Posted by: jeannineatkins | December 19, 2008

Best Writing Advice of the Year

Tis the season for too much to do, hope, gratitude, and best book of the year awards. Feeling the gratitude, and trying to keep up my writing amidst bigger than normal pulls to stop, I’m adding my own award for Best Writing Advice of the Year. Of course it’s also the season of hyperbole, which is where “the year” part comes in, because there’s no way I can remember much of anything back to January.

I’m handing this shiny award to Becky beckylevine for some well chosen words she gave me a few weeks ago when I was trying not to whine, succeeding maybe only at moaning (it’s not quite as high a pitch) about trying to fix a novel returned with comments that the main character felt distant, and perhaps the book needed more action. Becky wrote something along the lines that I might have enough action, but my character needs to respond to it more. I think it was the positive phrasing — what to do, not what was lacking – that helped me hear. It sent me back to the manuscript – by way of blank paper — where I’m thinking of the actions I have and tapping my feet, telling myself not yet, not yet, as I draw out some responses. Thank you, Becky, and may you wear your crown, invisible though it is, with honor.

Do you have a few words or touchstone you come back to as you write or revise? When you get stuck, are there words in your mind or on a post-it note by your computer or prettily framed that help words trickle if not flow? If you care to post your Best Writing Advice Awards, I’d love to hear some!

And thank you for the kind thoughts about my daughter, who is feeling better and booked a midnight flight, so should arrive here late Saturday morning between snow storms! Daughter home: that’s what I call a holiday.



  1. Wow. What a wonderful way to wake up in the morning! Thanks, Jeannine–I’m so glad that one comment actually helped. 🙂
    I’m going to go back & look at my posts & comments this weekend–I think your award is a wonderful idea. I know that you, at least, have kept me charged up about the history writing and the balance of juggling this all, so you should probably start shining up your tiara, too!
    Yay for short flus and airplanes. So glad your daughter’s coming home.

  2. Oh, good, I’m glad I could be there with your oatmeal! It’s been great to keep each other going in various directions, and I’m very happy about that and grateful.
    And for short flus (we hope) and airplanes. The weather? Well, if all goes with predictions, her red-eye should get here between snow and sleet. Trying not to obsess…. (is there a mom who doesn’t?)

  3. What a lovely post and great idea. Hats off to Becky, and LJ for all the support so readily offered. Actually, your recent posts about biographies have been very helpful to me — I’ve been wrestling with a PB biography, and you’ve helped me to view aspects of it in a new way.
    So glad to hear your daughter was able to rebook her flight,and that she’s feeling better :)!
    BTW, love your userpic!

  4. What a great piece of advice. And yes, having the positive spin is a huge help.
    For me this year was all about getting a first draft done, so the best advice I heard (from several very helpful friends and a few books) was about living with imperfection and just getting on with things. BIC, in short, with a side order of “feel free to make a mess.”
    So glad that your daughter should be home soon!

  5. Thanks, Jama, I’m so happy some of my words helped you see things in a new way. I agree, what a supportive climate here on LJ through writing and life. Happy holidays!

  6. Yes, it’s all about living with the mess sometimes. There is a time for perfection, but it’s so much shorter than the messy end!
    Em told me she slept and slept and slept and is now feeling much better. I expect after flying through the night she’ll want to sleep more, but her bed, and accompanying dog, is waiting, and I’ll be happy to have them tucked in!

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