Monday, August 1, 2011

Writing advice


Take advice not criticism: the difference? Advice is given out of a desire to help, criticism is to tear down. Crave advice, ignore the other… life is too short and it suffocates your inner writer.

Always seek advice or direction from your superiors… in other words, ask advice from writers who are above your skill level. That way you’ll progress and see value in what you do. You wouldn’t ask directions from a lost person, would you?

Finish your first draft before tearing down your own work, and then seek outside advice. If possible do two drafts before receiving advice from other readers!

Nothing you write seems good enough, but you must learn when to move on!! This one is huge and is different for every writer. But there comes a time when you stifle your growth as a writer by staying with a story too long. If it works after 10 revisions… great, if not, it might be time to move on.

The biggest lesson for me was: just because I received a bad critic from a solid writer, doesn’t mean I have to start from scratch. It just means I need to focus on my deficiencies and build on what I do well as a writer.

It might take 7 to 10 focused rewrites to make a solid piece of work. I should be thankful I see growth after each one… if I don’t, it might be time to move on where the motivation is stronger with a fresh story.

Each time we revise, we cut out weak points in our work. I now see this as a success: rather than a failure like I had before.

If you take two things from this rant they should be: there is always something to learn and we as writers should see the positives in what we do!!!

Keep writing and keep believing!!!

What advice would you give?

Thx for any comment you might leave.


  1. Very positive post, Jeff! I love it. :) Good luck!

  2. Don't let anyone take away your love of writing.

  3. I love that you push and strive to get better. That attitude will only make you better. I did 4 drafts before letting anyone see my work, but only because this is my first novel. I'm sure the number of drafts will only get smaller as I gain experience, as will yours. Keep up the hard work, Jeff. Very good post.


  4. That's a great attitude! Take what helps from critiques, and take it one piece at a time. Keep writing, each time you do, you improve and grow.Real writers know that writing is hard. It's never done on the first draft. Sounds like you're on the right track.

  5. Nice post, Jeff. I like what you have to say...but...maybe I'm being picky here, but I would argue that criticism isn't necessarily about 'tearing down.' If someone tells me my characters are flat, or my pacing is too slow, or I've got a hole the size of Rhode Island in my plot, that's criticism. It might sting, but it's an attempt to help.

    Granted, there are some mean-spirited people who will try to tear you down, whether out of jealousy or some other motivation. The trick is in sifting the valid criticism from the nasty, unproductive sort.

  6. The most difficult bit of advice I ever received was from my very first critique partner. He was brutal and mean and demoralizing, and I found it difficult to accept his advice since he wasn't a very good writer himself.

    At first, I cried...for two days! Then I realized he was right. His advice, though destructive rather than constructive, made me rethink how I should start my novel.

    Bad form, yes, but my book is so much better for it!

    Good post, Jeff!

    And by the way, I nominated you for The Liebster Blog Award over on my blog. I hope it brings some traffic your way.

  7. That's a great attitude! Nice post, Jeff!
    A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity;
    an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

  8. Nancy Thompson was directed to my blog via the Liebster award and she directed me to your blog. I'm a newbie writer as well. Decided about a year ago to make good on a long-time goal to write a full length novel.

  9. Hi there. I just found out about your blog from the illustruous Nancy Thompson who cursed/blessed me with the Liebster award. I have become your newest follower. Glad to meet you!

    It's always wise to learn from others. I'm pretty sure I did about ten drafts before seeking advice. I find that when something I write doesn't seem good enough, that's when I need a second pair of eyes to judge. Definitely words to live by.

  10. By taking advice rather than criticism: it was meant to reflect intent and execution of information, anything used for growth and portrayed in a positive light would be considered advice or direction to me. Anything that is given to dishearten or tear down is criticism.

    But, to each their own, whatever makes you a better writer I say embarrass.

  11. Jeff, you are SO right! I made the mistake of having a book critiqued while I was writing it, and I won't do that again. My mistake, not the critiquers. The best advice I've read is "first get it written, then get it right." I live by that as I'm pounding out a terrible first draft.

  12. yes! Great advice! We have to ignore the mistakes in our first drafts otherwise we will never finish them.

  13. This is good advice, Jeff. So often I've been hurt by a well meaning reader who has said, 'can't you do it this way or that,' or 'it would be so much better if'. When I wrote my first novel and an agent made a comment about one of the characters that I didn't appreciate it hurt for weeks, but with experience--and reading lots of blogs I've realised that it all helps to make me a better writer. I hope!

  14. Hi Jeff; I'm new to writing but i must say it is a very cathartic exercise for me. I was writing a novel (it didn't start out that way) but then my friend Gary (Klahanie)introduced me to blogging and I haven't looked back. My advice is to remain postive. Accept constructive criticism with a grain on salt. Everybody has an opinion but really deep down you know what you want and how to get it. Believe in yourself!!!
    Catch my blog at and comment if you like.

  15. Nancy Thompson said, "The most difficult bit of advice I ever received was from my very first critique partner. He was brutal and mean and demoralizing, and I found it difficult to accept his advice since he wasn't a very good writer himself."

    I can identify with that. For me, I've been so disheartened with critical comments that I was in despair, at least for a bit (usually from my husband, but not always). However, I also have always learned something, even if I don't change what I do or how I do it. One thing I've really learned about criticism and advice is that, in the end, I've got to decide for myself what I want to do. Often the criticism/advice, however, pushes me to think about what I'm doing, reexamine it so I'm sure I'm doing what I'm doing for the right reason.

    And sometimes I realize I could do things differently or more effectively.

    I personally prefer honest criticism to dishonest praise. But I'm been thickening my hide all my life. My skin's so thick now, I'm nearly a solid. And I still get caught off guard once in a while. It's hard because writing is so personal.

  16. I couldn't agree more! Critiques have their place, but we all need encouragement too:)

  17. Excellent post. What's interesting for me right now as I'm going over full-novel critiques is looking at the places where my five critquers commented. I've merged all the comments into one document. Makes it very easy to zero into a problem area. A random comment here or there I may agree with or not. But an area where I'm seeing several colors (meaning several people said something about that paragraph) tells me it needs work, whether it's the phrasing or the storyline.

  18. Hi Jeff,
    And my friend nobody will ever stifle the passion, the resilience, the determination you have to be a writer.
    I know that any constructive well meaning advice, is embraced by you. That, my friend is most positive.
    I interact with a lot of writers, both published and aspiring. The ongoing theme is that all of them have a determination and a belief. You, good sir, have all those attributes. Of course, writers experience moments of self doubt and are, indeed, their own worst critics. However, like you, they get back to their writing, their editing with a renewed, positive energy. My advice to you is to keep believing and may your dreams become a wonderful reality. Happy writing and all the very best to you.
    With respect and kindness, Gary.

  19. Great post, Jeff. It's good to be reminded that it's wise to take advice from those who have our best interests at heart. Solid advice...


  20. Don't let anyone get you down. If your writing was ineffective, I would be posting the first comment on this little article you've written, when in fact, I think I'm #20. Even your blog draws a crowd.

  21. Words of great wisdom, Jeff!

    It's hard to start out. Hard to know when you need to keep working, too. I actually just blogged about that...

  22. I always learn something from you. Thanks for the support.

  23. Oh, this is SOOOO true! I never want people to think I'm being sensitive when they criticize my work... because I really DO want a good critique! But I hate it when--as you say--the critique turns into a tear-down. Its not productive at all.

    Excellent words of wisdom, Jeff!

  24. Interesting post, good advice. The best advice I've taken on board is to just keep writing! Writing is a skill and like any skill, it can and will improve with practice.

  25. Hi Jeff,

    Saw your comment on my blog and thought I'd pop over and have a look see at what you're doing.

    Here is a word of advice as well. Check out It is an excellent resource for writers. You can just look around, and if you like what you see sign up and join the forums. There are a lot of great writers over there with some great advice. I'm a member you can find me as DC Rich. Those that know me call me DC in the forums. I've been busy with a summer writing marathon with lots of great critiques. These people will tell it like it is, but usually in a very positive and constructive manner.

    However, you still have to write. That is a given.

    Nice blog, and nice post.