Today Pink Heart Society editor and Harlequin author Jeannie Watt talks about writing advice.
It's been almost nine years since I received The Call, but I've never stopped collecting writing advice. I guess it's the teacher in me, but I don't think we ever hit a point where we have nothing left to learn. With that in mind, I'd like to share three of my favorite pieces of writing advice.
1. Finish the book. I think that this is the best piece of advice I ever got, but it took some time before I understood that it meant to finish the book, warts and all. There was a time when I thought “finish the book” meant finish it well. I would write chapters 1-3, or if I was really on a roll, chapters 1-5, then get hung up, think of a different idea and take off on a new chapters 1-3. My excuse for not finishing the first book was that I hit a snag, so the story obviously had problems and therefore I needed to start over. I repeated that scenario about thirty times before I finally, finally! got it through my head that I needed to skip over the snag and continue the story. Then I could go back and fix things. It didn’t have to be perfect the first time.
2. Every scene must have a purpose. This seems like a no-brainer now, but there was a time when I didn’t know that every scene had to either move the story forward or show characterization. I once wrote a great scene in a book that I was submitting and resubmitting to an editor while on my journey to be published. (It did turn out to be my first sale.) The scene was dynamic and fun and I loved it. The editor--not so much. She thought it was well written, but didn’t see the point of it. Point of it? Wasn’t it enough that it was well written and fun to read? Alas, no. It needed to move the story forward.
3. Use adverbs if necessary. We’ve all been taught to avoid adverbs and told that we should show the tone of voice, etc .instead of resorting to the lowly adverb...however, sometimes it's easier, quicker and cleaner to just use an adverb. My editor once told me that she was tired of people using seven words to avoid an adverb instead of just using the adverb and getting on with the story.
That's some of the advice that has helped me with my writing career. What's the best writing advice you ever received?