ROW80 Check-In 8: 5 Writing Tips from Laini Taylor

Hello gentle reader,

It is already time for another ROW80 check-in! My goals for this fourth round are as follows: Write or edit every day

This week I was waiting to hear from my beta readers on The Last Queen after my latest round of edits, so in the meantime I did something which has nothing to do with my Darklands trilogy. I dug up an unfinished first draft and added some 5000 words to it, and it was a lot of fun. I also worked on my query and researched agents. Finally I worked on a Super Secret and Super Exciting Project (code name TADA): you’ll find out all about it on 1st December!

Now, on to an inspiring story to keep us going this coming week. Today I’m sharing Laini Taylor’s writing tips. The following article was published on the Publishers Weekly website on 16 November 2012. In case you’ve missed it, here it is:

Laini Taylor‘s Days of Blood & Starlight (the follow-up to Daughter of Smoke & Bone) is filled with dazzling writing, not to mention fantasy, suspense, and a page-turning story. Take notes, because Taylor’s sharing her 5 writing tips.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a small child, but I was thirty-five before I finished my first novel, because I have issues with perfectionism. It took me a long time to learn to finish what I start, and I’ve developed a lot of tools and tricks for keeping myself moving forward through a story when a big slice of my brain wants nothing so much as to stop and rewrite everything I’ve already written. It can be exhausting, but the upside is that I love to revise. The main thing I’ve learned is that we all have to learn to work with—and appreciate—the brain we’ve been given, and not waste time wishing things were easier.

1. Know what you love. Try imagining the book that would light your heart and mind on fire if you came across it in a bookstore—the one that would quicken your pulse and keep you up all night reading. What would it be? Details, details: when, where, what, who? Think it up, imagine it fully, then bring it forth. That’s the book you should be writing.

2. Never sit staring at a blank page or screen. If you find yourself stuck, write. Write about the scene you’re trying to write. Writing about is easier than writing, and chances are, it will give you your way in. You could try listing ten things that might happen next, or do a timed freewrite—fast, non-precious forward momentum; you don’t even have to read it afterward, but it might give you ideas. Try anything and everything. Never fall still, and don’t be lazy.

3. Eliminate distractions. Eliminate Internet access. Find/create a place and time where you won’t be bothered. Noise-canceling headphones are great. Hotel-writing-sprees are even better if you can make that happen every once and a while: total dedicated writing time. During my second draft pass on my last book I made 20,000 words happen in a week, which is practically supernatural for me, and it would never have been possible without three nights in a hotel in my own city. It’s an incredible splurge, and a huge liberation, and you might just deserve it!

4. Get your characters talking. Dialogue is the place that books are most alive and forge the most direct connection with readers. It is also where we as writers discover our characters and allow them to become real. Get them talking. Don’t be precious. Write dialogues. Cultivate the attitude that every word you write need not end up in the book. Some things are just exercises, part of the process of discovery. Be willing to do more work than will show. The end result is all that matters. Be huge and generous and fearless.

5. Be an unstoppable force. Write with an imaginary machete strapped to your thigh. This is not wishy-washy, polite, drinking-tea-with-your-pinkie-sticking-out stuff. It’s who you want to be, your most powerful self. Write your books. Finish them, then make them better. Find the way. No one will make this dream come true for you but you.”

How are other ROWers doing? Here is the Linky to support each other!

10 thoughts on “ROW80 Check-In 8: 5 Writing Tips from Laini Taylor

  1. Shah Wharton says:

    Good going on the writing front, and great tips from Liani x

  2. Carrie-Anne says:

    I agree about avoiding distractions when writing. Significantly cutting down on the number of Facebook and other online games I played has done wonders for my productivity. Though when I write at home, I tend to write best when I’m listening to music instead of in complete silence.

  3. S. J. Maylee says:

    Good for you, EM, perfect way to wait out the return of your MS. Well done. Love the tips from Laini. I find it interesting that when I first started writing I had a hard time cutting anything. Now when I read this tip: “Cultivate the attitude that every word you write need not end up in the book. Some things are just exercises, part of the process of discovery.” I get it and it’s brilliant. Thanks, EM, have a great week.

    • EM Castellan says:

      I had the same problem at first: revising was a pain because I couldn’t see anything needing to be fixed or cut. Beta readers and CPs are a huge help for me on that front. And I’ve learned to let go of entire passages of my novel, for the better!

  4. Ooh *loving* number 5. GET OUT THE MACHETE. YES.

  5. Julie Luek says:

    Great advice– I love hearing how other writers think about the process. Thanks for sharing.

  6. EM Castellan says:

    You’re welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

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