Advice for Writers

By Lisa Fiedler

Hello Readers and Writers. I’m so excited to be sharing my thoughts on writing with you. I’ve been writing professionally for almost a quarter century now (yikes!!)  and the following are five things I’ve learned about writing.  They aren’t the only five things I’ve learned, of course, they just happen to the ones that spring to mind first. 

1) IT’S NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS

Actually, it’s not easy at all.  Think about it:  there are an awful lot of words out there (has anyone ever bothered to count ‘em?  Maybe that Webster guy…? ) and the writer’s job is to gather up exactly the right ones and put them in exactly the right order.  Some days I know right where the words go, some days I just stare at the screen and move words around for hours and they still don’t wind up saying what I need them to say.  Then, in addition to getting the words in their proper places, you have to remember who said what to whom in which chapter and what they were wearing when they said it and maybe it was raining.  Was it raining?  How many different ways can I say it’s raining?  Why is it raining?   Does the fact that it’s raining advance the plot in any way?   And if it was raining in chapter four, it should probably be muddy in chapter five.  But chapter five isn’t about mud, it’s about unrequited love.  Or maybe it’s about absolute power.  Or maybe it’s about the absolute power of unrequited love.  Or maybe it’s about figure skating.  And you have to be very careful not to stray too far from the main idea and … wait.  What was I talking about again?  Oh right. Writing isn’t easy.   

2) YOU MUST LOVE YOUR CHARACTERS … EVEN WHEN YOU CAN’T STAND THEM

Some days my characters just won’t get out of bed.  They get lazy. They don’t feel like being in my story, which of course is also their story, but they’re being difficult.  So I have to nudge them, and get them to tell me what happens next.  A great deal of plot comes from what the character wants to do or say next.  I listen to them because they often have very excellent ideas.  But some days they refuse to do their share.  Those are the days I go shopping, or out to a nice lunch.  Luckily, thanks to the SAVE function, they’re always there waiting for me when I get back.

3) PLOT IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

Plot is where I struggle.  I can write descriptive paragraphs for days.  I’m awesome with dialogue.  My characters (when they cooperate) tend to be believable and likable and consistent, which is important.  But plot is SO HARD for me!  I have to make outlines, which is a bit like writing the book before you write the book.  It takes me a long time to figure out what’s going to happen in what order and why one event leads to the next (or doesn’t).

4) BE ORIGINAL

If everybody’s writing about hazelnuts, don’t write about hazelnuts.  Write about pomegranates.   If you understand this, then you are a writer.

5) TO WRITE IS A GIFT. TO WRITE FOR CHILDREN IS A PRIVILEGE.

Kids are without a doubt the best audience.  They don’t let you get away with anything!  You have to be really good to keep a kid’s attention.  You have to show them the respect they deserve by giving them a story worthy of their imaginations.  When kids love a book, they really love a book.  They make friends with the characters, and that is very pleasing to a writer, because a writer loves her characters (see #2 above) and we like it when they are appreciated.   Childhood is busy and complicated and loud and filled with things like homework and cello lessons and sleepovers and snow days and chili-cheese fries and tennis lessons.  So if a kid can find time to fit my book in among all of that, I consider it a very great honor.