Favorite Tips on the Writing Life

17 Aug

My Hugo to the Henry class wrapped up last night, and we ended the quarter by swapping favorite revision strategies and general craft advice. From time to time, I think back over the advice I’ve picked up from my writing teachers over the years, especially the ones that helped me through draft after draft of my novel, or helped me continue on in a general sense, and think, wouldn’t it be nice to gather them in one place? Well, here I go:

  • “Just trust yourself and write.”  -Jonathan Raban
  • “Every character you write is both you and not-you.” – Sonia Pilcer
  • “Wherever you feel closest to your writing, double the length of that paragraph.” – Shawn Wong
  • “There is no hierarchy of suffering.” – Chris Abani
  • “Plot is sequences with consequences. In a story, decisions matter because they will either make a difference or a character thinks they will make a difference.” – David Bosworth
  • “Whenever you get stuck with a piece of writing, do whatever is most unholy.”  -Heather McHugh
  • On grants & fellowships: “Apply and apply and apply and apply.” — also: sentence diagramming! – Maya Sonenberg
  • “Stop counting on your fingers.”  – Mrs. Rosenburger, first grade.

What writing advice have you found helpful? Add your own in the comments!

3 Responses to “Favorite Tips on the Writing Life”

  1. Elissa Washuta September 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    David Shields always told me to write first and worry about the external details (who will it offend? am I violating copyright?) later or, better yet, never. Also, anytime I asked whether I should try out a form or a subject, the answer was yes–try that, always.

    • AS September 15, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

      That’s great advice. I remember reading an interview with Miranda July several years ago in which she said she often told herself that no one will be reading what she’s writing so she can write whatever she wants, and I’ve found that mindset pretty helpful.


  1. Hugo at the Henry: Writing with Visual Art « Anca Szilagyi - December 18, 2012

    […] Favorite Tips on the Writing Life […]

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