Five writing tips that work for me – Sherri Smith

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By Sherri Smith

Never take writing advice from a hot mess. That’s my only advice but then, I’m a hot mess and the last person you should take advice from.

Writing is still a haphazard undertaking for me. I write by muddling through from beginning to end, my desk covered with scraps of notes made quickly illegible by my four-year-old daughter’s crayons.

I’ve tried to be methodical about it in the past. I’ve tried to plot things out on recipe cards or on spreadsheets; listing plot points in numerical order (all of the things I imagine highly successful and productive writers do.) Once I even bought one of those tri-folding cardboard things that you see in elementary school Science Fairs and carefully wrote things out on it in different colored pens so that when I became stuck on a part, I could jump forward to the next, but then I lost it. (What can I say? I drink a lot.) When I actually do finish a novel, I’m as surprised as everyone else.

So, that said, I am going to pass along five writing tips that work for me.

1. Be monogamous. Finish the book you set out to write. Don’t be lured away by other big ideas when the writing gets hard because the only way to finish something is to finish something. Let it be bad, because once you have that first draft, everything else can be fixed. Writing is an act of sheer will.

2. Once you’ve finished, rewrite. Never stop rewriting (good pop song hook?) until you’re creatively barren and there’s nothing else you can do but type THE END.

3. Read like a writer. Stow away passages that work for you and try to figure out why. Pore over them. I have hundreds of these. Little pieces that evoke certain emotions so thoroughly, so pitch-perfectly that they fill me with such awe. Doses of excellent writing make you feel hopeful and want to be a better writer.

4. Putter around. Move about. Get the blood flowing. Procrastinate. OK not sure if anyone actually said this, but it helps me. Some kind of glaze just settles over my brain when I stare at any screen for too long. I’ve had my best ideas when I am doing something other than writing.

5. Love reading. The number of people who don’t read books but want to write books, always shocks the hell out of me. If you don’t have at least a book or two in your life that can bring you to your knees, you’re probably in the wrong business. So love reading and write what you love to read.


Sherri Smith has previously written two historical fiction novels for Simon & Schuster UK. When not writing she spends time with her family, two rescue dogs and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side. Follow Me Down (Forge Books, March 21st 2017) is her first thriller.

sherri-smith.com

1 Comment

  1. heatheradams2013

    April 6, 2017 at 3:14 am

    Love this advice – it seems very freeing, somehow, to know that you don’t have to have everything plotted out on a spreadsheet, you know? And btw, the cover of FOLLOW ME DOWN is so striking!

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