The Two Secrets to Writing the World's Most Incredible, Amazing-Sauce, Best-Selling Novel

Jan 17, 2012

AAAAAAAND, I'm back!

Hello there, folks! I'm excited to be back among the land of the blogging (and the land of the living-- I swear, I slept through at least three-quarters of my first trimester of pregnancy). I'll be around to see how ya'll have been doing over the next few days.

In the meantime, I'm honored to say my blog has been nominated as a Top Writing Blog by eCollegeFinder! Today, in that spirit, I want to talk about the best advice I ever got in my college years about writing. It was freshman year, and I sat in my first college-level creative writing class, eager to fill my somewhat empty brains with knowledge that would make me the world's most beloved, inspiring, and best-selling writer by the time I turned 19.

My professor walked in and proceeded to give the lecture that started the foundation for all the writing I've done since then. That day, he gave me the two secrets to helping me achieve all my writing dreams. In a fit of generosity, I have decided to pass on those secrets.

So, my friends, I would tell you this: have a take, and don't suck.


I know, right? And here we've spent all this time on stuffing our brains full of writing knowledge, and it's just that simple! Well, sort of. Let's break this down.

Have a take


My professor described "having a take" as giving a story that unique, personal touch that only you and your life experience can bring to the table. Story ideas are a dime a dozen. What makes that idea come alive and turn into that incredible tale that only you can tell is your take on that idea. What experiences in your life have given you insight that lets you turn that ho-hum idea on its head?

So find the thing YOUR life has made you believe in. Find a way to look at that story through a lens no one else has seen it through before-- because it's the one that belongs only to you.

Don't suck


You'd think I could sum this one up with a simple, "Well, duh." But this is the part that made it impossible to achieve by the time I turned 19. You see, with writing, we've all been doing it since elementary school. We wrote little stories and essays and journal entries at teachers' bequests, so we all think we're pretty darn good at it. So hey, we may as well write that best-selling novel because, after all, we already know how to do it.

Nope. Sorry. The craft of writing fiction is a whole different ball of wax. It's like playing the piano. Anybody can sit down and plunk out a few notes. But it's only the ones who learn the theory and then PRACTICE it who actually manage to play the piano well. So in order to not suck, you need to learn the theory. You need to practice. And unfortunately, that takes time.

But hey, just think of all the fun you can have with writing while you're learning not to suck!

So, my friends, there are the two secrets to writing the world's most incredible, amazing-sauce, best-selling novel! I'll, uh, let you know when I finally achieve that some day... In the meantime, what is the piece of writing advice that stuck with you over the years? And, hey, how are you all, anyway? It's good to see ya'll again. 

33 comments:

Chantele Sedgwick said...

YAY! You're back!! And thanks for the advice. ;) It's awesome. As usual. :D

J. A. Bennett said...

I love that! easy to remember :)

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Great advice! And, congrats on the baby...I was a little blog-absent at the end of the year and missed your announcement.

Melanie Fowler said...

Welcome back! This is crazy cool, have a take, and don't suck. It's simple great advise that everyone can understand!

Ruth Josse said...

Hello again! Good to see you back. I had a teacher that said pretty much the same thing. Practice the art of writing and write the story only YOU can write. Great advice!

Adrienne said...

Congrats on the blog nomination and welcome back! That's great advice. Short and sweet.

Jenny S. Morris said...

Congrats on the nomination!! You totally deserve it. I missed you while you were gone but I did the same thing with my first son. I would get off work and slide onto the couch without even eating.

This stuff form your professor is so simple yet great advice.

Teralyn Rose Pilgrim said...

Welcome back! Congrats on the nomination... you've earned it!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I always slept tons during my first trimesters of all my pregnancies. Enjoy the sleep now.

MKHutchins said...

Happy to see you're back! Glad you're feeling better, too. :)

Nick Hight said...

Wooo! You're back :) Congrats on the nomination :) Great post as well; learning to not suck sometimes doesn't drops from the top of the priorities list, so it's nice to have a bit of a reminder to keep it right up there.

akoss said...

Welcome back!!!
and thank you for another priceless advice. I think I'm going to link this to my blog :)

DL Hammons said...

Welcome back!! That advice reminds me of a Joss Whedon quote that says: "Just try and be yourself, unless you suck."

:)

Krispy said...

Welcome back, and thanks for sharing such pertinent advice! So simple. :)

Also, congrats on the nomination!

Meredith said...

That is such awesome advice--thanks for letting us in on the secret! And welcome back!

Angie said...

Welcome back to blogging! First trimesters are the worst. Glad you're feeling better. That is great writing advice. I think the piece of advice that had the most impact on me was the advice to take myself seriously as a writer, even from the beginning, and not be afraid to tell others that I was a writer.

Janet Johnson said...

Welcome back! So glad you're feeling better.

Best advice I got? Don't quit. Keep writing. I guess that might mimick your "don't suck" advice. :)

Rosalyn said...

The best advice I got from a teacher was to write my essay (although I think this applies to stories too) and then cut the first two pages. In other words, sometimes we start too soon--only keep as much introduction as is strictly necessary for your piece.

Caitlin said...

Woohoo, glad to see you back! Congratulations on the nomination. So exciting!

Leigh Covington said...

So glad you're back Shallee! My first trimesters are always the worst. All I do is sleep too. And CONGRATS on the nomination! WOW! That is awesome and well deserved. Love the post too! Another font of great information I can bookmark! Thanks so much!

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Absolutely true. I love that it's this simple ... and I love the idea of having our own, unique "take" on the books we write. Now, back to attempting to not suck.... :)

P.S. So glad you're feeling better! Welcome back!

Christine Murray said...

So glad you're back :)

Angela Cothran said...

Congrats on the nomination :) Great advise. I'm currently working on the not sucking one.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Welcome back, Shallee!

And Amen, Amen, to the writing advice. I truly think that's it in a nutshell.

:-)
Kimberley

Rachna Chhabria said...

Welcome back, Shallee. Hope you are doing well.

The advice that stuck with me was, try to find your unique writing style, don't copy anyone elses style.

Stacy Henrie said...

Interesting advice! For me, while I'm trying to achieve the don't suck part, I also have to give myself permission, in the beginning, to go ahead and suck. That takes the pressure off a bit. :)

Lynda R Young said...

welcome back!
Great advice. I think the best advice I got was don't give up, just keep writing.

The Golden Eagle said...

Welcome back! :)

I love this advice, especially the first point about story ideas.

Tanya Reimer said...

Best advice? It's not really to do with the writing, but the editing (which has been my life these past 3 years)- some things are worth the red pen. It's hard to remember that the red pen is what makes it great, but it always does. ;)

OH my ! Congrats on the babe. I slept my first trimester too. well. and ate. man I was one starved exhausted woman.

Madeline Jane said...

You're back! I hope you had fun sleeping. ;)

I love that advice. Especially about putting the story under your own lens. As for sucking, I think I'm going to go read some of those writing books. . . right now. The less time spent stinking, the better!

Misha Gericke said...

Welcome back!

I love your writing secrets. They pretty much sum up what writing is about. And they're not rules. ;-)

Michelle Merrill said...

Yay you're back! And I love that piece of advice. Practice definitely makes perfect...or a least better a little at a time :) You KNOW I haven't been writing since elementary school, but I've learned so much in the last two years. Having awesome, patient, crit partners make all the difference! Thanks for the advice (and all your help).

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