What’s Your Most Valued Writing Tip?

When I started writing creatively some years ago, it was magical. I adored my characters and the story I was trying to tell. Since I knew so little about craft, there was nothing to weigh me down. The hours I invested were pure joy.

Unfortunately, all that magic went up in smoke when I enrolled in a workshop. I realized how much I had to learn. Opening work up to readers (and their criticism) will do that, and it hurt. I missed my safe, solitary writing world.

Still, the workshop taught me a lot about rules every writer should follow: show, don’t tell; limit adverbs; open with a strong hook, and on and on.

Crown Fountain in Chicago

Crown Fountain in Chicago

Besides these hard-and-fast rules, there’s no shortage of advice for writers, and much of it’s conflicting. What works for one may not work for another.

For example, author Kourtney Heintz blogged about a no-no she lives by in Confession Time: I Revise as I Go. Her post illustrates how individualized the writing process is. There’s really no right or wrong way to go about it.

Write every day is an axiom many embrace, but I can stick to it for only a short period of time. I inevitably burn out and need time away from the laptop to recharge. And that’s okay. It’s what works for me.

How do you know which advice to follow and which to discard? Maybe it’s as simple as knowing your writing self and feeling comfortable in your own skin.

A tip I recently discovered in Wired for Story, by Lisa Cron, has become one of my favorites:

Whether it’s your first draft or your fifteenth, relax. Instead of thinking each draft has to be “it,” just try to make your story a little bit better than it was in the previous draft.


What’s the best advice you’ve received? Is there a tip you value above all the rest?

Please share in the comments!


Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , | 40 Comments

Rainy Day in a Corn Field


Anyone who writes knows how lonely the process can be. I’ve often wondered how writers coped with the solitude before the age of the Internet, since I’ve connected with most of my writing friends online. Maybe that’s why meeting my virtual friends in person is so exciting.

This past July, I got to meet my writing buddy Kourtney Heintz, who was touring the Midwest to promote her debut novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin (check out my review here). As luck would have it, a stop on Kourtney’s tour included a workshop presentation about an hour’s drive from my home in Chicago.

We met up at a university in DeKalb, Illinois, a rural hamlet nestled among the corn fields. There’s nothing quite like meeting an online friend in person: hearing her real voice (not just her writing voice), seeing her smile, enjoying her humor. She’s taller than I expected, too.

It rained for much of the afternoon, but we managed to fit in a leisurely walk around campus. Kourtney filled me in on the book tour happenings and gave me a glimpse into the non-writing side of an author’s life. After our walk, we relaxed in the air-conditioned comfort of a coffee shop and chatted about all things writing. Friends can cover a lot of ground with online conversations, but it can’t compare to an old-fashioned face-to-face over a nice up of tea.

Kourtney’s workshop, “Turning Up the Heat: Writing Good Love Scenes,” was a small but personal gathering. I loved seeing her in action and learning her 7 techniques for making the most of an intimate scene.


Author Kourtney Heintz (center), with me (right), and ultimate fan, Margaret.

Probably coolest of all was a local fan, Margaret, who turned up to attend the workshop. Margaret had discovered The Six Train to Wisconsin in DeKalb’s public library, and her enthusiasm was infectious. She gushed about the characters and Kourtney’s writing style, and how the story spoke to her as both a reader and writer. I’d imagine these are the moments emerging authors live for.

On my way out the door I picked up another copy of Six Train, which Kourtney personalized with a charming message and autograph. It was the cherry on top of a really exciting day.



The Six Train to Wisconsin is available in Paperback through: Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Ebook available through: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and iTunes.

Love is a journey, never a destination ~ Author Kourtney Heintz


photos courtesy: wikimedia commons, Kourtney Heintz

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , | 36 Comments

Writers are Never Alone


My daughter is a gymnast, a passion I helped her discover at the tender age of four, when she needed an outlet for her limitless energy. Now ten years on, she’s still at it — leaping, tumbling, and handstanding on any available surface.

Every gymnast progresses at an individual rate, excelling at some skills while struggling with others. Yet they are never alone. Teammates come together to celebrate every victory and provide support in moments of defeat.





The parallels between the gymnastics and writing worlds are uncanny. We learn and grow as individuals, but we’re surrounded by a supportive network.

Recently I blogged about my First Draft Highs and Lows. The outpouring of support from readers was astounding. I feel compelled to give credit where it’s due, so here’s a sampling of the tips, advice, and encouragements that have helped me remember I’m not in this alone:

We all have moments of self doubtthis takes time and several revisions. So be patient. — Rajni Gupta

Write the rest how you think it should go, no matter how at odds it is with what you already put down. — Phillip McCollum

Think about where you want the story to go and how you could get it there. That will help you…fix the points where it started to drift. — Jon Simmonds

Things can often be fixed at a point of reassessment more easily than you may imagine, and then you are fresh for what is to come. — Francis Guenette

Stop, assess, see what’s working, see what’s not, and proceed from there. — Michelle Proulx

Compressing [my] book into a single page allowed me to see that the original story arc didn’t make a strong enough impact. When I corrected the synopsis, I was able to plan the book out to the end. — Joe Ponepinto

Something that helped me was to jot down what happens in each chapter…to see where the plot holes were. — Laura Read

Whenever my first draft goes astray…I always go back to the outline, understand the repercussions and then carry on with the draft. — Dylan Hearn

Sometimes I don’t know my protagonist’s goal until I’m in the second or third draft…That’s okay. You can really revise after you’ve laid the bones down. — Kourtney Heintz

Most first drafts are shit – we have to allow them to be. It’s amazing how much the quality changes over the…following drafts…and you’ll learn so much from the process. — Gemma Hawdon

Things can always be doctored and fixed. Getting the words out in the first place is what counts at the first-draft stage. — Carrie Rubin

Over time you can rewrite and edit…just let it evolve until it grows into a wonderful book. — Larry Merritt

You were successful at reaching your goal of 30k words, that’s what matters… Most importantly, enjoy the process! — Jill Weatherholt

I would take a bit of a break. And then re-evaluate what you believe needs to be done. — Fransi Weinstein

Look at it with a fresh eye. It might not appear quite as ugly as you first thought. — Jenny Pellett

Get some perspective before deciding how you feel about the outcome. — Lara Krupicka

First drafts suck, and they’re supposed to suck. — Natalie Wicklund

I say finish the darn thing. — Don Royster

Thank you so very much for your support!  ~Gwen

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , | 49 Comments

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