Single-Serving Writing Nuggets

Let’s play pretend. No, no, stop — put down the tea-set. We’re not drinking fake tea. No! Stop, I said. What’s with the bonnet? And a shepherd’s crook, seriously? Oh. Oh god. That’s a latex fisting dildo, isn’t it? What kind of “pretend” are you playing at here, anyway? I’m just going to pretend you’re not here. See what I did there? Shut up. Don’t look at me.


Let’s play a whole different game of pretend.

Let’s pretend that you’re, I dunno, an old writer. On your last legs. Your liver is bourbon-scarred. Your brain, mice-eaten. Fingertips permanently smudged with ink, and your mouth tastes not of ashes but rather, of typewriter ribbon. You’re not merely a dead man walking. You’re a dead writer typing.

Let’s further pretend that you have a protege. That protege may be a child. Or an apprentice. Or some kind of sex robot who you believe should leave his “life” of sex-robotics to do something productive.

This protege is going to be a writer, too.

Let’s say you can offer that protege a single piece of writing advice. Something summed up in a single sentence. Can be as glib or as profound as you’d like, but arguably the goal is to make this one volley of writing advice count. You can whisper or mumble or gibber it before you go scrivening your way off this mortal coil. This is important shit. Something they may not know. Something that must be imparted before your bowels loosen and your eyes go dark.

What is that piece of writing advice?

(If you so choose, you can supplant “writing advice” for “storytelling advice” if that opens up your thought process. You can also beat yourself about the head and neck with that fisting dildo. Do what you like.)

Drop into comments, answer, if you feel so inclined. Thank you for your time.


  • The creative life is not a hobby, it’s a constant state of mind.

    Always keep the antennae out there. Never know where the inspiration will come from next 🙂

  • I thought you were talking about me until you got to the protege part. My sentence is:

    Live wholly and completely in each moment that you are writing about as you are writing about it, not five chapters down the road or where your butt is parked as you scribble or anywhere else except for that moment that you are capturing with your words.

  • Fuck the market, fuck the past, fuck the future, fuck the self doubt, sit down and write that shit out.

    Of course after that I would have to die by flying a car over a cliff or some such.

  • Dialogue isn’t a series of clichés, a chance to dump in exposition, or to work in a cheap joke. It’s the ability to make the reader feel like they’ve overheard the best conversation ever whilst sitting on the bus. Writing everything else will fall into place if you can nail speech. Not everyone can inject verbose descriptions of their surroundings into everyday life. But everyone can talk.

  • If you only have ‘an idea for a novel’ you’re screwed. An idea is flash fiction, a novel is hundreds, possibly thousands of ideas all stitched together in a vast quilt of words and thoughts and emotions.

  • I think Churchill said it best: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

    Or, as GalaxyQuest put it: “Never give up! Never surrender!”

    In other words: BEARD THE FUCK ON.

  • Don’t write if it’s not something that keeps you alive. Whether you’re good or bad at it, if you don’t love to do it and aren’t willing to invest sometimes 12 hour days, don’t do it.

  • There are people who can teach you every important part of this craft, but they can’t teach you passion. You’ve got to bring that to the game yourself, and if you don’t have it, you can’t do it.

  • You will write absolute garbage. It will be the worst thing you’ve ever written, over and over and over. But that doesn’t make you a bad writer. A bad writer stops after they write garbage. A good writer keeps going.

  • I couldn’t help but have 2 joke ideas pop into my head. Namely, “If you want to be famous, feed the trolls.” and “Are you sure you don’t want to be a sex robot instead? Same abuse for better pay.”

    The actual bit of serious advice though?
    “Hurt your characters, bash them into rocks, make them bleed, and push them to the very limits of what they can endure, but don’t break them. Never break them.”

    Which of course is based on the hope that he/she has already learned that every rule has exceptions.

  • One word: Read.

    If I get one of those theatrical last-gasps and can expound on it: Read, read, read, and while you’re reading, learn. Look at what those other authors are doing: dialogue, pacing, setting — what do they do that makes the writing flow? Pick it apart, especially your favorites. What is it about that writer’s voice that appeals to you? What nifty little narrative tricks do they use that you might want to try? Pick apart your not-so-favorites, too, but not to mock them. Recognize what it is about that writing that turns you off, so you don’t find yourself doing the same. Always have a book within reach. You never stop learning.

  • Write every single day, and every time you get an “aha’ idea, even if in bed in the middle of the night, get up and right it down—you’ll be kicking yourself for not remembering it in the morning if you don’t!

  • One word: Don’t.

    Because it’s good advice – writing is not a good way to earn a living. It takes a long time to get started, and you don’t earn much when you get there. The luck requirement may kill your career altogether (“I’m sorry, we’re all out of vampire romance right now. You wrote it ten years ago? That’s a shame.”) The uncertainty and poverty are bad for your mental and physical health, which is bad for everyone around you.

    Because there are too many writers out there already. Although it seems sweet and kind to encourage beginning writers, I honestly think they’d be better off in the long term if they DIDN’T invest thousands of hours (and their fragile soul) into an over-crowded market. Sooner or later they’ll hit reality – and it’s kinder to discourage them now, before a score of agents do it for you.

    Because the single word “Don’t” reminds you that writing is fun, not work, and you must never forget that.

    Because anyone who hears the word “Don’t” from a trusted mentor and goes ahead and writes novels anyway is the sort of person who might do just fine.

    Louise Curtis (who is grateful for those who told me the truth from the start)

  • “The only journey in fiction and in life is from ignorance to self-awareness,” as one of my old professors used to say.

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