there too soon. Keep it safe from the world until it’s ready. Babies get time to grow in the womb, where the noises are softer, and it’s warm and nourishing. Think of your WIP like this.
Writing is a lonely task, and the problem is that everything is in a loop. I just wrote a seasonal novel, Driving Home for Christmas, which was released at the end of October. Which, of course, meant I was writing a Christmas novel in July. Was anyone else getting excited about Christmas in July? No. It was a lonely kind of space, I had to get on with it, being really psyched about the project I was working on, but it wasn’t the time or space to share that. When it was released, people were enthusiastic about it, but by then, whilst getting reviews and sales are exciting, the creative part for me was done. Luckily, I knew a lot of other authors who were working on their own Christmas projects, and so we could talk about the strangeness of describing mince pies whilst wearing flip flops, but we didn’t have to talk about the specifics of our own stories. We were in them, simultaneously creating and discovering them. Putting them outside of ourselves wouldn’t have been fair. It may have been dangerous; it definitely would have been selfish. Try to compare it with composers working – can we be excited about our musician friend’s new composition? Absolutely. But is there any point us listening to the three notes that they’ve adapted a gazillion times until they get to the actual creation? No. We can’t take any meaning from it, and the artistry is lost. We don’t need to experience their process. We can hear about the process, but we should experience the end result.
So talk around your work, tell people how excited you are that you reached a word limit, talk about your process, how you’re feeling about it all. But keep your story safe inside until it’s ready to be written. Our ideas are precious, treat them with respect.