Speaking at the National Book Festival on October 8, 2004, Novelist Patricia Wrede was asked what advice, besides “Read, read, read,” she’d offer to new writers. I am posting part of her response here for those who might be interested but don’t have the capability to play the webcast. (It runs a total of 37 minutes, which isn’t that long, but unfortunately it is long enough to cause buffering troubles over some dial-up connections, from my experience before I finally entered the 2000s and went with high-speed.)
If you do have a broadband connection, I highly recommend that you follow the link below and watch it for yourself.
“First and foremost, write every day, whether you feel like it or not. That’s probably the thing that separates a professional writer, one who actually makes it, who actually gets things finished, from people who just think about it and talk about it and kind of want to do it but never get around to it.
“That’s probably the most important thing, is to write every day, whether you think you have anything to say or not, whether you know what’s going to happen or not.
“Bear in mind that every writer works differently, and it works differently for every writer. If you’ve got to read “how to write” books or listen to writing advice, get it from a bunch of different people, so that you get a whole bunch of different advice, and then you can pick out what works for you.
“I see more people get hung up because they latch on to their favorite writer, and “how do you do it?” and they go home and try to do the same thing. And they’re not that kind of writer.”
(Her complete talk is on a webcast at the Library of Congress website, here. If you have the means to view it, I recommend it.)
Get a bunch of advice and decide what works for you. It wouldn’t be fair at all to say that she is encouraging writers to seek such advice, but it is clear that for those who do want it, the more variety you can get, the less likely you’ll be to try to force any single method into your writing. That may not work for everyone, but for some, it might. You have to decide for yourself if you are interested in how others do it and I think it would do no harm to decide up front that you won’t let someone else’s methods override your own instincts when you feel that yours are working better.
Wrede has other things to say with regard to writing and her own published works. I was intrigued by the mention of an interesting writing exercise that began as a game with author Caroline Stevermer and ended up producing the novel, Sorcery and Cecilia. I’ll file that one away for some future experimentation.