Authors, Book Talk, Tips and Tricks, Writers' Resource

Writing Advice from the Greats

What a fine day for random writing advice from amazing authors! If you’re having trouble focusing on your NaNoWriMo project and want some inspiration (or just a distraction), I’ve got you! For no particular reason, I want to share with you some advice/inspiration for writing terribly, writing description, and writing speculative fiction.

Why these three topics?

Why not, I say!

Let’s get down to it…

On Writing Terribly

Are your first drafts messy, unusable, and not at all ready for others to read?


Great! That’s the way it’s supposed to be!

Write terrible.

– Leigh Bardugo

Writing first drafts is a fun journey…while you’re writing. After you finish that draft and sit back to congratulate yourself on a job well done, you might return to it and realize just how incoherent it is. But the beautiful thing about first drafts is that they’re supposed to be awful.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper.

– Anne Lamott

An excerpt from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, called “Shitty First Draft,” reveals that sometimes, writers need to give themselves permission to write terrible drafts in order to have something on hand to fix up for the second draft. It’s much easier to make a sculpture out of dirt than it is to make a sculpture out of nothing.

No one will read what you don’t give them, so the only judge in the first draft is you.

– Allison Beckert

On Writing Description

Are you having trouble showing your story world to the reader?

Fret not! Here’s some super simple advice on description!

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

– Anton Chekhov

The rule of showing versus telling is based on the fact that it’s more effective to describe what the action or setting looks/sounds/smells like instead of stating it outright. This is where a writer can insert important and beautiful into a scene; how beautiful is Chekhov’s glinting broken glass? Would it stick with you as much if it was just “moonlight”?

On Writing Speculative Fiction

Do you love writing about worlds that don’t exist? Aliens? Magic? Both?!

You’re not alone! While writing speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc.) can feel like giving in to your inner child (and it absolutely is), your work is just as important as any other genre.

Until you have examined and comprehended the world around you, you can’t possibly create a complex and believable imaginary world.

– Orson Scott Card

There is an undeniable connection between the world of imagination and the real world. Oftentimes, those who write speculative fiction end up writing about real-world issues in ways that people can understand. That means that the real world needs the imaginary world to face its own troublesome issues and beautiful truths; likewise, the imaginary world needs the real world for its believability. Without the real, the unreal wouldn’t exist.

The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real…for a moment at least…that long magic moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.

– George R.R. Martin

This one’s a long quote, and that’s because fantasy is especially important to me, and George R.R. Martin’s thoughts on the genre are especially poignant. This isn’t so much writing advice than it is an experience of description and introspective thought. So, if you ever feel even the slightest bit unsatisfied with your interest or experience writing fantasy (a genre that it’s easy to look down on), just remember this love letter to your genre. It’s pure poetry.


I hope you feel encouraged and inspired on this lovely Tuesday and that you’ve been sufficiently distracted from your NaNoWriMo projects. Time to get back to it!

Happy writing!


Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash