Five Things I Know About Writing

  1. It is not hard to write but it is exceptionally difficult to edit.
  2. The best writers are voracious readers.
  3. Great characters have layers. They are flawed.
  4. There are rules that you must follow.
  5. Break the damn rules…repeatedly.

You might be surprised to learn that I write these posts for myself as much as I write them for you. That is because even though I feel like I am a competent writer I am convinced that I have room for substantial growth and improvement.

Part of that is predicated upon my ability to pull back the curtain and find out what sorts of tricks the wizard uses to make his magic. The most obvious one to me is that I produce enormous amounts of content in a variety of styles for the sole purpose of trying to get better.

Writing is a skill and like any other it is something that practice can help us improve upon. But I have to tell you that I get as frustrated by writing as you do.

There are more than a few moments where I read my words and wonder what the hell I am doing and why people read them. I try to remind myself to follow the advice you see here and produce content that is useful, practical and actionable.

I respond to prompts like those found in the Write on Edge, Yeah Write and Just Write communities because that is a place where I have found others who are trying their hand out at this writing business.

Community makes a difference as does honesty.

I share certain things with you because I think you will relate and that perhaps it will help us grow together. And I do it because I teach my children to act in a similar fashion and it would be hypocritical not to follow my own advice.


Just WriteThat is my motto. Tune out the infernal voice of the internal editor and just write. Put pen to paper and let the words flow.

I don’t always hit a home run but I feel good about things because I think I am making progress. I think my writing has progressively gotten stronger and that I am better at this than I was when I started.

That is growth and reward with incentive standing just over the horizon.

What about you? Do you feel like your writing is getting better? Do you care about it? Does it matter to you? It is ok if it doesn’t, but since I know some of my fellow scribes are hanging out here I figure I might as well ask.

P.S. This story is mostly fiction.

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  1. Richard Thompson January 24, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I think that improving writers and inspiring new writers is one really good outcome of the wave of blogging. Blogging makes it so easy to get your writing out there and receive all-important feedback on it. Though you have to sift through the lowest of the low on the internet commenting, or trolling on your blog, you can often find great communities of people to help you improve personally. However, you’ll never get that feedback until you “just write.” Great blog, thanks for sharing!

  2. Brian Meeks March 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I think your points about reading a bunch and the one about writing styles are huge. I still remember the first time I read dialogue from Elmore Leonard where character one asked a question and character two ignored it and started talking about something else. It was like a lightning bolt.

    I’ve been really focused on different genres. My first four were from the same series. When I wrote the YA (yet to be published), then the thriller, the satire, and now am writing mostly from the point of view of a precocious six year old, I realized the value in trying something new.

    I love trying to improve.

    • Jack March 24, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      I read enormous amounts of content because I love to read and because every time I do I feel like I am actively working on improving my writing. The chance to see how other writers put it all together just works for me.

      I think it is great that you have worked with different genres.I haven’t done enough of that, I seem to be “stuck” in a couple of areas.

      I ought to follow your example.

  3. Marietta Hutchins September 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you for this post and the tips. I definitely agree with your points especially the last one, I think every writer needs to take a risk in order to produce something unique and intriguing. I think to improve with your writing you need to just keep writing and creating new material.

  4. Jens P. Berget September 8, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    What I’m having a hard time to understand is that authors seems to “know” what’s really good writing and how a novel should be. And if it’s not exactly like that, following their rules, it’s not any good. I’m more the type of guy breaking the rules all the time 🙂

    • Jack September 9, 2012 at 12:27 am

      I think some people are terribly insecure and need for everyone else to try to follow their rules. It is not all that impressive to me. That might sound obnoxious, especially when compared to some more accomplished writers but it is really what I believe.

      It is a big world and there is room for lots of different people and styles of writing.

  5. Louise Ducote September 8, 2012 at 10:57 am

    How have I missed your motto? It’s such a good one. Just Write, and Just Write as much as possible, on napkins and the backs of receipts if you don’t have a notebook on hand. I sometimes must remind myself that not everything I have Just Written should be Just Published on My Blog, but that’s another story.

    • Jack September 9, 2012 at 12:31 am

      I use my Droid as an electronic notebook all the time. I send emails and texts to myself with thoughts and ideas throughout the day.

      Publish whatever you feel comfortable sharing and after that just remember to write. It works and if you enjoy doing it you find it serves as a great excuse to do more of something fun.

  6. Kristen September 7, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I like how Chloe put it and I think it applies to me too: my writing is getting different. In some ways, blogging has helped my writing practice by getting me in the habit of writing regularly for an audience. Then again, I’m not nearly as careful in my blog posts as I am when I write for publication so sometimes I feel like I’m getting lazier and lazier.

    Overall, though, I think your motto is a sensible one: Just Write. Do as much as you can, when you can. And, usually, the more, the better.

    • Jack September 7, 2012 at 10:20 pm

      Your last two lines sum it up perfectly. That is exactly what I am trying to do. I think it is a very effective way of working on my skills and improving them.

  7. BigLittleWolf September 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Tuning out the internal editor is hard, and gagging the internal critic, even harder. I find this especially true when writing under time constraints that require satisfaction with ‘good enough’ rather than solidly good, or better.

    Always so much room for improvement. Always so much to learn from other writers. Always so much desire for more time – to read, and of course, to edit.

    • Jack September 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm

      I hate feeling like I am dancing with “good enough” and not great but I know that feeling because sometimes deadlines and responsibilities conspire against you.

      But alongside that there is joy in the process or at least I think there is.

  8. Chloe Jeffreys September 6, 2012 at 11:44 am

    I think my writing is getting different.

    I used to be much more flowery than I am now. Blog writing doesn’t seem to lend itself well so convoluted sentence structure and flowery language.

    My reading has changed, too. I used to read more novels, but now I spend a lot of my time reading blogs. There are some really shitty blogs out there, but then there are others, like yours, where I wonder why I even bother because the world is already filled with enough excellent writers. Sometimes I wonder if everything has already been said. I think maybe.

    • Jack September 6, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      The world will never have too many good writers. Good writing is art and I can’t imagine a time where we won’t want or need more.

      The good news is that also means there is a ton of room and opportunity for all of us. We can’t be all things to all people. Some people will love us and some will hate us.

      The trick is to try and find our voice and let our tribe find us.

  9. Hajra September 6, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I don’t know about getting better but I am definitely writing more and thinking more about everything I write. Though I feel I am getting with blogging, I feel I need to do more when I am writing elsewhere. I feel my writing needs more structure.

    As for editing, yes, it can be painful… very painful! 🙂

    • Jack September 6, 2012 at 10:38 pm

      Do you find yourself enjoying the process more than you did in the past or does it feel like a task?

      I understand what you are saying about structure. I sometimes feel that way too.

      • Hajra September 7, 2012 at 11:17 am

        Some places where I work, the writing seems a task. But then, money does make you do tough work!

        But otherwise, I truly enjoy writing and it seems like such a joy!

  10. Gina September 6, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Yes, I feel I’m getting better but I struggle with feeling like writing sometimes especially if it’s not flowing. You know I’ve referred to you a time or two and that I remember you writing about practice and let it flow and just write. When you write posts such as these, its always a great reminder because I’m sitting here right this very minute wondering what I’m going to write today. I feel like writing but hell if I know what it will be about!!!

    • Jack September 6, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      I have more moments than I can count where I sit down and wonder what the hell I am going to share here. It is kind of exciting to sit down and not know what direction you are going to take until you start down the path.

      The important thing is to take those first steps and go.

  11. Julie September 6, 2012 at 6:44 am

    3.Great characters have layers. They are flawed.

    Aren’t we all. I often wonder why it is I began. Oh, I know the initial reason was just to impart what I hoped would be valuable information to someone. What I got out of it was something entirely different. I haven’t tried to write in the third person or create fiction. I’m finding I have so many freakin’ stories just living life every day. I admit I am having a more difficult time editing my course than logic would dictate. On the blog, I never edit much other than spelling and taking out big chunks that seem like digressions. I suppose if I had an Editor things would look a lot different!

    • Jack September 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      I do almost no editing of my posts but in my professional life I handle things quite differently so it doesn’t surprise me to hear you say you are taking more time with your course.

      My impression of your blog is that you are getting something out of giving back and that is something worthwhile.

  12. Bill Dorman September 6, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Mostly fiction…………

    Yes, I feel I have grown as a writer, but on the blogging level only. If I’m going to get serious about this, I need to take it to the next level and spread my wings a little more.

    I do care about it and I want people to feel like it was worth their while if they took the time to stop by.

    One foot in front of the other…..

    • Jack September 6, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      You peaked my curiosity here. Are you saying that you have interest in doing more than blogging?

      I think you can do it, but only if you really want to. I know that sounds obvious but…

      • Bill Dorman September 7, 2012 at 4:53 am

        I feel I have at least two books in me; I just can’t seem to harness the effort to sit down and actually get either one started.

        If anything, I want to be more like @TheBloggess and her model than having a site with all these actionable items or things to sell. There is already plenty of this out there, I’m not so sure I want to jump into an already overly crowded arena.

  13. Joe September 6, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Great motto, the only one we need, really. I think writers can get frustrated as there is never that sign or signal that “you’ve made it”. Writing is a life long venture where the goal must always be to improve and put your best content out to publish, whether thousands read it, or you are the only one reading.

    The quality does matter to me and I do care because I know I’m writing for friends, family, and hopefully future generations. There are lessons I have learned that need to be passed along, and I hope I’m successful with that, if nothing else.

    • Jack September 6, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Hi Joe,

      I hadn’t thought about that before, but I think you have keyed in on something. I wonder if there will ever be a time when I feel like I have hit that place.

      Your goal is something admirable. I really like the idea of putting something together that will give our children, grandchildren and whomever comes after a sense of who we are, what is important and why we are all connected.

  14. Harleena Singh September 6, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Totally agree with you here Jack!

    Loved your five things, the last one was the best. 🙂

    But yes, only a few are really able to accomplish that and get busy with their daily chores and routine. However, if we make writing daily a habit and routine, we can achieve a lot. This is something I’ve been doing and it has improved my writing for sure. I may not write blog posts daily, where you are amazing, but it could just be replying to comments (which at my blog are rather looong :)) or it could be just writing emails, rough drafts of an idea, or my writing projects. I just make sure I write something every-day.

    I guess the key factor remains to – just write – as you mentioned and that’s what really gets the words flowing. Oh yes…editing IS the worst part and often takes more time than writing the post or article itself.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Jack September 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      The discipline and process of writing every day is something that is really beneficial. I think the reason I can blog daily is because I have taught myself how to do it through practice.

      One thing that I have noticed you do quite well is respond to comments as well as leave them. That is an area that I am trying to work on, I am just not as good about it as you are and it is a skill worth cultivating.

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