What’s the best writing tip you ever received?

writing advice

The world is full of advice for writers. Everyone has written a book about the craft of putting words on paper.

Write five hundred words per day, no days off.

Write a thousand words per day, no days off.

Take some time off and let your writing percolate in your brain.

A good book needs to be 100,000 words.

A good book needs to be 50,000 words.

Blog to hone your writing skills.

Blogging is a waste of time.

Write the last chapter first, then fill in all the stuff that comes before it.

Write a scene and see where it leads.

Have beta readers.

Don’t trust anything except your own instincts.

Join a critique group.

Run as fast as you can from critique groups.

Attend writers conferences.

Work alone.

Write cumulative sentences that turn and spin, cut back among themselves, moving from one level to the next, rising and falling, lapping on the beaches of your readers’ minds.

Use as few words as possible.

You get the point.

But, when I ask what the best writing tip you ever received was, I am really talking about a bit of advice that has stood the test of time for you.

For me, I always return to what the great author Jory Sherman told me once when we were just beginning our teacher-student relationship.  At that point in my writing career I had done what so many writers have done before me.  I had wanted to complete a novel, but I had not found the way to do so.  I would write thirty pages or so on a project, re-write it ad infinitum and consign it to a desk drawer.

The first time I visited with Jory in his writing cabin, he sat back in his chair, looked off to some invisible spot and said, “Everything you need to write your book is already within you.”

He didn’t tell me how many words to write each day, we didn’t discuss sentence structure, we didn’t talk about the discipline required of writers.  Rather he gave me permission to write.

That has been a huge gift for me because it moved me from one who was worried about getting the words right to one who wanted to get the words down.

That is one of the threshold revelations for authors.  The ideas are at our fingertips seeking a way out.  They are living, vibrant.  All we need do is open our hearts to them, to allow ourselves to mold them into syllables, and paragraphs, and books as they take control of us.

Once I realized the ideas in me were the grist from which an infinite number of stories could be made, I got to work.

I haven’t looked back, nor do I think I can.

So, I would really like to know what advice the authors among you count as the best they have ever received.

I know it’s already within you.

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