Unsolicited Advice

Jessie: Delighted to be at the seaside in Maine.

This summer, I am finishing my fifth novel. Fifth. Five actual novels. Every now and again that thought moves to the front of my mind and I stop dead in my tracks. A wave of astonished disbelief washes over me which is quickly followed by a fit of joyful giddiness. It seems like the shine ought to rub off the apple at some point but so far, it hasn’t. If anything ,that gleam just gets brighter with every book.

I’ve been asking myself lately why that might be and it has occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it’s because I learn something new during the creation of each and every one. It’s sort of like parenting in that respect. Just like each new child in the family brings quirks and strengths and desires, so does each story.

Writers, like parents, love to share advice and tips from the trenches. Even if the advice is unsolicited. Here, in no particular order, are a few of the things I’ve learned along the way:

-Start working even when you don’t feel like it.The words will rise up to meet you.

-All you have of unique value to bring to your writing is yourself. Try not to worry that you aren’t something or someone else.

-Your writing is not as bad as you fear. It will probably never be as good as you’d like.

-Treat yourself to pens and notebooks you feel are a joy to use.

-Deadlines are your friends. Without them you will sink into the dreaded swamp of someday.

-Writing is work. Schedule time for it like you would anything else that is important. Stick to it.

-Typing is not considered exercise. Get up and move sometimes. Trips to the fridge don’t count.

-Be grateful for all your experiences, even the ugly ones. They create your particular lens on the world.

-You will always feel better at the end of the day if some of it has been spent writing.

Readers, do you have any words of wisdom to share from your own walk of life? Other writers, any tips of your own to apply to the craft?

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About Jessie Crockett

Jessie Crockett wears a lot of hats, both literally and literarily. As Jessie Crockett she is the Daphne Award winning author of Live Free or Die and the nationally bestselling Sugar Grove series. As Jessica Ellicott she has received starred reivews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal for her historical mystery Murder in an English Village. As Jessica Estevao she writes the Agatha Award nominated Change of Fortune Mysteries. She loves the beach, fountain pens, Mini Coopers and throwing parties. She lives in northern New England where she obsessively knits wool socks and enthusiastically speaks Portuguese with a shocking disregard for the rules of grammar. As Jessie Crockett she’s the author of the nationally bestselling Sugar Grove Mysteries and the Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Live Free or Die.

28 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice

  1. So many of these apply to anyone’s life or passion, Jessie. Great words. Here’s one more:
    You will get through the middle of the book, no matter how hopeless it seems. You’ve done it before; it will happen again.

  2. Typing is not exercise–that made me laugh, but so true! I keep hearing that sitting is the new smoking.
    My advice would be this: Remember that the author you trashed online or in public might be sitting next to you at a panel someday, so review fairly.

  3. Each comment is absolutely on target. The only thing I would add is, enjoy the process. There will be bumps in the road, but if you’re not looking forward to sitting down in front of your keyboard each day, then why are you doing this? (Well, it is nice to see your books on a shelf in a bookstore!)

  4. Exactly what I needed to read today, everyone! Since I’ve just treated myself to a new laptop and have been enjoying some one-to-one sessions at the Apple store, I would add: don’t be afraid to shake up your writing process if it would make your writing life easier.

  5. This morning I sat down at my computer with a sigh, wondering if I would ever get my manuscript into the shape someone would want to offer for it. So your blog was so timely, thank you. I particularly like your point that your writing is not as bad as you fear.

  6. There’s no such thing as writers block. If you get stuck look around and write down everything your character sees, hears, smells, and feels that should get them moving again. I’ve mentioned it before and I learned it from author and creative writing professor John Dufresne.

    • Valuable advice, Sherry, especially the point about what we feel. In an earlier MWA newsletter, writer Brian Freeman talked just that thing–about not only describing a place, but like you said, how they make you feel. He called it a “sixth sense” of a place. That if we can tap emotional responses to a place (loneliness, loss, fear, innocence, etc.), then we make those places come alive for the reader.

  7. “-Your writing is not as bad as you fear. It will probably never be as good as you’d like.” Ain’t that the truth.

    I have recently determined “You will spend a lot of time waiting. Put it to good use and keep writing.”

  8. “Start writing even when you don’t feel like it.” How very true for me, even with review writing.

    Does walking to the car count as exercise? Because I am about to do that to drive to work…where I will sit for several more hours.

  9. I love the last one “be grateful for all your experiences, even the ugly ones. They create your particular lens of the world.” Unfortunately when you have those ugly experiences it is hard to see anything positive in them. But looking back at them (after the hurt/anger stops) you can see how it can make you stronger. And I do believe can learn alot about your self from negative experiences. And when you make is past them you realize how strong you already are.
    p.s. great post!

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