The Best Writing Advice I Still Remember

photo credit: HaoJan via photopin cc

photo credit: HaoJan via photopin cc

When I was five years old I wrote my first story. It was about the chicken pox I had at the time. My body didn’t react well to the disease, but my mind grew bored and so I started writing. My dad is a writer, so I suppose at the time I was only following by example.

Since then I’ve written a lot. Two decades of writing. I feel old until I think of how many decades I have left to write and that’s pretty awesome. As we write we share a part of ourselves that we can only express through prose. We connect with a lot of people and share our thoughts on our crafts. I’ve received a lot of great advice from people who have been doing this far longer than I, and there are many phrases that have stuck with me and come to mind over and over again as I’m thinking out my next chapter or paragraph.

My favorite, by far, is this:

“The worst thing you can do to a character is not finish their story.”

I’m probably paraphrasing. The message, though, has stuck: Don’t leave a character sitting there. Don’t leave a story unfinished. They’re waiting for you, their creator, to give them purpose. Kill them off if you must, but give them a conclusion.

It’s a huge motivator. I don’t want to leave my characters in some sort of imaginary waiting room, wondering what happens next. I have a lot of stories on the back burner, but I hope to finish them all at least someday.

Had you heard this one before? What do you think? What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

5 thoughts on “The Best Writing Advice I Still Remember

  1. mlcandelario says:

    This is really good advice. On a more practical note, the advice I’ve taken the most to heart is this: “in order to be a writer, you have to write.”

    It’s simple. It’s not very flowery. But it’s something I have to tell myself all the time. I’m someone who will find method after procrastinating method to shirk off my writing duties, so this is a sort of mantra that I’ve been preaching at myself. If I want to reach my goal of being able to live off my writing, I have to actually write. This advice is related to the next one: “Everyone is an aspiring writer. What makes a writer a writer is that s/he actually writes.”

    • Mary says:

      I love that advice. Someday I’d like to incorporate a lot of these onto some sort of wall hanging that will go behind my desk so there can be no excuses when I start to get distracted.

  2. Jaime says:

    After reading this I realize that I’ve left so many characters hanging, but now I feel guilty because there’s no way I could go back and give them all an ending, even a crappy one. It’s good advice. Really good advice.

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