Writers’ Advice on Writing

black cat holding persons arm
Photo by Ruca Souza on Pexels.com

As with so many of my posts, this one is inspired by an article I read. In this case, the article shares advice on writing from famous writers. I don’t know about anyone else, but what I find most valuable about advice from other writers isn’t necessarily the advice itself (although it’s often helpful) but the chance to bond over writing, and to affirm that I’m doing something right. Whether you enjoy the advice, the bonding, or the affirmations, here are some of the best tips from other writers, as well as a couple of my own…

Get a Cat (Muriel Spark via her character Mrs. Hawkins, from A Far Cry From Kensington)

As someone with three cats, I can’t argue with this advice 🙂 Cats are a source of joy, laughter, and purrs (and my lap cat makes sure I sit and focus). If you’re not a cat person, you might want to consider bunnies or small pets (rats, mice, hamsters…) They’re equally good company and shelters always have many available for adoption.

Stop While the Going Is Good (Ernest Hemingway)

Stop while you’re on a roll and let your subconscious keep working on it until you start again. The best way to write is to not force it.

Writing Anything Is Better than Nothing (Katherine Mansfield)

Just write. The more you do it, the better you get, even if what you’re writing will never go further than the paper/screen it’s on.

00 sontag

Some advice of my own:

Keep the TV, music, and internet (if you can) off. Some people can work with distractions; I’m not one of them. But even if the noise doesn’t bother you, words, phrases, storylines, and even rhythms can burrow into your subconscious and end up in your work. That can happen anyway (it’s just part of the fun of having a brain!) but why increase the risk?

Take up needlepoint. Or any craft you can easily do while staring at a computer screen. Crafts that occupy your hands while your mind is free to focus elsewhere are great for writing.

Take an editing class. Not that you should edit your own work, but you should be able to polish it before submitting it anywhere. No publisher is interested in a manuscript full of errors (it’ll also help with other things, like work emails and social media posts).

Do you have writing advice to share? What tip has helped you most as a writer? Let me know in the comments…

 

Tooth & Claw, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

Download your free copy of “Tooth & Claw.”

Mara, Dominic, and their fellow vampires arrive in Marseille, France in 1909, only to find another predator already on the loose. As the city tries to cope with a killer stalking the streets, Mara struggles to separate memory from delusion. Can she find peace when the past is haunting, the present overwhelming, and the future hopeless? Inspired by real events.

Tooth & Claw is a standalone story set in the Love Lies Bleeding universe.

Also available free at Barnes & NobleApple BooksIndigo, and other online book retailers.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Art and Writing

Art and Writing, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

I recently came across an article about how art can improve your writing.  I was intrigued; as an art lover, I was excited to find out how one obsession could affect the other. Unfortunately, the article didn’t offer anything particularly insightful.

Some of the advice was good, if basic: “Show Don’t Tell,” “Find the Humanity,” “Copy the Old Masters…Then Find Your Distinctive Style.”

Some was puzzling: “Keep it Interesting.” Well, yes, that’s the idea–I doubt any writer is deliberately going for a boring story.

The worst advice, IMO, was this: “Make it Beautiful: This is the greatest lesson to me. Artists – first and foremost – aim for BEAUTY. As a writer, don’t forget to reach for the beautiful in your imagery, language, story, even characters… ”

No. Just no.

Some artists strive for beauty and create masterpieces. Some explore the ugliness of the world and do the same. Never mind the sheer subjectivity of a concept like beauty, if all art were “beautiful,” how dull would that be? And writing is no different. Writers who aim only for beauty not only won’t be able to “Keep it Interesting,” but will also lose most of the humanity they’re supposed to be finding. Focusing on what’s lovely is the best way to miss what’s interesting.

So, can art help your writing? I think so. Creative and artistic pursuits are complementary; the more you immerse yourself in art and creativity, the more inspired your work will ultimately be. I also believe there’s one key rule that applies universally: do it with passion, or don’t do it at all. If you have a burning desire to tell a story (compose a song, sculpt, sew, whatever), then that’s what you should be doing. If you think it would be a neat hobby to try in your free time, then great–have some fun while you pursue your real passion. But if you’re meh about what you’re doing (maybe you’re motivated by ‘should’ rather than ‘must’), the results will reflect that. The people who are great at what they do have passion for it. Find your passion and go be great.

If you’d like to read the original article, you can find it here. What do you think? Do you have any tips for how art can improve writing (or vice versa)? Share in the comments.

Don’t forget to get your free copy of my new short story “Tooth & Claw,” a dark fantasy story about memory and delusion, violence and consequences; inspired by real events in Belle Époque France. Available here and at most online booksellers.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Happy New Year (+ 10 Things to Leave Behind as We Move Forward)!

Happy New Year (+ 10 Things to Leave Behind in the New Decade) blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Let me start by wishing everyone the very best in the new year and new decade!

The 2010s seemed to drag by, especially these past couple of years. To be honest, the last decade wasn’t a good one for me. Although some great things happened, I also lost my mom. Longtime friendships ended for no good reason. Things I’d been counting on working out, didn’t. Things I’d been hoping would happen never did. My much-loved car got totalled. And, oh yeah, my house was destroyed (sadly, I’m not being melodramatic– thank you, ice storm of 2013).

But all of that is in the past now and I feel a change in the air. Things are about to get good.

Happy New Year (+ 10 Things to Leave Behind in the New Decade) blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

As we look ahead to a (hopefully) brighter future, I’ve put together a quick list of things we all need to leave behind as we start a brand new decade…

  1. Regrets. Unless you’ve got a time machine and can go back and change things, let go of ‘what ifs’ and ‘should’ve dones.’ On the other hand, if there’s something you can still do– go for it. It’s never too late.
  2. Facebook. There are many reasons to quit Facebook (this article goes into some of them). Although the site is helpful in promoting my books, I’m seriously thinking of leaving (or at least shifting my focus to other social media sites).
  3. Outdated thinking. When the wheel was invented, there were undoubtedly people who didn’t see the point of the new invention; those people quickly got left behind (where they were probably picked off by sabre-toothed tigers). Things change, including the way the world thinks. It’s time to reconsider the beliefs we hold on to that are holding us back.
  4. The myth that working hard = success. People who have done well in life like to claim that hard work is what got them there. If you look closely, though, what you’ll find is that they actually owe their success to good connections, plenty of help, and a lot of luck. I mean a lot. Hard work might help you maintain it, but if all you needed to succeed was to work hard, the 1% and the 99% would have switched places a long time ago.
  5. The idea that there’s only one way to live. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to life. What works for you won’t necessarily work for anyone else (and vice versa).
  6. Conspiracies. You haven’t discovered mind-blowing super secret knowledge that everyone else is too blind/asleep/indoctrinated to see– you’re just delusional. Bonus fact: real evidence isn’t found on the internet.
  7. Cats vs dogs. This isn’t a thing. All animals are awesome.
  8. Anything vs anything else. We create artificial divisions to give us a false sense of belonging and it’s stupid. We’re all in this together: it’s time we started acting like it instead of going out of our way to create problems. We don’t have to be identical to get along and work together.
  9. Plastic. The entire planet is choking on the stuff, and recycling isn’t working. There are more and more alternatives to plastic every day, including products made of green materials, and products that come in plastic-free (or no) packaging. Seek those out.
  10. Bizarre humanoid singing-and-dancing CGI cat creatures. Let’s all just pretend that never happened, shall we?

What do you think– anything to add to the list? Share in the comments. All the best in 2020!

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Happy New Year (+ 10 Things to Leave Behind in the New Decade!) blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com