25 Writing & Life Tips For Novelists

Woman reading

1

Write every day.

2

Do not write tomorrow what you can write today.

3

Write as often and as much as you can. Write even when you do not want to. Do not wait for inspiration. As Jack London put it, go after it with a club.

4

Have a daily word count.

5

Write first for your characters, to bring them to life. Then write for yourself. And then write for others.

6

Write your story before you write anything else in the day, so that you give it your freshest words.

7

Write with nouns and verbs and throw out adjectives and adverbs. Do not worry: some adjectives and adverbs will always find their way back on the page.

8

Do not try to write perfectly, but rather to write well. To write well means to tell good lies.

9

Observe the world around you. Seek to understand what the leaves whisper, and what rumors the wind carries, and why the sun is so constant and the moon so mysterious. Notice what other people do and try to understand why they do it, and how they feel doing it.

10

Do not try to write striking sentences. Write plainly, clearly, and striking sentences will surface on their own.

11

Do not allow your writing to sound like pompous literature. Use figurative language only if it occurs naturally. Do not consciously think of metaphors and similes.

12

Write from within. The essence of your story should be based on something powerful you have experienced, rather than on a clever idea you have thought about or discovered through reading, so that you write not only with your head, but also with your heart.

13

How you write your life offpage is as important as how you write it onpage. There is an invisible energy behind the text, an energy that transcends technical ability, and that makes some books and some authors greater than others. Everything you do offpage goes into that energy.

14

When you are not writing, think about your story, imagining characters and scenes. Note down or record the good ideas.

15

Find something that fuels your writing. My fuel is melancholy.

16

Edit days or weeks after writing, not sooner. Do not pause while writing to edit, not even to fix typos or misspelled words.

17

Take a break of at least one week after writing your story before rewriting it. During that brake work on another story.

18

Do not show your writing to anyone until you have given it all you have to give. Writing groups and cliques are good for editing and reviewing your work, but they are a distraction while you are writing your story. The writing of your first book is an intimate experience, like having sex for the first time. You would not do it in front of others.

19

Your story can never be finished, but only abandoned. Abandon your story when your interest for it wanes. That’s when the time has come for you to move on.

20

Writing with your eyes closed is good for your eyes.

21

If you have to write erotic scenes and happen to be single, make love with yourself before, to maintain your concentration during the act of writing.

22

Set realistic writing goals and note them down. Set deadlines. They will make you write more and write better.

23

Do not think about publishing until you are ready to abandon your story.

24

Do not write to publish, but publish to keep writing. The chief benefits of writing are in the writing process itself. In the introspection, in the play with language, in the creation of other versions of your life. Publishing is a bonus, like a night of sex after a whole day of romantic friendship.

25

Do not expect the story you write to be significant for others. If it is significant for you, it is enough; you will enjoy writing it, and will not regret any moment you devote to it. It will teach you much about yourself and the world, and it will pacify your restlessness, to some extent.

Bonus

Read 15 Writing Tips From Famous Authors.

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These tips sum up what I have learned about writing since I made up my mind to teach myself English and write a novel, three and a half years ago. I note them here so I won’t forget them. PS: Some are based on personal experiences.

(This was first posted last year.)

If you’ve liked these tips, which was your favorite?

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66 thoughts on “25 Writing & Life Tips For Novelists

  1. I agree sincerely with most of your points. Though I don’t think I could ever advise writing to a quota, as it seems a rather cynical way of writing. Through perseverance you can force yourself to write when inspiration fails you. However writing for the sake of writing can leave work to feel a little insipid ( at least to me).

    1. I understand what you mean and I agree. I don’t advise anything really – I am in not position to do that. But I like to set targets. For me, ‘writing 500 words’ is clearer than just ‘writing’.

      Many if not most writers have a word quota. 500 is rather low, and does not demand too much. Anthony Trollope used to write 2,000 to 3,000 words in two hours or so, without a computer or typewriter. A madcap he was.

      I am writing a story with over 200 characters, so I need a word quota to track my progress. If I were a poet though…

      1. I’m not in position to do that either and I hope I never will be. I do understand what you mean, to write most days is key. I can’t remember who said it, “to write a good sentence a day is great achievement” (something like that anyway). I commented further down as I didn’t wish to seem as if I was being overly critical. 200 characters good lord! Perhaps a word quota is needed :p I’m only writing short stories at the moment, so I can imagine the magnitude of your work. Poetry is a lot different and perhaps too much in that mentality. Though even if it is bit of a lofty ideal, I think Keats was right when he said, “If poetry comes not as naturally as leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all”. I also think novels should be the same. PS i really don’t like Trollope :p

        1. I have not read Trollope, I only cited him as a curiosity.

          For me a word quota is not an inducement to write when I am not inspired, but rather a measure to track my progress. Like I’ve said, all great writers had a word quota, from Flaubert who wrote sometimes under 100 words a day to the already mentioned Trollope.

  2. Three lines that really stood out for me:

    1: “The writing of your first book is an intimate experience, like having sex for the first time”

    2:”Your story can never be finished, but only abandoned.”

    3:”Do not expect the story you write to be significant for others. If it is significant for you, it is enough;”

    1. If I would have not written them myself I would say that they were proper indeed, and I would have liked them too. But as it is… I am going to like only the person who commented. She writes 100-word stories she does!

  3. If I only had half of your devotion and ambition. I’m afraid my age has caused a waning of those. Yet I persevere and hope to adapt the most important of all writing rules: WRITE.

    Your skill with English still amazes me, it’s obvious you are quite fluent.

  4. Respect for your 70,000 words 🙂

    Number 6, Number 15 and Number 17 could, quite possibly, be gold. I learned number 17 the hard way – that story remains, sadly, unfinished 😦

      1. Hmmm, a novella on the exploits of a young woman attempting to find her place in the world…Total fiction, of course 🙂 But what I should have said was, I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours…? 😉

    1. If on an inky night the two of us will ever happen to walk on the same street, we will illuminate half of the globe with our brightness, or at least North America, turning the night into glorious day.

      1. Vincent!… My pigeons are coming 🙂 … Be aware… one day they are going to find their destination cuz I didn’t told them your address… 😛 So it’ll take time… 😀

    1. I don’t know about the thing about sex… that’s bad, isn’t it? I mean as a recurring theme. It just pops there. Probably because of the hot weather and all that. It will go away in autumn, when the weather cools… You know how young men are… They think of hats, of stories, of books, and of women, in no particular order. 🙂

  5. #21 made me laugh, but alas I disagree. Having recently wrote an erotic scene, I found it better to do it while being aroused (despite the fact that I do have a boyfriend). Perhaps men get more distracted than women? 😉

  6. #12 and #15. Some of the things I write happen to be only exaggerations of things I experience. I will take some emotion I felt and turn it into a whole scene. And sometimes, my greatest creations come to life when I am melancholy…

  7. I’d have to say nr 25 is my favorite. It caught my heart.

    Funny, I just realized I commented on this before. I didn’t remember this post which is strange cause I remembered all of the one’s you repeated so far… I must be really ill! 😉

  8. I have to choose a favorite? Five, six, and seven are so very true. Things I, too, have learned. But twelve and thirteen are my heart.

    And melancholy my fuel, often.

  9. Reblogged this on LADYBOY PROMPT and commented:
    Today, something very special happened to me. I would like to thank wordpress.com for that. WordPress.com gave me this great opportunity to meet a person which whom I think would be very famous in the field of writing literature. A true artiest and a creative writer by birth. Today, wordpress.com has published again the weekly freshly pressed favourites and one of them is the bog post of the greatest writer of our generation.. VINCENT MARS.

    How many blogs are being published every day? every hour? every minutes? every seconds? I have no idea. I cannot give you an accurate statistics. However, I think you would agree with me if I claim that there are blogpost that are being published every minute? It is true indeed that there are hundreds of people who are aspiring to be a writer or at least to make their voices and ideas in the world. There are so many who truly aspires (and that includes me – there is nothing wrong with that), but there are very few who has the inborn talent to truly mark the literary history.

    Too many blogs too many blog posts here and there. Some are interesting and some are not. But today is the very first time that I encountered a blog site, where each word written penetrating in my mind and soul. I have read it word by word and as I do so, inspiration and various intense emotions flourished from within. I was reading it in the train on my way to Amsterdam and regardless how busy the train is, VINCENT MARS made me cry. Do not get me wrong. I am very good in controlling my emotion. What I really mean to say is that – at least I do not burst in tears in public. But as I read Vincent’s blog, I got emotional. In a very weird way, a feeling that is so abstract that I could not compose the words that would describe it, that I could identify with his thoughts that finally somebody is telling me the things I am trying to tell the people around me.

    While I was reading his 25 tips, I was reading it in a symbolical way. When we try to read texts and we go beyond the literal meaning of the text, somehow, we are able to se its abstract and will be able to apply it in our own personal life – no matter how different our life that be to the whole idea of the text. Complicated? Well, like I told you, it is based on a weird feeling that I am not able to describe.

    His comparison between “hand writing and making love” and the “typing and having sex” fought my attention. I thought that was very interesting. That was the bait, and now I could not get out from his intelligent, charming and creative words.

    As I checked on his ABOUT page I could not help myself but to admire this young talent. On a very young age, he experienced a great challenge and trials in his life. He has been able to find his ways to survive. I do not know him personally, but I am sure that all of the things happening in our lives whether be it good or bad happen for a reason. Reading his writing gives me an idea that he is a strong person. The trials and lost he experienced in life will be his motivation and inspiration as he reach the top.

    His command in English is excellent, better than mine. English is not our mother language, but I got formal English classes both in secondary school and the University. Vincent Mars thought himself English – him alone but his acquisition of English as a second language is much more advance than mine.

    Most of all, I find it fascinating that like me, he enjoys walking at the end of the day or at night when he can have the road and the surroundings all for himself. Do you know that he donates 1 $ if there is one person follows his blog?

  10. I liked 20. Writing with your eyes closed is good for your eyes.
    it works well.
    Call me a thief, I am going to use your comment propeller statement “If you leave me a comment I will send you an invisible gift.” thanks.

  11. Reblogged this on My Beaten Track and commented:
    It is strange how I happen upon things like this somewhat frequently, and this is what inspires me. Unfortunately not to write, but it does stir my spirit a bit. I used to write so much when I was a teenager. Unfortunately these days it is a lot less. I would like to write again, but I have no idea what.

If you leave me a comment I will send you an invisible gift.

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