Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Best Writing Advice

"Dawn...Get up and bite the nail!"

I've been doing a lot of interviews lately about the best writing advice anyone ever gave me. One such interview I did (if you want to call it that) was for my rock star agent, Chip MacGregor or the MacGregor Literary Agency. Chip has just put the finishing touches on a "very nice" 7 book deal for me, which includes two new ones, Blue Moonlight and Murder by Moonlight for the Dick Moonlight series and five of my back-list titles, the top ten and top twenty Amazon Kindle bestselling  The Innocent and The Remains among them.

In his newest blog post at MacGregor Literary.com, Chip asks me and several other authors in his stable, what's the best writing advice anyone has ever given you. Here's my answer:  "The best writing advice I ever got came from Ernest Hemingway in the form of his memoir, A Moveable Feast. If writers are worried about one thing, it's the ability to keep a story moving from day to day. To avoid the 'block,' as some people call it. Papa wrote slowly and methodically in the early morning hours, and trained himself to stop at a point where he knew what was going to happen next. That way he could be sure of getting started the next day -- and it left him the afternoons to play, exercise, fish, drink, or do whatever he wanted."

Taking this a step further, I want to talk a little about mornings.

My band mates in The Blisterz used to get so frustrated with me. Whenever we'd have a gig, I'd request we play the earliest spot possible...You know, when nobody has shown up yet...so that I could get myself home at a decent hour, get to bed, and get up to write. If you're in a band, you don't want to play the early spot. You want to play the late, late, late spot, when the bar is major league packed and everyone is pretty well lubed up. Lubed up audiences are very forgiving. Even when they're shouting out for FreeBird, and you start playing Beat the Brat instead.

But I digress...

As a writer, mornings are precious. Like Hemingway suggested long before me, the morning is the time when you're are most alone and isolated with your thoughts. The dawn is peaceful and the daily rigors of every life like emails, snail mail, needy kids, grumpy spouses, telephone calls, uninvited guests, and more get in the way of your work.

But hey, that's life!

If, however, you can manage to get your page quota in by noon, you then have the rest of the day to deal with said life, and all the adventures it promises to bring your way. Somehow a phone call from the wife telling you she just rear-ended the guy in front of her while she was texting doesn't sound as painful as it might otherwise be if your pages are completed. If you receive an IRS bill for unpaid taxes, it becomes more like water rolling off a duck's back so long as you have gotten your daily quota of words in.

Your writing is your shield and your sword and your rock. It is what you have in the face of uncertainty. It is surety and stability when the earth beneath your feet is splitting open, and about to swallow your home with the dig still asleep inside it. And it all begins in the dawn, when you are the only person awake on earth.



  1. Boy I'd love to get up at dawn. But in ID that doesn't happen until like 7 or 8 AM so I get up at 5AM. And I agree I have always done better in my work when I got up with the chickens and didn't stay out with the bats.

  2. I'm usually still up at dawn, lol! I do believe my best writing is done late, late at night...husband and kids in bed, tv off. However, as of late, my page quota looks a little like my bank account - blank!

  3. Makes sense, it's also the time where you're the freshest (let's say after a coffee). Frank Bill told me he gets up at an impossible hour (I think it was three AM, but I don't remember) to write before he would go to work. I thought it was savage, but hey. Frank has a deal with FSG and got his book featured in GQ...something must work about this.

    Very good post again Vince, I can't get enough of the tried-and-true writing advice.

  4. I'm a morning person, so I'm creeping out of bed by 4:30 AM in the summer but sleeping in until 5:30 in the winter. And you and Papa H are right. Morning is the time when you're "starting" anyway. You're starting your day. So why not start with the important stuff? I am a procrastinator, so I make sure I sit down first thing and write in the A.M. Once I'm fired up, I'm great, but if I don't start early, it's likely I won't start at all. I'll find a way to wriggle out of it. It's really come clear to me recently, faced with a ton of edits from my editor at T & M that I have to start early, because my energy dissipates by the early afternoon. Now the idea of stopping when there's still something you know you can write? That's new advice for me, and it's golden.

  5. I don't have the energy to get up at dawn anymore. So I write first thing whenever I get up. And yes, I write more when I write before noon.