Does he have my number or what?

Unfortunately, this is exactly what I needed to hear right now:

Do not spend a single second making your prose readable until you’re absolutely, positively sure that you have your story locked down. This is the single most important bit of advice I have, and I ignore it all the time and have wasted years of my revising life because of it. The impulse to snappy-up dialogue and make sentences eloquent is almost irresistible at every point in the revision process. It makes sense: We’re surrounded by so many big, messy plot and character problems that it’s nice to seek solace in tidying up sentences. It’s a finite task, it’s instantly gratifying, and it makes us feel like we’re making progress on our books. The sadness comes when we spend six months transforming our first three chapters into Pulitzer-worthy gems, only to realize that none of those chapters will actually end up in our novels because they don’t work with the ending. This happens over and over and over, and it will kind of make you want to die. My advice: Think of your second draft as a house that you’re building. You need to pour the foundation, frame the walls, and get a reasonably waterproof roof over your head before you start to think about putting art up on the walls and installing the basement bowling alley and aviary. Let the art-hanging and bird-bringing be the treat you give yourself for all your manual labors with the cement mixer and nail gun.

Siiiiigh. Excuse me while I go knock down this beautiful front hallway I’ve been working on and pour some damn foundation instead…

Like this:



Thanksgiving weekend recap


Did someone order a pep talk?


  1. Liz

    Mmm… yeah. This was pretty much directed toward writers like me.

    — Liz’s last blog post: December Morning Breakfast, With a Side of Pinecones

  2. Too bad you don’t drink

    — phhhst’s last blog post: The Helping Hands Project

  3. Holly Jahangiri

    You want to know the best writing advice EVER? Got this gem from Tom Clancy:

    “Just write the damned book.”

    And this little addition, from me:

    Be yourself. If you’re more comfortable revising as you go, then do it. You may not get that novel written in a month, but you may just stay sane. Don’t get bogged down or sidetracked by minor, inconsequential, uninspired, pedantic revisions. If you slash 10 words, stay at it until you’ve got a 20 word net gain. That’ll discourage idle hacking at your prose for no good reason. (During the actual post-writing editing phase, all bets are off – cut anything that does not effectively move the story forward.)

    You and I have some odd things in common…


    Thanks for leaving the kind comments and breadcrumbs over on!

    — Holly Jahangiri’s last blog post: Open Letter to Frito-Lay, Regarding Grandma’s Homestyle Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  4. Trisha

    If you’re open to it, life provides for you exactly what you need. All you have to do is listen.


  5. Liz-
    Glad to know I’m not the only one!

    HAHA. You’re not the first one to tell me that. A classmate once said that I could probably never succeed as a writer since I don’t drink, do drugs, or have lots of random sex.

    From Tom Clancy?! That’s awesome! And great advice — both what he said and what you added. I think I’m still figuring out what works for me, you know? Thanks for stopping by!

    Hehe, you sound like Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas. Not that that’s a bad thing! She was one of my fave characters. :)

  6. Holly Jahangiri

    Yes. Years ago, I was a Sysop on GEnie, in the Writers’ Ink RT, and Clancy was a regular visiting author. He was often a guest for online chats, and loved to play Trivia (never, never, never play Trivia with this man unless you have a head full of encyclopedic knowledge on all subjects). Anyway, novice writers always like to ask about how to get an agent, how to approach a publisher, how to “get published,” but most of them don’t even have a product to sell. Thus, “Just write the damned book.” Worry about all the rest AFTER you have a product. Once you’ve become adept at churning out products, and are confident in your ability to sell them, then you might want to think about pre-sales… ;) But it is stressful if you have no books, or only one book – and you can’t stress out over the BUSINESS of writing and enjoy the actual writing simultaneously.

    — Holly Jahangiri’s last blog post: There’s Someone for Everyone, if a Butterfly Works Hard Enough

  7. Very good points. And I’ll keep that in mind about Clancy and the trivia. :P

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