Swoon Author Sandy Hall: Random Advice You Might Not Even Realize You Need
About three years ago I finally started and finished writing the first draft of my first “real” book. Before that my writing career had been multiple failed attempts at NaNoWriMo, a boatload of first pages that I loved but didn’t know what to do with, and oodles of fanfiction. When I say “oodles,” I mean OODLES. (Note to self: use the word “oodles” more often. It’s a fun word.)
But then something changed. After years of trying to write stories, I finally found just the advice I needed. Advice I didn’t even know that I had been looking for. And that advice was: “first drafts are meant to suck.”
It appeared in the middle of a list of a million other pieces of writing advice. It was like finding a diamond. It was the permission I needed. It’s not like I’d never heard this bit of advice before. I had heard it time and again, but never quite believed it, for some reason thinking that I needed to hold myself to some higher standard. Like if everything I wrote wasn’t perfect, then what was the point. But for some reason, in that moment, I finally understood.
And I let that first draft SUCK.
So today I’m going to present you with a list of writing advice that maybe you need to hear. Maybe it will help. Maybe it won’t. But this is what I have to offer for anytime you feel like this:
- Writing advice, much like any other advice is
not one size fits all. If you haven’t found what you need, keep looking.
- If you’re not having fun writing a scene, your
readers probably won’t have fun reading it. Try to look at it from a new
direction and find a way to make it fun to write.
- DON’T STOP WRITING.
- Kill those darlings. Kill them with fire. (But
maybe also put them in a separate doc just in case you need them again someday.
They’re darlings for a reason.)
- Your story doesn’t need a theme. You don’t need
to know what the theme is in your first draft or eightieth.
- BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.
- Try not to take criticism too personally, no
matter how personal it feels.
- Your rough draft can be completely disgusting,
useless garbage. All it has to do is exist.
- I’m sorry to tell you that your second, third,
fourth, and fifth draft might be garbage, too. Don’t throw it away!
- WRITING IS HARD.
- Sometimes you can’t write through, you have to write around.
- Rules are meant to be broken. Even the important
- You can fix anything in edits. I promise.
- You will finish. Don’t go back and edit until
you type “the end.”
- JUST. KEEP. SWIMMING.
I believe in you. Go forth and write.