Archives For Writing

We Need to Talk About Money:

A guest post by Yi Shun Lai

The other day my husband fixed our bathroom sink with a video on YouTube, and I read a tutorial on how to build a wall planter.

So I was kind of surprised when I saw someone in an online writer’s community I’m in ask whether or not we thought her MFA program should be teaching her about the business of publishing. I mean, if I can learn rudimentary Spanish from an app, surely this person, who’s paying thousands of dollars to learn how to have a career in the written arts, should expect to learn how to . . . well, have a career.

I guess a little background is due: I’m a writing coach and editor. I’m also a novelist, and I edit nonfiction at a literary magazine. I cut my teeth in the consumer magazine world, and write marketing copy and teach workshops. In short, I make my living with words. I have an MFA myself, from an institution I chose specifically because its faculty comprised working writers, and a certificate in publishing from what is now the Columbia Publishing Course (when I graduated, it was still the Radcliffe Publishing Course). I got much of my writing-business acumen on the job, and when the time came to write and query my novel, I learned almost everything from friends who were literary agents, and, eventually, more timely information from my MFA program.

I’ve noticed a few things that crop up again and again when folks talk about writing and what place business has in it, and where and how you should learn these things. I’ll address them from my point of view below. And I invite you to partake in a conversation about them in the comments. Here we go:

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Emily Gould

Emily Gould is a novelist, essayist and bookseller. Based in New York City, she is the co-owner of independent e-bookstore Emily Books and a former co-editor at

Emily has launched a new online, self-paced Skillshare class that features a 10-day creative writing challenge aimed at helping you unlock your creativity and kickstart a daily writing habit.

Enrolment is the class is FREE for a limited time via this link. The offer expires at 11.59pm on Tuesday 12 April, American Eastern Standard Time.

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A post by Naomi Wood, Goldsmiths, University of London

Writing is something of a lawless place. Lawless, because there’s no clear indication that your effort will bring success; or that an answer will ever emerge from the mud; or that the most insane, most unpromising idea won’t reward you eventually.

Writing, especially in the drafting stage, can get very swampy indeed. In the first drafts I write to see what’s going to happen. I don’t know anything until I’ve begun to probe the life of the character. Is there someone at the door? A piece of unexpected news in the post? Weevils in the flour which means the cake is ruined?

I find first drafts scary and hard to do. I will do lots of other things instead of writing this draft. Scrubbing mould from the bathroom’s grouting. My laundry. My marking. Even my tax return, with its eminently calculable results …

What I do to get it done is lie to myself. I tell myself I’m writing short-stories, not a novel. If I take baby-steps I know I can get there, but if I knew it was a marathon, I’d never begin.

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Joanne Harris started her working life as a teacher, writing three novels during her fifteen years in the classroom. This included the international bestseller Chocolat (1999), the success of which made Harris a member of the exclusive Millionaire Authors’ Club, a list of UK authors whose books have sold more than one million copies. Since becoming a full-time writer Harris has written a further twenty books including two cookbooks and a Dr Who novella.

Last month Harris, a witty and wise Tweeter, shared the following tips for writers using the hashtag #TenWaysToKickstartYourWriting.

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A post by Maya Sapiurka, University of California, San Diego

One of the most interesting and entertaining parts of following my favourite authors on Twitter is witnessing a little bit of the writing process.

Getting a peek into how my favourite books are written is like watching a real-time behind-the-scenes DVD featurette. But not every update is a positive one. There’s something that haunts all writers, be they professional or amateur: writer’s block.

Writer’s block can be difficult to define, because no two people share the same experience of it. Probably the simplest and most straightforward definition comes from Dr. Patricia Huston:

a distinctly uncomfortable inability to write.

But what could be the cause of this vaguely described problem? Has a writer’s Muse simply deserted them, or can we find an explanation hidden somewhere in the brain?

The Location of Language

While there haven’t been any published scientific studies on people with writer’s block, we can take a few different avenues to try and determine what parts of the brain may be affected. One of those is looking at where words come from in the first place.

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AL Kennedy's Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

A.L.Kennedy was born in Scotland in 1965. She is the author of six literary novels, one science fiction novel, seven short story collections and three works of non-fiction including the wonderful writer’s resource On Writing. In 2010 Kennedy shared the following advice with readers of The Guardian, published as part of a series  inspired to Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing.

1. Have humility. Older/more ­experienced/more convincing writers may offer rules and varieties of advice. ­Consider what they say. However, don’t automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else – they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.

2. Have more humility. Remember you don’t know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.

3. Defend others. You can, of course, steal stories and attributes from family and friends, fill in filecards after lovemaking and so forth. It might be better to celebrate those you love – and love itself – by writing in such a way that everyone keeps their privacy and dignity intact.

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13 Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Accomplished

Gretchen Rubin is the author of multiple New York Times bestselling books including The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, is the host of a chart-topping weekly podcast, and maintains a popular website with hundreds of thousands of readers form around the world. When it comes to advice on being a productive writer, she is someone we should all be listening to.

One of the challenges of writing is…writing. Here are some tips that I’ve found most useful for myself, for actually getting words onto the page:

1. Write something every work-day, and preferably, every day; don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Staying inside a project keeps you engaged, keeps your mind working, and keeps ideas flowing. Also, perhaps surprisingly, it’s often easier to do something almost every day than to do it three times a week. (This may be related to the abstainer/moderator split.)

2. Remember that if you have even just fifteen minutes, you can get something done. Don’t mislead yourself, as I did for several years, with thoughts like, “If I don’t have three or four hours clear, there’s no point in starting.”

3. Don’t binge on writing. Staying up all night, not leaving your house for days, abandoning all other priorities in your life — these habits lead to burn-out.

4. If you have trouble re-entering a project, stop working in mid-thought — even mid-sentence — so it’s easy to dive back in later.

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