Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

I need some advice…

68 Comments

Image courtesy of wikia.com

Image courtesy of wikia.com

“Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into, the mind.” ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

As writers, we’ve all received advice at some point in our lives, whether it’s show don’t tell, dump the clichés or lose the passive voice. My favorite was, stop head-hopping. At the time, I didn’t even know what that meant. Good advice sticks and helps us grow as writers.

When I really enjoy a book, I’ll e-mail the author to let him or her know how much I enjoyed their writing. As I started studying the craft, I would slip in a couple questions asking what craft books they recommend or any advice they might have for a new writer. The best piece of advice I ever received was from a published writer whose work I admire. She told me to write from the heart and I’ll find my voice.

Since we’re all here to learn from one another, please share your best piece of advice. Maybe your advice will help someone reach their writing or life goals.

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Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, will release in March, 2017. It's now able for pre-order on Amazon. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

68 thoughts on “I need some advice…

  1. Reblogged this on hadassaab.

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  2. Early on I was told “write about what you know;” good in theory but not that easy. Make time to sit and talk to people who had that job, or lived in that place; some of them will want you to promise that you won’t write a character that their friends will recognize but others might like it. Since I have been married to the same man for over 40 years I spoke to several women who have been through some of my lead character’s experiences of divorce and loss; unexpectedly they all said they had learnt things about themselves too. This obviously doesn’t work for fantasy worlds but for real-life situations “do good research” is what I constantly tell myself.

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  3. My advice is form a network of trusted critique partners, people you can always turn to for equal give-and-take, with whom you can provide and receive honest feedback. My critique partners never fail to point out what’s lacking in a piece, things I would have never realized without their help. Comments like: “Ask yourself what this character’s motivation is,” or “This scene is kind of long-winded and dull,” have made me go back and rethink. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow, but after a few days to get over it, I’m ready to address the problems. My critique partners have definitely helped make me a better writer.

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  4. I read an essay in a writing magazine where a writing instructor explained why he always told his students to write about what they don’t know as opposed to what they did know. His argument was that as writers, we should be curious and wanting to learn new things. We should want to explore and challenge ourselves. That bit of advice freed something in me. It’s not really different from “write what you know” in that (as Lynne says in her comment) you need to ask questions, discover, investigate in order to “know.” But having it put this way — “write about what you don’t know” — made it easier for me to get away from writing only about what I already knew. It reminded me that I have an imagination and that with proper research, I can write about what I didn’t know then but know now.

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    • That’s the great thing about writing magazines, they’re full of great information. I agree with the instructor, writing what we don’t know encourages writer’s to be curious and curiosity is fuel for our stories. I’ve always interrupted the advice, “write what you know” as write what genre you read. For example, if I hate to read mysteries, which I don’t, why attempt to write in that genre. Great comment, Marie! Have a wonderful weekend!

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  5. Yes, agree with all the above. To me research and CONSISTENCY is very important. It is so irritating to read a book where, lets say, the character leaves home in a red coat and comes back in a green one. I know that’s what editors are supposed to check for, but in this age of self-publishing, attention to detail is often overlooked. If this occurs in a book I’m reading, I’m afraid it goes straight in the charity box.
    I’d also advise writing SOMETHING every day. It doesn’t have to be a continuation of what you did yesterday – you just need to keep the writing channels open and receptive. That’s the way ideas take shape.

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    • LOL…love your comment, Jenny. I agree 100%. I read a book, not self-published, where the main character was going out to a restaurant with her co-workers. One co-workers declined the invitation but low and behold when the author wrote the restaurant scene, there sat that co-worker at the table. I remember going back to verify that she had specifically declined. I was furious! I paid about $12 for that book! I e-mailed the author and in a nice way, I told her she might need a new editor. She never responded. Yes, yes….write something every day! Enjoy your weekend and congratulations on your one year anniversary!

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  6. “Stop outlining.”

    That wouldn’t work for everyone, but it unleashed the interesting writer in me that was hiding behind the bland one.

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  7. Jill, I think that the advice you shared from your published writer friend is the best I’ve heard so far, to write from your heart, also, as Jenny says above, to just keep writing. I’m new to this so I don’t have any advice to give!

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    • LOL… I appreciate your honesty, Sherri, but we’re all learning here. Writing from the heart has been the best way for me to get the words written. If I try to follow someone else’s style, it’s not me and it results in poor writing. Yes, Jenny’s advice goes to the top of the list. The more we write, the better writer we become. Enjoy your weekend, Sherri! I loved your post today, your son is lucky to have you as his mother. 🙂

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      • Sorry for the late reply Jill, just catching up now after spending the weekend with my son and family, having disappeared shortly after my post on Friday! Again, thanks so much for your lovely words, I was really, really encouraged by your comment on my blog 🙂
        I totally agree with everything you say here, the minute I feel that I have to try different styles or write something that is not from my heart then I feel immediately stifled and I just can’t write with any feeling so I write something that, to me, is completely meaningless and boring. So I don’t do it!
        Thanks again Jill, and also for your great blog, and also I hope that you had a good weekend 🙂

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      • It’s evident by your blog, that you write from the heart, Sherri. Like you, I don’t know any other way. I hope you had a wonderful time with your son and family this weekend…I know you did! 🙂

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      • Ahh, thank you Jill, and yes, it was a lovely time 🙂

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  8. I’m not a writer and not good at advice, Jill. When it comes to reading I know what I like. When I write it’s mostly just me entertaining myself. I love your idea of writing to an author whose work you like. I’ve never thought to do that, though I’ve occasionally looked at their website.

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    • You’re a writer, Jo, you just don’t know it. 🙂 The writing that accompanies your beautiful photos is lovely. Oh my, I’m addicted to author websites. I love reading the journey of a published writer. I remember the first time I e-mailed an author about her book, I was shocked that she responded…and the same day! From then on, I always had the nicest responses and some terrific advice. I print the e-mail response and tuck it inside their book. Not sure how I’ll handle the books I read on my Kindle. 🙂 Have a fabulous weekend, Jo!

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  9. Some of the best advice (encouragement) I ever got came from an agent (not my own!) who said, “The ones who stick with it are the ones who get published). Now that I’m self-pubbing, after trying relentlessly to get traditionally pubbed, those words still hold true: if I hadn’t hung in there, meeting lots of friends and learning lots of editing tips from agent/crit partners, etc, I would’ve never had confidence to self-pub. Honestly, persistence and knowing WHY you’re writing and WHY you can’t stop writing is key!

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    • You’re a true example of someone who sticks with it, Heather. I’m so happy you made the decision to self-publish, you’re story needs to be read. You’re making a bold move and I respect and admire you for it. Must be that West Virginia blood in us that makes us persistent. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and I hope you and your family have a terrific weekend!

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  10. Some excellent comments here Jill but I’d also endorse 1WriteWay’s instructor’s advice which can unlock many new ideas. Explore some less-travelled roads, see what happens.

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    • “Explore some less-travelled roads, see what happens.” You’ve just given us all another great piece of advice, along with Marie’s (1WriteWay) comment, “write what you don’t know.” Obviously exploring has worked well for you, Roy. Enjoy your weekend!

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  11. Jill thank you for mentioning that when you enjoy a writer’s work you email them to let them know how much you enjoyed their work which I feel is so important as writers like everyone else need to know their work is appreciated. Carolyn See mentions this in her great book ‘Making a Literary Life’; sending notes to writers you admire. She also suggests we write 1000 words each no matter how bad. Personally my favorite piece of advice because after a while you can’t force the writing. All that can come out is what is in your heart.

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    • I’ve heard great things about Carolyn’s book. I’m going to have to head over to Amazon and make a purchase. 🙂 I get so much enjoyment when I send an e-mail to a writer. I usually do it as soon as I finished the last page. I can’t wait to let them know how their writing impacted me. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I’m often surprised by their replies. These responses just reassure my belief that the writing community is all about helping and supporting each other. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I hope you have a great weekend!

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  12. Great advice. I love communicating with authors I admire and learning about their process. The best piece of advice I’ve heard, and have found to be true when I follow it, is:

    “Finish what you start.”

    If you never finish, you can never really learn. No one buys half-finished books.

    Have a great weekend Jill!

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    • Great advice, Phillip. I see, on your latest post that you indeed finished what you started and submitted your story…I’m so happy for you! It must be a great feeling…enjoy! Have a fantastic weekend!

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  13. Well, this has been fun – like reading an interesting article in a writing magazine! Something that helps me get moving is the ol’ brainstorming session. Just writing down, without thinking or censoring, topic ideas (if I’m dealing with the blog) or solution options (if dealing with a character or plot issue. Creativity seems to breed more creativity.

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    • I know, I love these wonderful comments, so much great advice! “Creativity seems to breed more creativity.” Yes! That’s so true, Shel. I’m discovering this as I venture into the world of free writing. Thanks for the terrific advice. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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  14. Butt in chair. No better advice than that. Writers write.
    And it’s the hardest advice to follow.

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  15. We got together and came up with a few things…

    – Let your characters run free. Be honest with them and about them, and they’ll stay consistent, keep your plot moving forward, and experience the world you create for them. But then, I’m all about character 😉

    – Cut out all the parts you, as a reader, would skip. It’s difficult to cut, but cutting can make your book GREAT. Make sure something happens on every page, otherwise cut. And save those sections in a file so they continue to live on (plus you won’t feel so bad)!

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    • Well, your team certainly did a great job. These are all great pieces of advice. “Cut out all the parts you, as a reader, would skip.” I’ve never really thought about that, but it makes sense. Often I’ll skip parts when I’m reading because it’s not essential to the story. I’ll definitely be thinking of this advice during my edits…thanks! Have a great weekend and thank you for taking the time to offer some great advice.

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  16. Oh, Jill, during my writing life I’ve received so much advice–some of it excellent and some of it miserable. So my first bit of writing advice is this: “Look carefully at the source of the advice, you receive then weigh it carefully against logic, your needs, and your experience.” The second is this: “If your favorites to read are not your favorites to write, you need to rethink what you’re writing.”

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  17. Oh dear me, I don’t have any particular advice!
    I’ll have to read all the comments, put them into practice, and then at some point in the future come back and tell you what works. Would that count as advice? 🙂

    I’ll have to go with what the author told you…write from your heart.

    I know I’m going to learn quite a bit from this thread.
    Thanks for another valuable post, Jill.

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    • You’re welcome, Elaine. I’ve certainly learned a lot from the comments. You’re right, putting advice into practice and seeing what works is a must. What works for one may not work for another. Come back anytime and let us know what works for you! 🙂 Enjoy your weekend!

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  18. Jill, you always have wonderful advice for your readers. I learn a lot from your process in negotiating your characters and scenes. You enlighten all of us. Thanks for that, my friend. 🙂

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  19. Great advice from so many of your commenters. I believe I may have mentioned my current faves on my blog, but here they are just the same. “Finish the damn book” AND “People don’t read fiction to escape to real life.” The second one helps release my inner critic while I’m drafting.

    The difference between published writers and unpublished–the published ones didn’t quit…Writers write..Butt in chair….All good advice.

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    • Your favorites are great, Jolyse. “Finish the damn book” is a piece of advice I need to follow. I have two books I need to complete. My plan is to forgo NaNoWriMo this year and focus on completing last years project. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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  20. I’m “passive voice” addicted. Help me out!
    Sorry I don’t have any advice, I guess I need one.

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  21. Thanks Jill for posting about a very crucial issue. I can see your commenters have given excellent advice. The advice that my teacher in the university gave me once was to write about the issues that I feel most passionate about. She also said that look inside your heart and see what appeals most to you and write about that. I have only written poetry and essays specially on social issues which were and are important to me. So her advice has helped me in this field. I have also seen that when writing for a newspaper I choose the topic that I feel passionate about and I may not have enough knowledge about it, but doing the necessary research and gathering different points of view on the topic gives me a thrill. I learn a lot in this way and the output turns out very pleasing according to my taste. So my humble advice would be to write about something that you feel very passionate about, it will give a lot of pleasure to you as a writer. Excellent post as usual Jill. It is always a pleasure to look forward to your lovely posts that make me put on my thinking cap. Take care and have a lovely Sunday.

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    • Thank you, Samina. Your blog is a prime example of writing something you are passionate about. Your posts bring attention to important topics within law enforcement as well as praising those who put their lives on the line each day they go to work. Your passion is commendable, Samina. Enjoy your day!

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  22. The best advice I’ve received is very simple:

    “Trust the process.”

    That’s it. There’s so much writing advice out there to “fix” things or take shortcuts, or is a individual writer’s process disguised as technique. I finally had to toss most of it and just focus on what I needed to. I still have to remind myself to trust the process.

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  23. One of the best pieces of advice I received was to avoid editing while writing–to produce a true discovery draft, where you’re not worried about how “good” it is. I know several people who think this advice is too scary. But letting go of having to produce a “perfect” draft truly freed me!

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    • I completely agree with that advice, L. Marie. I too know many writers who are afraid to just write that first draft and leave the editing for later. I think it makes writing more fun as well as making you feel free. Welcome back and I’m glad you had a fantastic trip.

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  24. Hi Jill – hope you had a wonderful weekend. I’m a bit behind on my blog reading, which is why I’m only now replying. I think one quote from King kind of hit home with me, especially because sometimes I find it so hard to continue while in the midst of a story and I get discouraged. Here’s what he said:

    “… stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel sh*t from a sitting position.”

    To be honest, I’ve got to admit that there are plenty of times I’ve felt like I was shoveling 🙂 Persistence always pays off, though. Always.

    Hope you have a great week, Jill!

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    • I had a very nice weekend and I hope you did as well, Dave. That is great advice from King and from you. I agree, persistence is the key and will always pay off in the long run. As for shoveling…you and me both, my friend. Perhaps that’s why I’ve had two back surgeries! Enjoy your week, Dave!

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  25. Don’t let the editor sit on your shoulder while you’re writing a first draft. And advice that has stayed with me since college, when my then-boyfriend-now-husband explained how to use a semi colon ;).

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  26. Most of what you write is the best thing you can write at that point in time. That’s why breathing room is essential. Give it 3-6 months and then come back and revise. You’ll be amazed by how much you can fix with time and space. 🙂

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    • That is so true, Kourtney. Allowing a project to rest is important. I made that discovery after abandoning a NaNoWriMo project once I reached 56k words at the end of the month. Although my period of rest was closer to 8 months, but it’s okay. Enjoy your final stops on your book tour!

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  27. You need very little advice, Jill… Just trust what your mind and heart dictate you to write…

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  28. The best advice I got was paraphsed in the movie Bull Durham “if you think you’re winning because you’re wearing women’s underwear, you are.” It’s true, though. Many authors have passed it on. If you believe in your innermost heart of hearts that you are an author, you are. Once you have that burning core of authorness inside you, you will instinctively start doing the things you need to do, like writing every day and practicing your craft, and communicating. Just Like Harry Potter doing the patronus charm in book three. He knew he could do it because he’d done it already. I know it may sound silly, but the belief that I am an author, and that I will be published gets me writing and keeps me writing every single day. Never want to be an author…be an author.

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  29. Not sure this is advice but I try to stay true to this when I write: Story matters. If the story takes an unexpected turn, let it. If you control it too much it doesn’t come across as real.

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