A Very Good List Of Vital Writing Advice — Do Not Ignore!

back off man i’m a word scientist

Hello, America. I am the Internet’s Chuck Wendig, and contrary to what I usually do on this here Website, I’m going to offer some Vital Writing Advice. I am the recipient of a lot of emails, and between the emails where people are mad at me for ruining Star Wars are the emails where people ask me for advice on buying various chairs and pastries, and in between those emails are the writers who want to know how to write. “Internet’s Chuck Wendig,” they plead, “please tell us the secret that will turn us into Super Mega Ultra Rockstar Writers like yourself.”

It’s true that I am a Super Mega Rockstar Writer, though I have not yet earned the Ultra adjective yet because I have not yet fought and killed the Chaos Leopard and taken its sapphire eyes as a trophy. One day!


*a distant leopard’s growl fills the sky*

It’s also true that I am in possession of a great many Author Secrets — that’s right, it’s not just one Author Secret, but an entire liquor cabinet I mean regular cabinet of Author Secrets.

I will share them with you now, in defiance of the Galactic Author Guild’s autocratic laws. YOUR OPPRESSION ENDS HERE, G.A.G., I AM BRINGING THE TRUTH TO THE PEOPLES.

Quickly now, absorb this information before it is taken down! HURRY

1. Finish What You Start. A story is not a story without an ending, and so you must practice to that point. Plus, finishing a thing makes you feel good. It gives you momentum.

2. Write Who You Are. We worry so much about originality in stories, and I’m here to tell you, no story is original. What is original is the arrangement of the story, and that arrangement comes from you. Do not run away from your authorial intent. Run toward it.

3. Also Run Screaming Past Your Self-Doubt. Your self-doubt is a jerk. It’ll jog alongside you, trying to convince you to just stop and lay down and give up. You can’t give up. Keep running. Run faster than your self-doubt. Steal a car. Steal an actual car. Drive fast past it. Then reverse and back over it. Hear the crunch of its bones. That’s what it gets for sassing you.

4. Write What You Know. And what you don’t know, you can always learn. And what you can’t learn, you can always steal from other authors by hitting them with rocks and opening their heads like coconuts. Each writer’s brain is like a fruit containing many seeds, the seeds of knowledge. Kill authors and eat their brains.

5. Don’t use adverbs. Adverbs are witch’s traps.

6. WWFD? Ask, what would Jonathan Franzen do? And then listen to the answer. That’s Franzen speaking to you from his cosmic prison. He wants to be free but you mustn’t let him be. Squeeze your eyes shut and command him to leave this plane, reminding him that he has no power here. In the wake of his absence, you will feel cleansed and ready to write.

7. Panic. Just freak out, man. Seriously what the fuck are you doing. You’re a writer, that’s a bad decision. You should’ve gone to school and been an accountant. People need accountants. You fucked up but now here we are and the only choice you have is to lose your shit and go for broke.

8. Show, Don’t Tell. Don’t say anything. Don’t even use words. Use pictures and sounds. I wrote a whole novel in grunts and pictograms. That novel was called The Chronicles of Narnia.

9. Fuck the First Draft. As Hemingway said, the first draft of everything is shit. So don’t write a first draft. Just skip it. Start with the second draft. Boom. Now you’re a published author. Next secret? Skip the second draft, too, and start with the third. Kapow. Now you’re a bestselling author. That’s how it happens. That’s the magic.

10. Write 1,000 Words A Day. But don’t write them in order. That’s how you confuse the witches. You can put the words in order later when the witches are asleep in their tower.

11. Study Other Successful Writers. Other writers have done this well, so study what they do. Look at their sentence structure. Examine the rhythm of their storytelling. Chart the map of their many footsteps, ideally tracking them with RFID tags. Rifle through their trash like a raccoon. Steal their debit cards. Eat their food and their bank statements and the hair you find in their shower drains, all while miming their mannerisms in a mirror. Live under their floors or behind their walls. That way, you find the ideal time to strike — pop them with a tranq dart and once asleep, search their bodies for ancient sigils and secret messages tattooed there. Then lock them in a cage and steal their manuscripts for your own. Become them by performing The Rites. Or say fuck it and then go back to number four, where you bludgeon them and eat their brains.

12. Eat Bees. You gotta eat some bees, man. C’mon. Just fuckin’ eat ’em already. We all do it. They’re full of protein. They also sting you as you eat them which activates your Imaginatory Gland, so eat a handful of bees and then you get jacked on cool thoughts and ideas. Eat the bees. Don’t be a baby about it.

13. Stop Eating Bees. All right, you’ve eaten too many bees. It’s weird. You got a problem. Go to a meeting. Bees are going extinct the fuck is wrong with you.

14. Don’t Ever Look At The News. Because like Fiona Apple said, “This world is bullshit.” It is. It’s all bullshit. It’ll just make you sad and then you won’t write, you’ll just sit around eating cheesecake and offering up stupid writing advice on the Internet. The news is dumb. The world is dumb. Retreat into your land of unicorns where it’s safe.

15. Read The Work Aloud. Reading the work aloud lets you hear the rhythm, the flow, the inconsistencies. It’ll help you catch any awkwardness or word choice problems. It’ll also help you catch the witches. The witches are coming but they are easily confounded by stories. They are held rapt by them, and as you mesmerize them with narrative, you can kill them and take their hats and wands. Fuckin’ witches, man. Every writer’s enemy, those witches. If witches are not your enemy, you’re not a writer. And no, I don’t mean COOL witches, I don’t mean your friend, Zelda, who’s a witch and who casts spells to protect your third-floor condo from bad spirits, I mean like, ANCIENT FUCKING WITCHES, I mean, eldritch crone-hags who are eternal and who have haunted the Earth from its earliest pyroclastic days. Those witches.

16. When In Doubt, Pterodactyls and Frankensteins. Stuck in your story? Just throw in some pterodactyls and Frankensteins. Always peps up a dull story!

17. Scream At Ponds And Rivers. Water contains mystical properties and is also where the Muses hide. When you are passing by any body of water, yell at it and command it to inspire you. Yell at it until you are frothy and hoarse. Demand the Muses rise from murky turbidity and deliver inspiration unto you. That or a sword. Sometimes Muses hand out swords.

18. When In Doubt, Cats Grant Wishes. That’s true. That’s why authors always have cats because those are the cats that granted those authors their wishes to become authors. I have two cats, and they’re from a rare breed called “dogs.” They’re pretty weird looking but whatever.

19. Listen To Thoreau. Henry David Thoreau said, “Write while the heat is in you.” Which is another way of saying, Thoreau ate bees and so it’s time to start with the eating bees thing again. I know, we were past this, but now we’re not, so num-num some bees. That’s what Thoreau was doing when he fucked off to the woods. He was destroying trees, looking for bees and honey to eat. Thoreau was a bear. What I’m saying is, be a bear. Part-time, at least. A were-bear. A lycanthropic ursine. Margaret Atwood is also a lycanthropic bear-person, because she’s Canadian, and all Canadians are lycanthropes. But I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know.

20. Molt. When in doubt, shed your flesh. Let your true author spirit emerge from the leavings of your discarded scale and leathery epidermis.

21. Listen to Le Guin. Ursula K. LeGuin once famously said of writing, “Writing is a toilet-man’s job.” I don’t know what it means but she said it to me last night in a dream. Always follow your dreams, is really the larger point I’m trying to make.

22. Fuck It, Just Pretend. You can get all the benefits of being a writer just by telling people you’re a writer. It’s okay. They won’t follow-up. Nobody reads books. You can just say it. “I’m a writer.” “Oh, really?” “Uh-huh.” Then you name some made-up books you wrote. “Oh, I wrote The Judas Contingency, and its sequel, The Red Pumpkin.” Nobody will ever go check your work. They won’t buy it. They’ll probably tell you they already read those books. “My Mom loved that one,” the person will say. God people are the worst.

23. Reject Rejection. If someone rejects your work, reject their rejection of your work. Write a formal letter on some fancy stationary telling them categorically that you have read their rejection and you found it wanting, please and thank you. That’s how you get published. It’s like a double-negative. It’s a trick we all use now and again. No shame in it!

24. You Must Join A Critique Group. Stories are best when they are formed by committee. A critique group is an excellent way to ensure that your story is something everyone agrees on. Many bestselling novels have maximized mediocrity, turning it into a bonafide art form, and a critique group is a very good way to achieve that weaponized cromulence quickly. Bonus: a critique group, if given enough time, soon becomes a cult, and if you write really well, your story can become the cult’s holy book. And then one day you’ll be naked in the woods summoning LORD VURBILEX, THE RECONDITE SCION OF TURGID WORDSMITHY, HERETIC OF THE PROSELANDS, and he’s your god, now, so kill a goat and get to writing, you stupid vessel.

25. Never Take Advice From Writers. We don’t know what the hell we’re doing, either, and if we did, we wouldn’t spend time telling you how to do it, we’d just be doing it.

* * *

The Kick-Ass Writer: Out Now









Writer’s Digest

54 responses to “A Very Good List Of Vital Writing Advice — Do Not Ignore!”

  1. As always, you are hilarious and awesome and always provides that much-needed OOMPH to get my muse to work.

    You may not know what the hell you’re doing, but whatever it is, keep doing it, Chuck! (Er, did that make sense?)

  2. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there’s a very bad smell coming from somewhere in your walls. No, it wasn’t Jr. and it wasn’t the cat-dogs… I think one of your previous wallies may have died back here. That’s what happens when you plug up the air holes we drill for vital oxygen purposes.

    In other news, I hope people have found something better than space diapers to be annoyed at you over (and congrats on single-handedly ruining SW, by the way, you must be so proud!) because that’s some excellent writing advice. Thanks for taking the time to share! Good luck outrunning the G.A.G.

    P.S., what the hell is on your head? Is it a waffle? Is it a hashtag? Did tinfoil get replaced without me getting the memo?

  3. Need MOAR clickbait…

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    How To Become A Kajillionaire With Just Words!

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  4. I need more clarity on the bees. What’s an appropriate amount? How much is too much? Can we dip them in their own honey first, or is that like… really weird? Does it matter if it’s European or African bees? What about South American killer bees? Come on, don’t leave me hanging here! They’re swarming, I need this info now!

    Great article, Chuck. Glad to see you weathered the hailstorms the other day. We hid inside with our bee hives…

  5. I see nothing about sheds. Except in the context of flesh and what does with it.

    Are we sure that that’s what Chuck is actually doing in there?

    Admit it, it’s actually a mad scientist shed.

  6. “…[A]nd if you write really well, your story can become the cult’s holy book.”


  7. Now I have all the secrets! You’ve gone and told us EVERYTHING. I’m off to yell at a pond and eat some bees. Cant wait for my magical 3rd draft to spontaneously appear so I can be a bestselling author too!!!

  8. My best successes so far were a book about pterodactyls and one that had a chapter about pterodactyls. How did I not see the pattern here? You opened my eyes! And shoved some bees in them.

  9. I think therefore I write? Wait, bees? I love bees. Not to eat, that’s weird! I like to watch them. Yeah, that’s weird too! On the other hand… Bees got game

  10. Thanks so much for your counsel. I just might print a copy of it and stick it on,,,oh, looking around, I notice that space is at a premium because of a few other bit of advice or wisdom, such as “God is in the details” and “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer” Both of these kept me reasonably sane back in the days when I was the assistant race director for Ironman Canada. I do enjoy your rants!!

  11. Thank goodness for you, Chuck. You’re awesome. This just made me so happy, it was like tying balloons of joy around my heart and letting them carry it away. My day is officially better, and hope has been restored. Thank you.

  12. Your advice is great. You know what a writer needs. I try not to write because It does not make sense to me but I am depressed when I don’t write. Ideas are giving me headaches. Thank you for the advice

  13. Shameless. Shameless and transparent. Shameless, transparent but, as usual, hilarious. So can I please have whatever you’re having and make my book be edited? Please?

  14. I haz story. “Frankenstein went flying on a Pterodactyl”. That’s the third draft. Send money plz.

  15. huh. didn’t know I was a lycanthrope-bear. I’d rather be a puma. Or a lynx. Then I could grant wishes, mostly to me. for my writing.

    also, no book on Kobo? it’s how this Canadian does e-books.

  16. I was going to call you to say how much I enjoyed this post, but I currently can’t speak due to my swollen tongue. Goddamn bees. Plus I don’t have your number.

    Regarding #23, this… (from one of my 2014 blog posts)

    Dear (name of agent or publisher),

    Thank you very much for your recent rejection notification. Unfortunately, I am unable to accept your rejection at this time. Please understand that I receive a high volume of rejection notifications and must be highly selective in choosing those that I am able to handle.

  17. My cat is unable to grant wishes but he can eat bees, and boy oh boy does he ever eat bees … and wasps.

    Great post, socking advice and it made me chuckle. Win win.

    Thank you.

  18. Sometimes maybe, we writers become too desperately excited by short online shopping lists that promise the be-all of writing. You really poke fun at that mess!

    But you make it better at the end by reminding us about the book (serious here look here serious stuff), and that’s suave.

    I cracked up at the rejection letter suggestion. Omg.

  19. Boy, oh boy, Chuck, you’re totally full of shit. But it’s good shit, I think. Some of the best shit I’ve read in a long time. So thanks. I took a two-pound bag of it to put in my current WIP.

  20. When In Doubt, Cats Grant Wishes. That’s true. That’s why authors always have cats because those are the cats that granted those authors their wishes to become authors. I have two cats, and they’re from a rare breed called “dogs.” They’re pretty weird looking but whatever.

    Nice 🙂

  21. Well. That one was weird, even for you. But I feel like there might have been some truth in there, somewhere. Gonna go feed my cat some bees and find out.

  22. I believe it’s Ursidathropia. *pushes glasses back up nose*

    Seriously, though, thanks for this. Sometimes I really get tired of the advice culture in America in general and the way that keeps us from our work in specific.

    This helped relieve that pressure.

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