Tuesday 25 September 2012

The Lucky 13s Take Over, Week 4: Amy Tintera - Writing Advice I Ignored

It's my final week in the writing cave before I send my WIP to my editor (eep), so today, Amy Tintera is guest blogging for me. Take it away, Amy!

There’s a lot of good writing advice out there. So much, in fact, that I’m not going to talk about it. Instead, let’s talk about the advice I totally disregarded.

(But first, a quick note: Everyone is different. No one can tell you how best to write. Just because the below didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Try a few of them!)

And now, the Writing Advice I Totally Ignored:

1. Don’t rush just to get words down. There’s no point in writing words you know you’ll delete later.

            Nope, sorry, this one doesn’t work for me. I’ve moved away from word count a bit, and I do focus more on producing quality words, but I still need my messy first drafts. In fact, they’re not even first drafts. Their messy messy messy rough drafts I maybe don’t even finish.  I recently wrote 45,000 terrible words of Reboot book two. It was insanely helpful in figuring out the story.

2. Find a critique group to read your work as you write it and help motivate you to finish.

            Critique groups that meet weekly (in person or online) are not for me. I can’t have someone else’s opinion on my work when I don’t even know what I’m doing yet. My beta readers (basically crit partners who read the finished second draft) are very, very important. But I like to keep early reads to my agent and my sister (and even then, on a very limited basis).

3. Read your draft out loud.

            This one will probably come back to haunt me. I’ll probably be standing up in front of everyone at my book launch, reading from Reboot, and realize it’s terrible. But still, the idea of reading 80,000 words out loud sounds exhausting and terrifying. No thank you.

4. Publish a short story first.

            This is really great advice for people who write short stories. But I don’t. I write novels. Short stories sound very, very, hard to me. You have way less words to build character arcs and your story. (Although, I would consider writing a novella. But I haven’t tried that either. Yet.)

5. Get a professional editor to look at your manuscript before querying agents.

            I actually saw this advice on an agent’s submission guidelines and I don’t like it. I think writers do need outside people to read their work - critique groups, beta readers, your (honest) friends - but I do not think you need to pay a professional before even submitting to agents. (This, of course, does not apply to self-publishing. If you’re self-publishing I think you really do need a professional freelance editor.)

6. Print out your manuscript when it’s time to edit. It will make it easier to catch mistakes.

            It might be easier on my eyes, but that sounds like a waste of paper and ink to me. And I’m really bad about replacing my paper and ink. Let’s not make my life more difficult.

7. Write first thing in the morning, before you go to work or start your day.


8. Don’t plot the ending in advance. You have to earn it.

            I can’t remember where I read this piece of advice, but it’s always stuck with me because it provoked a major WHAAAAAAT response. Of course you have to earn your ending. But for me, I need to know where I’m headed in order to figure out how to get there.  

9. Keep a diary or a journal.

            Spending that much time with myself sounds terrifying. I’d much rather hang out in my character’s heads.

10. Don’t start out writing novels.

            Why not? 

Amy Tintera is a full-time writer living in Los Angeles, CA. HarperTeen will publish her debut novel, REBOOT, in Summer 2013. Visit her website and blog: amytintera.com or follow her on Twitter: @amytintera


  1. Great - er - advice.

    I think what's important is to look at 'advice' and see if it works for you - and if it doesn't then forget it. I keep a diary, even write first things in the morning, but I'm retired so not setting the alarm for sparrowfart just to write something. And I live alone, so the diary is my equivalent of saying, 'you'll never guess what happened today.' I write it, then forget it.

    But just because that's how it works for me, I wouldn't dream of suggesting everyone should do it!

    1. I love that you write things down in a diary so you won't forget them! That's funny. :)

  2. Agree!

    Read all the advice, try the stuff that appeals - and even some of the stuff that doesn't - and then do what works for you.

    (Re. reading aloud, which I did for the first time last week, I AM NOW HAPPY THAT MY BOOK IS ONLY 45K!)

    1. I think even with 45k words I wouldn't want to read it aloud, Ruth! You're braver than me!

  3. I agree with all of your disagreements, Amy, if that makes sense, especially number 7. Oh My Goodness, I don't think my fingers work before 7 and my brain definitely doesn't! The only point I differ on is the print out. I always do two paper drafts. One when I know I have to do a really thorough edit, following many laptop edits, and then a final paper edit before the manuscript goes off. I also hoard these because they're 'special'... well, I think so anyway :D Lovely post, Amy and nice to 'meet' you on Emma's blog!

    1. Nice to "meet' you too, Abi! And if I got up at 5am to write I think I would just stare at the computer screen for two hours. When I had a day job I was always a nighttime writer and that worked fine for me.

  4. Agree with all you say here! Work with whatever works for you!

  5. Love this. Love Amy. I actually HAVE gotten up early to write but that's because I'd stay up until 3AM, then wake up at 7am just so I could finish writing...I ended up with a 43,000 word novel in 5 weeks. Um, it's now getting a major facelift two years later but yeah.....

  6. Some great 'un'advice! Though I do read each chapter out loud to a close family member to see if I've made any unnoticed errors, as I go! And I certainly need an idea of where my manuscript's going regarding ending...after all we can be flexible can't we? and if the ending changes...so be it!

  7. I like the concept here--doing what works for you. The parenting thing is a lot like this. Thousands of pounds of advice and in the end you just have to figure out your own way, picking and choosing what makes sense.

    And PS: I totally admire people who can edit solely on the computer. I am so tactile with my drafts that it so doesn't work for me at all, but the expense of printing multiple drafts...ugh.

  8. All works for me - I disregarded most of that advice too - success.

  9. Yes I think the overwhelming message is to do what works for you!!! I am not an early bird at all, but I do my best writing late at night – the magic happens between 11pm and 2am for some reason!

    I was also please to hear about your messy rough drafts that you don’t even finish, because ME TOO! I have to pour everything out, even if halfway through a sentence I realise I am going to change my mind. Every thought has to go down on paper even if I know if won’t be used.
    I was the same at university – my first draft of my 10,000 word dissertation was 25,000! But I have to write through the crap to get to the good stuff!

    I am also glad to see your attitude to short stories – I get quite frustrated with people who ask me why I don’t do some short stories ‘while you’re working on your novel’ Because I can’t! My brain immediately wants to create big epic stories, possible entire series… I think it would actually take me longer to write a short story!

    Ooh, you have given me lots to think about. I may have to go have a rant on my own blog about this!!!

    1. Laura Mary - I agree with what Amy said about short stories too. I started off trying to write those and it was IMPOSSIBLE. Nothing I write wants to be short, and when I realised this and tried novels instead, I was a much happier writer!

    2. I think it's an entirely different skill, and a different way of thinking. Much like writing poetry. Which I also cannot do!