Rhino Hide, Little Darlings and Time
As a published author, two questions I regularly receive are, “What’s the best writing advice you can give me?” and “What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?” There are three pieces of advice that have stuck with me through thick and thin, and they’re the ones I’m going to share with you today.
1. Rhino Hide: This is like Thick Skin, Safari Style. If you ever want a sincere critique from a crit partner or agent, you’re going to need thick skin. No one wants to hear her manuscript, her beloved baby, isn’t as ridiculously beautiful as she thought. Reading comments about cliches, overused words, trite lines and more can truly rattle self-esteem, but these things are absolutely critical to truly hear if your goal is to improve. But if you sell? You’re going to need rhino hide. Period. See, editors are there to make your manuscript the best it can be. Feelings can be bruised very easily if a writer doesn’t learn to take in critique/editorial comments with objectivity and turn those comments into productive revisions. This was, honestly, a difficult thing to master. Now? Not even professional moisturizers can help. I’m like leather, baby!
2. Little Darlings: Stephen King wrote a book titled On Writing. If you haven’t read it? Do. Now. Abandon this blog post and go. It’s absolutely the most helpful book on writing I’ve ever read. Did it give me hardline craft notes and methods and fundamental outlines to follow? What it takes to be a guaranteed success? Recipes for lemon poundcake? Nope. None of that. What it taught me was much more valuable: sometimes you have to kill your darlings. This means that sometimes, when you find a line you’re head over heels in love with but your crit partner(s) advice is to ditch it, your agent says the humor is misplaced or your editor says to strike it, you do. Yes, you read that right. You kill it. Hold a memorial service if you must, but let that bastard go. It’s unwise to become so wedded to a word, sentence, phrase or section that you can’t accept feedback regarding changes, or deletions, that make your story better.
3. Time: This is a two-fold tidbit. First, make time to write. If you want it bad enough, the time will be available. I’ve known people who get up two hours early each day in order to get their words in before the day job. I also know people who have given up things that came second to their desire to write (sports, TV time, clubs, etc.). You can carve out time, even if it’s only 30 minutes a day, if it’s what you really, truly want.
The second have of this is to advise you to make time to read. Yes, read. So torturous, my suggestions! Seriously, though, reading is critical. Read across any genre in which you want to write. Read outside your preferred genres. Read books your friends recommend. I guarantee you won’t like everything you read, but two things will happen. First, you’re going to find authors whose voices you admire. They will help shape your own sound. Second, your vocabulary is going to improve. Neither of these things are bad things. So make the investment in your local bookstore or favorite online retailer and stock up on reading material.
4. Best Advice: This came from my agent very recently. She said, “Get out of your own way and write.” It’s hard to do because my internal editor is loud, obnoxious and rather bitchy. But Super Agent was right. Sometimes it’s a matter of setting all the advice and others’ best intentions aside and doing what you do.
So there you have it. My three little tidbits and the best advice I’ve ever received. What’s the best advice you’ve been given? And what questions would you like to ask that I might be able to answer? Feel free to drop me a comment here or shout out on my website or Twitter.
Posted on June 12, 2013, in Denise Tompkins and tagged best writing advice, best writing practices, Denise Tompkins, how to write, killing little darlings, literary agents, on writing, reading, stephen king, writing, writing advice. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.