What’s the Best (and Worst!) Writing Advice You’ve Ever Gotten?

Guest Post by Quanie Miller 

I once turned in a story for a professor to critique. I waited eagerly for her feedback, certain that she would be so impressed with what I’d written that she’d call every industry professional she knew and say, “Hey; let’s get this girl an agent!”

I was brimming with anticipation as I headed to her office for our one-on-one. I arrived early, ready to hear her thoughts on my masterpiece. “So,” she said, with a smile. “Let’s talk about your story.”

“Okay.”

She drummed her fingers on her desk. “About the beginning….” Yes, darling. What about my marvelous beginning? She shifted in her seat. “Do you know of a story that starts…I mean, with someone just…talking? To nobody?” She laughed nervously.

“What do you mean to nobody?”

“I mean, like, to thin air?”

I’m sure she could tell by the look on my face that I had no idea what she meant. We talked about other aspects of the story (though, I couldn’t really receive the information because her critique about my beginning left my head spinning), and I left her office, dazed and confused. I went around for quite some time thinking that a story should never start with a character “just talking.”

Well, fast-forward a few years (and several creative writing courses later), and I realized that was probably some of the worst writing advice I’d ever gotten. Perhaps Ms. Writing Instructor Extraordinaire was getting dialogue and narration confused. Perhaps she had never heard of a tale called Moby Dick that begins: “Call me Ishmael.” Or, even more recently, a novel called Gone Girl that begins: “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.” Two totally successful novels. Both begin with characters “just talking.” I’ve since kicked that bad advice to the curb and haven’t looked back. And the runner up to the worst advice? “Whenever you get stuck on a scene, add a new character.” Now why on God’s green earth did my instructor tell me that??? I was adding characters left and right, like it was going out of style! My poor stories were like Grand Central Station, with multiple people rushing in and out. For shame!

On the flip side of that, I’ve had some really awesome writing advice, namely, from a screenwriting professor. I was telling him my idea for my screenplay, and he could sense my trepidation. “I mean, can I do that?” I asked, afraid that my idea was just plain ole stupid.

He said something to me that has since given me wings: “How can it be wrong if you’re just making it up?”

A penny dropped for me. Yes: how could it be wrong if I was just making it up? After all, a story was…made up! That was truly some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten, and it’s allowed me to be truly uninhibited in my writing.

What about others? What’s some of the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever received? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 Book Info

collins_promoTitle: The New Mrs. Collins
Author: Quanie Miller
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: October 13, 2014

Book Blurb
In the small town of Carolville, Louisiana, no one knows that Adira Collins inherited mystic powers from her great grandmother. All they know is that she’s beautiful, poised, graceful, and ruthless—especially when it comes to love. And no one knows that more than Leena Williams, who was all set to marry the man of her dreams until Adira swooped into town and stole the man’s heart.

Being left at the altar is bad enough, but Leena and her ex share custody of their son, so she has to see the new Mrs. Collins on a regular basis.

And it burns every time she does.

But soon, Leena starts to suspect that there is more to Adira Collins than meets the eye. And it’s not because she owns some kinky lingerie shop or allegedly insulted the pastor’s wife—it’s the strange way she can make a door close without touching it, or take one look at something and make it drop dead at her feet.

Leena starts digging for answers and soon discovers that, unlike her public persona, Adira’s true nature is somewhere on the other side of grace. She also learns, a little too late, that some secrets are better left buried.

Excerpt

She was on her knees in the back yard when she heard the unmistakable sound of Johnny’s truck pulling into the driveway. She turned her head slightly to the right and got up just as calmly as Ronetha Powell had done the night she put a bullet in her husband’s head. She had done it so calmly. Walked in there while he was watching Wheel of Fortune, put the gun to his head, fired, put the gun down, and then went to Wednesday night revival and sang “Somebody Prayed for Me” with such vigor that the visiting pastor singled her out and shouted, “Woman of God! You are blessed!”

It was two days before they found Mr. Powell. Before that, Ronetha had merely stepped over him like he was a bunched up rug that she didn’t feel like straightening out again. She was taking her meatloaf out of the oven when they surrounded her house. When Leena saw Ronetha on the front page of the Carolville Daily, being taken away in handcuffs, she thought to herself that Ronetha looked as serene as a river on Sunday morning. In some odd way, Leena felt the same thing. Serenity. It washed over her as she quietly opened the door and tiptoed through the ice cold house, which, for some reason, was blanketed in shades of yellow. She heard movement upstairs and knew that Johnny was in the bedroom. She walked to the kitchen and set a pot of water on to boil.

She walked slowly up the carpeted stairwell thinking that she should have changed that beige carpet long ago. When she got to the bedroom and saw Johnny — putting a picture of them face down on the nightstand — the shades of yellow that had intruded upon her vision turned stark raving red. Still clutching the letter in her right hand she cocked her arm back and hit that son of a bitch for all he was worth.

Author Bio

QUANIE MILLER - PHOTOQuanie Miller grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana. She fell in love with reading at an early age and spent most of her time at the Iberia Parish Library discovering authors like R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike (she was often found walking back home from the library with a stack of books that went up to her chin). She holds degrees from Louisiana State University and San Jose State University. She has been the recipient of the James Phelan Literary Award, the Louis King Thore Scholarship, the BEA Student Scriptwriting Award, and the Vicki Hudson Emerging Writing Prize. She is the author of The New Mrs. Collins, a southern paranormal novel, and It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy, a romantic comedy. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and is currently, as always, working on another novel. To find out more about Quanie and her works in progress visit quanietalkswriting.com.

Book Purchase Links

Amazon (US)     •     Amazon (UK)     •     Smashwords 

Social Media Links

Twitter     •     Facebook     •     Blog     •     Goodreads     •     Website  

Email: quanie@quanietalkswriting.com

Opportunity for A Feature on My Blog

writingI am once again officially open to accepting volunteers for my Feature Friday posts. If you’re a reader, writer, blogger, cover designer, editor, movie watcher, music lover, artists, etc. and are interested in being featured on my blog please let me know in the comments below or message me in Facebook or via Twitter.

Review: Second Sign by Elizabeth Arroyo

SecondSignTitle: Second Sign
Author: Elizabeth Arroyo
Genre:  Paranormal
Reading level: The Second Sign is recommended for readers 14 and up due to graphic content.
ASIN: B00BBK3BYU

Available on Amazon

Add it to GoodReads

 

Summary

Bred to believe in the war between angels and demons, Gabby has come to the conclusion that love is responsible for war, jealousy, and all the other deadly sins she can think of. So when she’s exiled to the middle of nowhere for getting kicked out of her fifth school for fighting, she doesn’t expect to meet Jake. Much less fall in love. But Jake is quickly drawn to the eerie beauty of her violet eyes while Gabby is unsettled by their undeniable connection.

When a demon guardian comes to collect her soul, she refuses to give it up. She’s not a demon. She can’t be. Her father and twin brother are angels. The demon gives Gabby twenty-four hours to decide her allegiance and then starts killing her short list of friends, leaving a message behind: She is the Second Sign.

As Gabby and Jake begin to unravel the mystery behind the Second Sign, she learns Jake may be the key to saving her soul. But it means a sacrifice has to be made that will change their lives forever.

The Second Sign is recommended for readers 14 and up due to graphic content.

Personal Reaction

Second Sign is a fantastic read! The romantic tension between the main characters, Gabby and Jake, ranges from sweet to intense. The plot was packed with twist and turns that kept me engaged throughout the story. I wasn’t quiet sure what was going on in the opening scenes, but I’m so glad I kept reading because those first pages turning into an ‘aha’ moment by the end of the book. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for Jake and Gabby in Second Shadow!

Recommended?

I’d recommend this book to fans of paranormal. Also, be sure to check out the sequel, Second Shadow!

New Release: The Zodiac Collector by Laura Diamond

Zodiac collector by Laura Diamond

For almost-16 year-old Anne Devans, the annual Renaissance 
Faire means three things—her dad spending weeks in the smithy, her bipolar mom doing some manic costume making, and another ruined birthday for her and her twin sister, Mary.

This year, Anne wants things to be different, and she’s going to do things her way.

On the eve of the Faire, Anne (along with a reluctant Mary) conjures up a spell that will make their 16th birthday party a whirlwind event. Little do they know that it’s a literal request.

After the mini tornado in their room subsides, the girls realize they’ve invoked the power of the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux. That’s the good news. The bad news is they also caught the attention of a sorceress named Zeena who has been collecting children born under each Zodiac Sign to enhance her power. Once she captures Anne and Mary, Gemini twins, the entire Zodiac—and the world—will be hers.

Anne leads the fight against Zeena, but her one-sided decisions could throw them into a world so far from home, even the Renaissance Faire would seem like a brilliant vacation. Between managing their new Zodiac powers, dodging their manic mother and trying to stop Zeena, they’ll get a 16th birthday they’ll never forget.

Book Details

Young Adult Fantasy/Paranormal
Paperback, 328 pages
Published by Spencer Hill Press
Publication Date: September 23, 2014

Advance Praise

“I knew this novel was promising when I read the blurb on Goodreads, and it far surpassed my expectations. A dystopian with mounting suspense, tons of conflict, and an interesting theme, this novel was hard to put down! Anything but predictable, Laura Diamond had me guessing what was going to happen next, throughout!” ~April Wood, blogger of A Well Read Woman

Purchase Links

Amazon     •     Barnes and Noble     •     Kobo     •     Goodreads

 About the Author

LauraDiamondLaura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist and author of all things young adult paranormal, dystopian, and horror. She’s a lucid dreamer, meaning she can direct her dreams while they’re happening. When she’s awake, she pens stories from her dreams and shares them with her readers. Laura has many published titles including the Pride Series (New Pride, Shifting Pride, soon to be re-released, and Tsavo Pride), the Endure Series (Endure and Evoke, soon to be re-released), The Zodiac Collector, a novella Sunset Moon in the Lore anthology, and several shorts stories. When she’s not writing, she is working at the hospital, blogging at Author Laura Diamond–Lucid Dreamer, and renovating her 225+ year old fixer-upper mansion.

Find Laura Diamond on the Web

Facebook     •     Twitter     •     Goodreads     •     Amazon     •     Blog

How Being A Writer Is Like Snorkeling

CocoPlumThis summer, I had the opportunity to go snorkeling for the first time. I loved the idea of observing marine life in it’s natural habitat…coral patches, colorful fish, maybe even a sea turtle. Then, it was time to get in the water and put the snorkel mask on. This was the moment of truth, a moment that taught me something about myself that I didn’t know. Like many writers, I took my fear and shaped it into something useful. I hope anyone considering a writing career will find the following tips helpful.

  • The unknown can be scary. As a newbie snorkeler, I had a lot of questions. How am I supposed to breathe? What if a current throws me into the corral? Should I be concerned about manta rays, sharks, barracuda? There were many things I didn’t know, but taking the time to do a little research and talking to people who’ve been there done that, helped calm my worry. Starting out as a writer can be scary, too. Tip: Reach out to other more experienced writers who are willing to offer guidance. These days, it’s easy to connect with other writers online. If you’re more comfortable with face to face conversations, check your local library for writers’ groups.
  • Be sure you have the right equipment. For snorkeling, this means a mask and fins. At it’s very basic level, this means paper and pen/pencil for a writer. Tip: Don’t let lack of access to a computer stop you from making progress. It’s too easy to make excuses for not writing. Write everyday. No excuses. Chances are you won’t be able to use everything, but that’s not the point. Practice makes perfect, or in the case of a writer, words on the page that can be revised and tweaked into something brilliant.
  • There are times when you will feel uncomfortable with what’s expected. When snorkeling, you have to put on a mask that blocks airflow to your nose and forces you to breathe with your mouth using a tube. Sounds easy enough, but it’s not. It feels like suffocation, which for some people is how attending conferences, doing book signings, self-promotion may feel. Tip: Remember everything will be okay. It’s important to network with writers, readers, bloggers. This goes beyond creating a fan base for your work. It’s about connecting with other like minded people who share your passion for books. It’s weaving together a net of people whom you can cheer on and who will uplift you during the ups and downs of a writing career.
  • You might not get it right the first time. After jumping in the water and moving away from the boat, it was time to snorkel up. While struggling to stay afloat, I put on the mask and tried to breathe through the mouthpiece. For whatever reason, I couldn’t manage such a simple task. Self-doubt consumed me: “I’ve made a huge mistake.” “I have no business snorkeling.” “This is too hard.” I seriously thought about doggie paddling back to the boat, but I’m not a quitter. I forced myself to calm down, took it one breath at a time. Then, it was time for the last step. Tip: Writing a novel is hard. You’re not gonna get it right the first, second, third time… Don’t let that make you think you have no business being a writer. It just means you need more practice. Write more. Read more. Write more. You’ll eventually get it right.
  • You have to commit 100%. I’m not gonna lie, when it came time to stick my face in the water, I panicked. Like I said, the idea of snorkeling sounded fun. Putting it into practice was harder than I expected. I was floating in the ocean all decked out in my gear. This close to the goal, I refused to give up. I took a deep breath, and stuck my face in the ocean. When I exhaled, the sound reminded me of Darth Vader saying, “Luke, I am your father,” which made me laugh and promptly choke. But I’d stumbled upon a way to cope with my fear. By calling upon my inner Vader, I was able to snorkel. Tip: If you want to write as a career, not a hobby, you have to commit to it. You have to put in the time with your keyboard (or pencil/paper), you should connect with other writers/beta readers who can provide feedback/critiques on your work before you seek publication or an agent, you have to be willing to keep pushing forward no matter what.

What tips do you have for people looking to take writing from a hobby to a profession?

Related Article