Tuesday, September 6, 2011

10 Lessons for Writers

It's the first day of school in Canada. To honour this auspicious day, here are my 10 lessons for writers. There are lessons about grammar and character arcs and plot development. These aren't those.

10. If you've blocked out a time for writing and you're writing well, the time will fly by in an instant. If you're not writing well, the time will drag on for eons.

9. Writing poorly is far easier than writing well.

8. Characters tend to speak loudest just as you're about to fall asleep.

7. If you're a morning person, you will write best in the evening and vise versa.

6. The realization of "This Is Crap" can come at any point. If you're lucky, it happens in the first 10,000 words. Let's just say I'm not all that lucky.

5. Even if you don't base your characters on anyone you know and the people in your life know this, it will not stop them asking "Am I in it?"

4. You will never read a book the same way again.

3. 85,000 words is a lot of words. A lot. You can't write it in a week. If you can, please go soak your head.

2. You will have all the patience in the world with your characters and very little with yourself.

1. People who ask "But what do you really do?" need to be abandoned on ice floes.


  1. think I'll print these out. Though today I have done NOTHING and it is my main writing day. I think that is because it is slightly raining out, my office is a pig-sty with furniture that is being moved into my downtown office tomorrow and JUNK and well I'm scared. There you heard it. I'm terrified. This is the start of the year for me and I feel like I'm in a dangerous place. Don't tell anyone.

  2. Elspeth - Such good lessons! I'm printing them out, too. I am going to make a special badge out of #1, and point to it whenever anyone asks me that stupid question. And I am going to find my own personal ice floe for those people. And they don't get mittens, either. So there!

  3. Damn global warming, there just aren't enough ice floes in the world ;-)

  4. Elspeth,

    I haven't been by to read in so long. Summer has been crazy this year!! What a marvelous post to come back to :)

    I love #4. It's so true. And may I venture further to say you'll never watch a movie the same way either. I'm so absorbed in story that
    I find I can't just enjoy a movie or a book without analyzing, getting ideas for my own plots, or simply shaking my head and asking, "Why didn't I think of that?"

    Happy Tuesday!

  5. Jan; It's the start of the year for me too! I'll hold your hand if you're scared, that way we'll both know we're not alone.

    Margot; I'm flattered you'd want to print these out - thank you! Put a big sheep at the top of the page.

    Sarah; There really aren't. I'll be writing a letter.

    Jen; How lovely to 'see' you! I agree with you about movie-watching, but my first stumbling block has always been the acting. If it's bad I start analyzing why - is it the writing? The directing? Or is the actor just plain bad? And then there's the killer - Why did I waste my money to see this?

  6. #4 is the killer for me. I recently joined a book club, and it's refreshing to hear how "normal" people read books.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  7. These were great tips. I was chucking all through your list. I loved #8, and do relate.

  8. Terry; I'm planning to join a book club next week.

    Elizabeth; I'm so glad I was able to be your chuckle-giver.

  9. I'm at the "This is crap" stage right now, and I'm pitching the novel to an agent on Saturday. I need an attitude adjustment...fast.

  10. Pat; Or, you could fake it. Sell yourself and the agent at the same time!

  11. LOL

    Don´t worry; I won´t have to soak my head. Not this week, at least.

    # 1 is also brilliant, and # 8 made me sooo relieved. I thought it was all in my head :D

  12. Dorte; They *are* in your head. Annoying, isn't it?

  13. To #2 I would add: or your family.

    Love the post...thank you for a much needed smile today!

  14. Great list. Number 7 floored me. Are you serious? Is this really true? I'm a dyed in the wool morning person. I never write in the evening. After a couple years burst of flowing words (when I had the time)my writing has been floundering-for a sad long long time...

    I will try writing in the evening.

  15. lol Awesome. I'm a new follower because of the amazingness of this list.

  16. Elizabeth; Don't you hate when that happens?

    Linda; Thank YOU for letting me know you enjoyed it!

    klerosier; Try it. Seriously. It just might work.

    Kelley; Welcome! Come by often!


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