The Most Important Writing Advice You Need Right Now

Writing advice, as I am wont to say, is half-a-bag of nonsense. It’s a wonderful, heady, narcotic mix of survivorship bias and whisper-down-the-lane stories, a steady parade of bullshit in a long line of linked-up wagons. But it’s useful, too, especially when you can take the advice in as exactly that: advice. When you absorb it as an option, as a bit of guidance or a loosey-goosey recommendation, you bring it into you, you get to play with it, examine it, challenge it. And then you can utilize it. Or discard it. Or hide it in a drawer for a day when it makes more sense.

But some pieces of writing advice are, honestly, sacrosanct.

Rules, let’s say, more than advice.

Like, one rule is: you gotta finish your shit. You just do. No, I don’t mean that every story you begin must be a story you finish — sometimes you gotta cut bait and run, but in the overarching journey of your writing adventure, you need to finish your shit. Complete your poop. Do the thing. Because a story is a thing with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And you cannot learn how to tell a story unless you learn to tell a complete story. You cannot learn to write an ending if you never write an ending. So, you gotta CONCLUDE YOUR SHIZNIT. Okay? Okay.

Point is, some pieces of writing advice are fairly immutable.

This next piece is one of them.

That piece of advice is —

*receives Breaking News alert*

Wait, what? The FBI raided Trump’s lawyer’s office? And his house and hotel room? And what’s this about Syria? And Facebook did what now? 87 million accounts exposed? Wow. Okay. Um. Heh, hah, sorry, lemme just recompose my thoughts here —

So, like I was saying, the most important piece of advice — a fundamental truth more than just a mere recommendation — is the following:

*receives Breaking News alert*

Wait, huh? Trump did what? There’s video of him stomping on a box of baby robins? Like, the birds? No, no, of course the birds, I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t the various sidekicks of Batman. Ha ha Batman isn’t real. So, hold up, Trump paid off the videographer of this robin-stomping movie out of his campaign funds? In order to hide it or produce it or both? And whoa, hold up, Facebook sold our account information to who now? A “shady guy in an alley?” Oh. Oh, that’s probably not ideal. And whoa what the fuck, who has nukes now? The KKK. The KKK has nukes. That’s — you know, that’s honestly pretty on-brand for 2018, but I gotta focus up here, gotta get this writing advice post back on track, hold on here —

SO THE MOST IMPORTANT WRITING ADVICE YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE IS

*Breaking News alert*

The President tweeted what? Just a string of ethnic slurs, many real, some invented? Every last one of them in all caps and misspelled? Jesus. And whoa, his children are actually just RealDolls? All of them but Barron are plastic-skinned robots? That tracks, I guess. Wait, whoa, we’re at war with who now? Amazon. The company, not the geographic region? And they have nukes? They’re at war with the US government, who is being funded by Facebook, who sold all of our private information to — *reads the buried lede* — the Devil? The Actual Devil? The Devil, who claims to have a VHS tape where Donald Trump whizzes into his own mouth like a playful orangutan? Where’s Russia in all of this? Oh, Putin is the Devil. And the EPA just rescinded the law that says you can’t have asbestos in your canned vegetables and that you’re now allowed to feed toxic mining run-off to human babies — I just — okay, I can’t —

I can’t do this! How the fuck do you talk about normal shit these days? How can I give writing advice in the face of all this… *gesticulates* sorcerous fuckery? Shit, if I can barely give writing advice, how do you actually write? I mean, real-talk, how on this little blue-green marble in space do you write an actual goddamn fucking book in the middle of this weaponized, aerosolized horseshit? It’s like trying to take your SATs in a room full of bees. Writing a book these days is like navigating a washtub across a dark and stormy ocean full of eels, and also the eels are falling from the sky and also there’s a hurricane that’s shitting out tornados and the tornados are just lashing whips of scalding hot cat barf and and and —

*Breaking News*

OH JESUS GOD WHAT THE SHIT

FUCKING FUCKBALLS

AH OKAY GREAT THE SIXTH EXTINCTION IS UPON US

THE WHITE HOUSE JUST NUKED SEATTLE

AMAZON RETALIATED WITH A DRONE FLEET INHABITED BY THE FRAGMENTED MIND OF DIGITAL JEFF BEZOS

TRUMP’S FLESH SPLIT OPEN AND DISGORGED A TIDE OF UNDEAD POODLES ON THE WHITE HOUSE LAWN AND NOW THEY’RE BITING EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING, SPREADING THEIR UNDEAD POODLE PLAGUE, SOON WE WILL ALL BE FILLED UP WITH ZOMBIE POODLES, AS THE BIBLE ONCE PREDICTED

ELON MUSK IS TAKING HIS COLONY SHIP TO MARS AND IT’S LEAVING SOON AND THE TICKET COST IS THE COST OF YOUR FIRSTBORN CHILD, THAT OR A BELOVED FAMILY PET OH GOD OH GOD IT’S ABOUT TO BLAST OFF AND I’M NOT ON IT

WAIT THE EARTH IS ACTUALLY JUST AN EGG AND IT’S ABOUT TO HATCH

IT’S FULL OF MANTISES

SPACE MANTISES WHO WANT TO FIGHT THE ZOMBIE POODLES

AND WE’RE ALL JUST FODDER FOR THIS ENDLESS COSMIC WAR

EVERYTHING IS FINE

oh wait hold on

I remember now

I remember the writing advice

the one piece of immutable writing advice

is this

you gotta look away

you gotta face a healthy direction

where none of this is happening

turn off the news alerts

shut down the tweeters

delete facebook probably I dunno

you gotta carve time away from the fuckery because fuckery always exists at some level and yes right now it’s at truly epic levels but it’s always there, like air, like anxiety, and you still need to make things, you still need the silence you deserve to create things, because the world keeps on turning until it doesn’t

turn away

turn it off

practice it

be diligent about it

give yourself silence and air

steal it if you must

go make something

don’t worry about the rules

don’t worry about the shit raining down everywhere

willfully disregard the chaos for a time

the words must be writ

the art must be made

it is how we will survive

it is how we will thrive

*Breaking News alert*

fuck this foolishness

*throws phone in toilet*

*goes and makes a thing, basking in peace and purpose*

*as should you, right now*

* * *

DAMN FINE STORY: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative

What do Luke Skywalker, John McClane, and a lonely dog on Ho’okipa Beach have in common? Simply put, we care about them.

Great storytelling is making readers care about your characters, the choices they make, and what happens to them. It’s making your audience feel the tension and emotion of a situation right alongside your protagonist. And to tell a damn fine story, you need to understand why and how that caring happens.

Whether you’re writing a novel, screenplay, video game, or comic, this funny and informative guide is chock-full of examples about the art and craft of storytelling–and how to write a damn fine story of your own.

Out now!

Indiebound | Amazon | B&N

42 comments

  • I needed this. I’ve been paralyzed for the past year and a half and unable to even write comments much. My books sit unattended doing god knows what cause I sure don’t. Trump’s election put me in the hospital for a week as the stress set my MS on fire. Then my writing mentor died on Valentine’s Day. I haven’t found another one, or a muse, mine cut bait and took his sailboat off to Catalina Island. He’s a rich young man I met gaming who used to talk to me, but I’m outside his circle of over budgeted friends. He dropped me like, well, me. I turned off the news alerts, but the 6000 emails asking for money to fund the armed ants eating the foundation of the White House overwhelm the Groupon ads. I started gaming again. It’s an addiction that costs me little except writing time. I added breathe to your list, I forget to do that every once in a while. And the doctor’s visits don’t help. You get one chronic illness and all the others jump on the band wagon. Here you have MS? Let’s see, how about giving you Type 2 Diabetes, Kidney disease, thyroid lows, we’ll lower your normal blood pressure to subnormal to extend your life (but you are so tired you can’t open the peanut butter jar), and CFS is good for a laugh, we’ll give you enough drugs so that eating is no longer an option, and form of non-organic dementia can creep in anytime. STOP. Sorry, just needed to talk to someone. Life gets pretty lonely here twenty miles south of the madness we call DC. And God, I turned 60. What kind of miserable God allows you to be sixty and not have grandchildren to see the innocents that save us all. glad you have your son and camera.

    (Knocks on the door) Hello, hello? Go check out Randy Rainbow’s videos on Youtube. He makes one smile.
    Sorry, I’ll go back into my corner now.

  • Thank you. You may have written this post to the faceless masses that click on your blog every day, but today I think your Muses and my Muses conspired to ensure this advice made its way to me at the most perfect moment.

  • I love you. You are good, you are kind, you are worth it. That goes for all of you reading this.

    I have to go now, the nuclear poodle mantises are out of control.

    Thank you.

  • Until recently, the rule of finish yo shitz is the one I have had the most trouble with. I would start writing, get pretty far into it and then start hating it & just stop. It left me hating writing and wanting to just give it up. The thing is though, I love writing so I always return, ending up in a love hate relationship with writing. Now I finish almost everything. I try to not go back and read something I’m working until it’s done, if after it’s complete I think it sucks sweaty balls, so be it, at least it has a beginning, middle and end.

    As for tuning out the spiraling shithole currently consuming our collective consciousness, it can be difficult because we want to know, everything at all times. Until we don’t. As you said, just gotta shut it off, drop out, and tune into self.

  • Thanks, I’m finishing my shit. You pretty much covered everything, except the part where Bezos’ fragmented mind buys Twitter and deletes Trump’s account. Can’t all be grimdark.

  • I went on a news diet 3 months ago – One Hour of NPR a day. Because the Fuckery was making me into a screaming drone. It worked. It helped. I art and I poem and I hike with my Nikon and stalk critters to steal their souls. I raise money to help send kids to summer camp (Camp Little Notch). Stuff that matters. Thank you!

  • For fucking real. I need to turn off my phone more often. The world is blowing up, and all the distractions make life harder. I was just complaining about how I haven’t been finishing things lately. Thanks for the push. Signing off and going to write…

  • You are a blessing to the world, you know that? Thank you for your penmonkeying skills and thank you for using them in all the right ways. You’re a god send. <3

  • That whole White House nukes Seattle thing is totally fake news. We’re still here. We’re still sad. Everything else though? Sounds pretty legit.

    In all seriousness, thanks for the advice. We all need to hear it and know that it’s okay to walk away and do our thing. I deleted FB this year before the whole data breach shitstorm, and it was the best decision I made this year!

  • Yes, it always exists at some level. Truth be told, I think it always exists at this kind of level, but usually in the lives of people who are separated from “us” by space, time or both, and it therefore seems less real or problematic to us.
    Imagine, for example, being an average person in the time of the more dissolute Roman emperors. He just appointed his horse as a consul? He just assassinated his mother? He has a penchant for ? Best to stay away from the circus. (Bread is mostly harmless.)

  • April 11, 2018 at 8:24 AM // Reply

    Thank you, in all sincerity. I damn near cried with how on point this was.
    Turning off and tuning out now.
    Keep on keeping on, Chuck.

  • Yup and yessireebob to all of the above. That’s why I haven’t been on Facebook or Twitter since last summer. It was all a toxic environment fueling my depression and sucking away my writing juices. I’ve checked in once in both places since then — and yup, not an iotization of a diphthing had changed since I left. Good riddance to poison rubbish. *caterwauls* *cavorts happily away to write*

  • Nothing to do with the post- I’m just in the middle of reading Empire’s End and I want to say thank you. From the bottom of page 272 to the end of 275, thank you.

    “I am the brightest beam of light.”

    You rock, Mr. Wendig.

  • Love, love, love this! I live in a constant state of anxiety over the outside world. I aspire for an agoraphobic way of life. So yes, tuning out the bullshit and just writing is this writers dream.

  • Weird. Only today I decided to go the next month without news, Twitter and Facebook. Deleted the whole lot from my various electronic devices. As someone that has traditionally hung onto the news every day for the past 20 years or so, this is quite a radical step for me. So it’s weird I do that and then today I read your blog encouraging us to tune out the madness. There must be something in the air.

  • I deleted my Facebook-account (tried to delete the whole of Facebook, but my computer skills seems to be lacking) and I stopped watching the news (which cured my vomiting instantly. Miracle!). Now I won’t be aware of the undead poodles until their teeth are stuck in my ankle. Please let me know if something important happens, like if cheese is suddenly free for all. Thank you, Mr Wendig.

  • April 17, 2018 at 8:36 AM // Reply

    Hi Chuck, when i first read this on feedly, I was at work and trying hard not to roll on the floor laughing. This post is funny as hell and well needed. It made me want to find your home on the web and subscribe directly to you. I actually saved the post to read to my friend and he laughed his head off at the Jeff Bezos line. It is pure gold and I am now a die hard fan.

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