It seems as though in the last decade the number of parent bloggers has skyrocketed, and for good reason. Who doesn’t have a great story of their kid to share, or advice to up-and-coming parents who don’t fully comprehend the craziness, joy, and exhaustion being a parent can bring? And apart from the blog world, there are plenty of parent-turned-authors out there as well (including me!). If you’re a parent who has ever thought about picking up that pen, here are 4 reasons I think you should go for it.
You have a lifetime (and your child’s lifetime) worth of unique experiences to share: Some people don’t want to start their blog or write their book because they think it’s all been said before. But that is not true. Every child says a different funny thing, every person’s background and family life and thoughts are unique to them, and make for a unique story to be told. If you write honestly about your own experiences, you won’t be copying anyone by writing them down.
Writing can be a great way to document your child’s youth: There is so much writing can help you remember about your life than a photograph can. You’ll be able to look back on all sorts of fun memories you and your child share, and they will be able to someday read what you wrote and remember their childhood!
You can see the world through a new (younger) set of eyes: Writing from a child’s perspective can be one of the best things for a parent to do. You’ll have to work that much harder to understand their emotions and thoughts, making you more empathetic as a parent. Whether you’re writing a novel from a child’s P.O.V. or a blog post from their eyes, taking the time to put yourself in their shoes will make you a better writer and parent.
You can share the experience with your child: Basically, it’s another opportunity to bond! Coming up with blog posts together, like an arts & craft DIY or a book review will give you and your child a creative outlet to connect with, and will help them grow their own writing and creative skills. For me, writing my book was all a collaboration with my son, since the main character is one we came up with together when telling bedtime stories. A family who creates together, stays together!
Do you have a parenting blog, or a book you wrote that stemmed out of your parenting experience? Leave the name in the comments below, and we can all share each other’s experiences!
I’m very pleased to announce that this week we are featuring a post from author Laurie McKay about where she finds inspiration to write.
One of the most common questions asked to writers is “What inspired you?” I never thought too much about inspiration until after I finished my first book and was asked that very question, but I wished I’d thought about it sooner. Now that I have a better understanding of what inspires me, I can tap into those resources when I get lost on a page or can’t figure out the next plot point of my work-in-progress. As such, here are a few of the places where I’ve found inspiration. May they inspire you as well.
1. STUDYING CRAFT
I own about fifty books about writing. Some of my favorites are the Writer’s Digest Collection: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, Character and Viewpoint, Plot, etc. I find inspiration (and motivation) in studying writing, in learning more about craft, in discovering more about my strengths and weaknesses as a storyteller. Learning about writing – whether it be in a book, in an article, at a writing conference – makes me excited to write and gives me new ideas and techniques to do so.
2. FAVORITE STORIES
Analyzing stories – the parts I liked and the parts I didn’t – is inspiring.
One of my favorite movies (also one of the first books I ever read) was The Wizard of Oz. You know, a girl is transported via tornado from Kansas to the magical land of Oz, meets some friends, fights a witch, finds a wizard. Then she returns home with some shiny red shoes and a new perspective on everything.
But what do I like about The Wizard of Oz?
I like that a character from one world travels to a new one, that she’s a fish-out-of-water. I like that her dog, Toto, is along for the adventure. Honestly, I like that she has magic shoes.
So maybe in one of my stories my character should travel from one world to another? Maybe they should have an animal friend? Magic footware – why not?
In my book VILLAIN KEEPER my main character, Caden, travels from one world to another. His magnificient stallion, Sir Horace, comes with him. He doesn’t have magic shoes but he does have an enchanted coat.
That being said, my book is nothing like The Wizard of Oz. It takes place almost wholly in North Carolina, the characters are in foster care, and it’s a contemporary fantasy complete with dragons, magic, and middle school.
Also, I think it’s good to think about what I like and what I don’t like. Writing is subjective and hard work, and if there is one person who should truly love my story, it’s me.
There’s a part in my second book, QUEST MAKER, where my characters Caden and Brynne are being chased through a pitch-black hallway by a monstrous long-limbed villain who can crawl on the ceiling. Truth be told, that isn’t something I’ve personally experienced. But I imagine in that situation my heart would pound, my body shake, my breaths come out in rapid pants. In short, I’d be scared. And I know what it feels like to be scared.
It’s common advice to ‘write what you know’. I might have never fought a dragon, had a loved one assassinated, or been stranded in an alternate land far from home (all things that happen to my main character) – but I’ve had to fight and face my fears, I’ve lost loved ones, and I know what it feels like to be homesick.
These same feelings can be translated to my characters and the things they go through. They can inspire how my characters feel, act, and react.
I went to the NC Writer’s Conference at Wrightsville Beach a few years ago. The author – and I’m sorry I don’t remember her name – told the room when she was stuck and uninspired, she made herself write anyway. Oftentimes, when she’d look back at her work days later, she’d find the words she wrote in uninspired times were just as good or better than her words on days when the ideas and sentences seemed to flow.
That is some of the best writing advice I’ve gotten. Sometimes, I’ve seen this referred to as Permission to Write Badly. Write something. Anything. The plot, the writing, and the details can be tweaked later in rounds of revisions.
Now, when I’m stuck, when I can’t figure out where my story should go next or how my main character should proceed, one of the greatest wells for inspiration is in the physical act of writing (or typing in my case). If I can force myself to write something, anything, no matter how rough or horrible, I start getting ideas.
For example, I recently wrote a synopsis for a new story idea I’m working on. I had a vague idea of the plot, and I had written the first few chapters, but beyond that, I was stuck. It was just a fuzzy cloud of scenes and scenarios. Once I started punching keys, however, everything came into focus. I find when I allow myself to write and don’t get bogged down in things being perfect, or even good, ideas and inspiration follow.
On occasion, a nice cup of coffee on a cool morning makes writing a bit more enjoyable. What’s more inspirational that that?
Laurie McKay is an author and biology instructor who lives in Durham, NC. When she’s not working, she spends time with her family and her two elderly dogs. Her debut MG fantasy novel, VILLAIN KEEPER (The Last Dragon Charmer #1) and her second book QUEST MAKER (The Last Dragon Charmer #2) are available now. To learn more about her or to see pictures of her dogs (and her family) follow her at lauriemckay.net or on Twitter or Facebook. You can find her book at Goodreads, Indiebound, Amazon, BN, and wherever books are sold.
Recently I came across an article from the Parenting Herald which explored the idea that being a parent and doing creative work are somehow at odds with one another. As a single father and author, the fact that there are studies and articles going around saying that my two identities should be at odds with one another intrigued me.
The one quote I found to be the substantiation of this particular article’s argument can be summed up in this quote:
“The point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.”
What I wonder, though, is why a person would need to apply the rules of their art to their parenting?
For as long as art has existed, we have thrown around the idea that an artist must be someone who suffers, a tortured soul of sorts, who can only make sense of this world by making art to ease their suffering—but only until another work of art needs to be made, of course. And while a number of suicides, a chopped ear, and other instances have validated this image of an artist for a long time, I know many writers, painters, musicians, and other artists who are very happy in their life, and make art for the enjoyment of making something beautiful.
These people also tend to be very happy in their home lives, and make excellent parents.
The way one parents and the way they make their art are separated, in the same way that a parent who works in finance doesn’t use those same skills and the “work” mindset into their parenting life.
One argument that I did believe worked in the article by the Parenting Herald was that there is a lack of energy in a parent to be able to produce art. Parents minds are often so utterly consumed by their children and their “day jobs,” that they struggle to find the time and energy required to create a work of art—which in itself is a time-consuming and energy-draining activity.
But I would also argue that those who aren’t parents struggle in this way; not having enough time is the most commonly used excuse to not make one’s art. The amount of truth behind that excuse varies from person to person, but the fact is, any artist needs to make their art a priority in order for it to get done. No matter your day job, if you have a sick parent or if you have five kids, if art is important enough to you—if it is a vital aspect of your identity—you will need to find time in your schedule, even if it is no more than five minutes, to make it.
As a father and an author, I can say that the struggle to find said balance is difficult. But I came out the other side with three published books, and a son who lived a happy childhood, and I never once found my two identities to be at odds with one another.
Hi All! Before I get into this week’s blog post, I do have an announcement to make.
Coming up on December 5th, I will be holding a reading and signing at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro at 11 a.m.
I am so excited for this event. Holding readings where I can listen to kids’ reactions, see their smiles, and meet people who have shown an interest in my stories is one of the most rewarding experiences a children’s author can have. However, children’s authors (and all authors, at that) face a number of obstacles every day that make these rewarding experiences all the sweeter. Here are a few typical obstacles children’s authors face, and my tips on how to make the most of those difficulties.
The number of children’s books on the shelves. How do we get our books to stand out among not only all the new children’s books coming out every day, but also among all the old classics (Roald Dahl books, Junie B. Jones, etc.)? Parents will often want to read their children the same books they loved as children, and they’ll pick up other, newer books as other parents recommend them.
So how do you make this obstacle work for you? Promote your books among parenting websites, among the parents in your town, among mommy and daddy bloggers—anyway you can think of to reach parents with your books, this is how you will get your book to stand out. Word of mouth is the best promotion tool there is!
Finding an original story to tell. Children’s books tend to want to promote good, moral values to children. But how many books can be written about being kind, sharing, finding self-assurance, being a good friend…the list goes on and on. The types of characters that interest children tend to be limited as well, with countless stories featuring princesses, and dragons, and animals, and magicians or wizards.
So how do you overcome this challenge? My biggest piece of advice is to focus on your characters. Maybe on the outside your story could seem like just another stereotypical, archetypal story, but if you put in the time to flesh-out your characters, your story will be original. Just like no two people are exactly the same, no two characters, if written well enough to seem like real people, will be the same either.
Balancing writing and a day job. Writing children’s books will not make you a living. Yes, I know there are exceptions (JK Rowling certainly made more than enough money to live on with Harry Potter), but don’t expect to be the exception. Most children’s book authors also need a day job in order to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. And it’s hard to come home from a day job and get back to that book that may or may not stand out and may or may not be original enough of a story to tell, but they have to do it anyway if they ever hope to put a book out to struggle in this world.
Overcoming this challenge is simple—choose writing. Choose to put in the effort. Sit down every day. Give your hands to your day job, but give your soul to your writing. You might not make money, you might not be the next massive success, but you will be able to fulfill your calling to be a children’s author, and hopefully touch a few readers’ lives.
No obstacle in the world should stop you from doing what you feel called to do. And no obstacle in the world will stop me from writing Night Buddies books.
What obstacles have you encountered as an author, or in following whatever passion you have? Have you found a way of coping with those obstacles? Let me know in the comments!
After spending the past month at the Bookmarks Book Festival and SIBA 2015 (pictured above), I’ve walked away with a whole lot of inspiration and ideas about what makes a book a success, what people love to read, and what constitutes good writing. So today I wanted to share some of my thoughts on that with you!
When I first set out to write Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare, I didn’t realize how essential building conflict in the story was. You can’t just have one main conflict in mind and have that carry the entire story—the book also has to be filled with little bits of tension and little conflicts that keep the reader turning every single page. Each chapter you write should contain a major conflict, each page should be your character finding ways to resolve it. Yes, you should have one main conflict (all the pineapple cheesecakes in the pineapple cheesecake factory are disappearing) but conflict needs to always be in the front of your mind when you sit down to write.
So what are some ways to do this? Here are a few tips to help you figure out how to raise the stakes, build the tension, and create the most dynamic story possible.
Create strong values for your characters. When you know what they value and what they hold closest, it is easier to come up with conflict that will interfere with those values. Let’s say a character doesn’t drink because of an alcoholic parent, and then falls in love with a major drinker . . . conflict. Let’s say a red crocodile who loves cheesecakes more than anything now has them start disappearing . . . conflict. It can be silly or serious, but values that are being tested, internally or externally, create conflict.
Bring the family into it. Families are a huge area for conflict in a story. In Night Buddies, John’s parents question him and his sanity when he talks about his adventures—they even argue between themselves because of it. This isn’t a huge plot point in the story, but it still fills the book with extra tension and drives the story forward.
Think internally. Don’t only think of external events to build conflict, like storms or people, but think about your character’s feelings. Do they feel disappointed in themselves or their life, do they hate their siblings, do they suffer from depression? Emotional conflict is just as, if not more, essential to a dynamic story.
Keep bringing back the enemy. Your story should have an antagonist—think the Joker, or in my story’s case, a band of evil iguanas. The more they show up, the more conflict your protagonist is going to have to face. Not only do they have to deal with the trouble the enemy causes, but they also have to deal with the emotional conflict of either sinking to their enemy’s level, or taking the high road and maintaining their moral as the good character.
So there you have it! There are probably a hundred ways to build conflict in your story, so just always remember that when things seem to be going too well for your character, it’s your job to knock him off his high horse!
What are some writing essentials you’ve discovered? Let me know in the comments below!
Every writer has been given the obvious, but kind of heartbreaking piece of advice, “Don’t quit your day job.” As in, don’t ever expect to be able to live off of your passion. Some callings are always meant to be side hustles, not real, pay the bills, careers. As always, we can look at the exceptions to this rule—J.K. Rowling the billionaire, Stephen King, James Patterson. Even Amanda Hawking ended up making a prettier penny than I ever expect to see through self-publishing. We convince ourselves that we could be the next big thing, and we might be. But does that mean having an end-goal of being a full-time writer is a reasonable goal?
I would say both yes and no. And my yes or my no are dependent on your answer to this question: what kind of full-time writer do you want to be?
Let’s say you write one book every couple of years, like myself. You self-publish. You blog each week. You market to your heart’s content. But the fact is you have a smaller pool of work to bring in a profit. So if you’re expecting to make a full-time living off of a small pool of work, no matter how brilliant that work is, I would say that goal is very near unreasonable. Let me also point out that I don’t think that means you should start cranking out books that haven’t been well written or don’t mean anything to you just to make your body of work larger. I fully believe in taking a precious amount of time to write the absolute best book possible. Yes, your bank account might not grow as quickly that way, but at least you’ll be proud of the work you’re putting out into your reader’s hands.
Now, let’s say you write a book every few months to publish. You have multiple series going, make your readers hungry to come back for more to see how your story ends, you give out free e-book once in awhile and you have such a large body of work you can hardly remember them all. Now the goal of writing full-time looks a little more reasonable. If you’re writing enough and getting enough people (not a ton of people) to purchase each book you put out, you keep your publishing costs low, and you keep at it for years, you just might be able to gather enough income to keep you afloat. But chances are, the profit you make still won’t be able to compare to your full-time job with benefits. Plus, once you decide to go for writing full-time at this stage, there will be an added stress to your writing life that wasn’t there before. This isn’t a fun hobby of yours anymore, a creative calling you love to pursue. This is what pays your bills and provides for your family—there can be no waiting for the muse to show up. You have to keep up with your work no matter what happens.
Personally, I think the most reasonable way to make writing full-time a reality in your life is to become a freelance writer on top of writing your creative projects. I know many people who make their living this way. They write articles for paying magazines and blogs, conduct interviews for websites, copywrite for brands people searching for their voices and brands. Half of their days are spent writing for other people, and the other half is spent on their creative projects. You might not be writing what you want to write full-time, but freelancing gives you so much more freedom than you would with a typical 9-5. There will still be hardships. There still won’t be a company offering you benefits and vacation time. But you’ll be devoting yourself to your passion, getting better at it each and every day.
So no, most of the time writing as a full-time career is not a reasonable goal to keep in mind unless you have unlimited resources, or are retired (let me tell you, being retired is the best thing that happened for my writing life!) But if you have the drive and are willing to do whatever it takes, unreasonable doesn’t have to be a word you care about. The only thing that matter is that you’re going to go for it.
“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” –Mike Murdock
When I was a younger man, I was against forming routines. I lived spontaneously, I took each day as it came at me with no expectations, and I thought routine would be the end of my creativity. If inspiration hit in the middle of the night, I would write like a maniac from 1 a.m. to sunrise. If I didn’t have anything to write about for days at a time, then I wouldn’t dwell on it.
But then inspiration was coming to me less and less frequently. I was writing once a week, maybe, then once a month, then not at all. I had no pattern to my creative life, and I was becoming weaker as a writer and as a thinker. I didn’t have ideas for stories, I didn’t have the tools to write them down when they did come, and when I embarked on longer projects, they never got finished.
It was about this time that I heard some career-changing advice: you are only as strong as the rituals you establish for yourself.
As I looked into it, I realized that many, if not most, of the biggest names in the literary world had writing rituals. Sarah Dessen writes from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every single day, whether inspiration strikes or not. E.B. White always wrote in his brightly lit living room, and refused to listen to music during his writing hours. Haruki Murakami wakes up at 4 a.m. every day, writes for six hours, and then spends the rest of the day exercising and reading to stay sharp and focused for this early mornings. The list goes on and on.
(For a list of 12 writers’ daily routines, look at this blog post by James Clear: http://jamesclear.com/daily-routines-writers)
Forming a ritual allows you to get in the same mindset day after day, and your brain begins to realize that inspiration should hit in these specific settings. It was only when I decided to write consistently every day, at the same time each day, in the same room each day that I was able to write the Night Buddies books to completion. It doesn’t matter if your ritual means snacking on hot cheetos in the nearest coffee shop, if it means waking up before your children and your spouse so they won’t distract you, if it means you only write solidly for one hours every night—having those rituals will help you get words on the page. This is our only, singularly most important goal as writers. We have to get words on the page.
Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for a new puppy to learn to come to you on command. You can hope for it, and maybe accidentally a few times it will happen. But if you don’t train for it to happen consistently every single time when called, then eventually it will never happen at all. Train your brain to be inspired every single day, train your mind to only be able to focus on writing when it is time to write, and you’ll soon see all those stories you’ve been mulling over in your mind become real, tangible, written down stories on the page.
Do you have any writing rituals? Let me know what they are in the comments!
There are two main elements to a story: plot and character. There is debate amongst writers whether one of these aspects is more important than the other, which is why some books are plot-driven while others are character-driven, but the reality is that your book will not succeed if your characters feel inauthentic. This is where one of the most difficult aspects of storytelling comes into play—creating three-dimensional characters.
Luckily, when I started writing the Night Buddies series I had already been creating my main character Crosley for years (by making him the star in my son’s bedtime stories). I had a fully formed character who felt like a real friend in my home, and that led to an entire series being based off of him. But I couldn’t rely on Crosley alone. A book is made up of an entire cast of characters, all who need to feel as real as the others, and I knew I had a lot of work to do in order to make my other characters as three-dimensional as the character I had spent years of my life developing. Along the way, I came up with a few techniques for fleshing out the entire cast. I hope you find them helpful!
1. Always ask why. It is one thing to decide, “I’m going to write about a red crocodile,” and another to think, “What is it that makes this crocodile red? How is he unique?” You want to think of original, entertaining personality bits, but to make that character come alive, you need to know exactly why he is the way he is. Why is your character afraid of the dark? Why does he have a tattoo on his earlobe? Why does he have an insatiable hunger for pineapple cheesecakes? Knowing the why makes him relatable and easy to understand, both of which help bring him to life.
2. Base the character off someone you know. Next to Crosley, there is a boy named John who stars in the Night Buddies books who is based on my son. When you base a character off of someone you know well, you can pinpoint unique ways that person talks, unique parts of their appearance, and unique stories from their life that will come across on the page the way that person comes across to you in real life.
3. Create a character sketch. Character sketches are very important to do, but I don’t believe everyone needs to use the same template for making one. For instance, I’ve seen templates that make you consider their mother’s maiden name or their favorite time of day, but sometimes those details are irrelevant to the story. Here’s what I go by: know their backstory, know the relationships that are important to them, and know where they should be emotionally at the beginning of the story and at the end. Any other details you want to know are up to you—it can be fun to spend hours figuring out every detail of your character’s lives, but don’t get so caught up in it that you forget what’s important to your story!
4. Show, don’t tell. Your character won’t feel real if you spend pages telling the reader their likes and dislikes, how they came to be where they are, whether they have allergies in the summertime. If you make a list of things to tell the reader, the character feels like a list, not a person. Instead, show that they’re shy by how they cross their arms when in a public place. Show that they have allergies by how they sneeze when the wind starts to blow. Show that they hate broccoli by how their mouth tenses up when their mother forces them to eat all that is on their plate. What you show the reader will always be ten times more important, and feel ten times more real, than by what you tell them.
Do you tend to prefer character-driven, or plot-driven novels? Maybe a healthy dose of the two? Let me know in the comments below!
I’ve written one blog post before about making the decision to write a children’s book, (link to that post here) but I didn’t mention that the decision to write a series of children’s books was actually a separate decision. You see, most authors don’t take on writing a series the way J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter—we don’t plot out seven books, fully detailed from beginning to end, and expect that they will all reach publication. In fact, most series of books become a series due to luck, demand, or by accident.
J.K. Rowling; author of the most popular modern book series, Harry Potter.
When I first wrote Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare, I knew that my story was complete. It is a self-contained book, has a firm beginning, middle, and end, and doesn’t require further books to make the story whole. But I also realized that when I was finished writing it, I had more ideas in mind for my characters. My story was done, but their stories could continue through multiple books. I didn’t have a set number in mind, I didn’t have all the stories planned out, and I didn’t want the stories to be interconnected. All I knew, and still know, is that my characters are vibrant enough (in my eyes, at least) to carry out a series of adventures.
And that’s when book number two, Night Buddies and One Far-Out Flying Machine, began to be written.
Maybe you’ve decided to turn your beloved book into a series because you aren’t ready to be done with your characters, or because your readers are begging for the story to continue, or because your publisher thinks they can capitalize on your success by writing a continuation (cheers to you, if that’s the case). My point is, a series can be created out of what you thought was a stand-alone book; it doesn’t always need to start with the intention of writing a series. The only difficulty with creating a series out of a stand-alone book is deciding whether your story is worth continuing.
Deciding to continue your work throughout a series of books comes with the challenge of developing your characters with every new adventure, keeping your same writing tone and voice through each book, and always bringing fresh takes to old ideas. It is difficult to always stay excited about the same characters you’ve been working with for years, but when you are capable of finding that excitement, it’s always worth the struggle. Night Buddies became a series because I knew this was the story I was meant to write, and I hope to continue releasing new Night Buddies books for as long as Crosley and John remain exciting, fresh, and fun characters for me to hang on to. I sometimes feel as though I’m in a long-term relationship with these characters and these stories, and with that comes the hard days or the boring days, but with that also comes immense love, commitment, and happiness.
If you’re deciding whether or not you should begin a series, I’d recommend just writing the first book, getting acquainted with your characters, and treating it like a first date. After you’re finished with that one, decide whether taking on those types of stories and those characters will be worth standing by long-term. And when you find those characters you never want to leave behind, be thankful; they don’t come by often.
What is your favorite book series? Let me know in the comments below!
One of the most common problems among new writers is when they say this: “I can only write when [insert arbitrary rule here].” Sometimes they think they can only write in the early morning, sometimes only when their children are out of the house, sometimes only when they feel inspired—but every single one of these answers is the root cause of a writer’s failure. I’ve found a lot of advice about writing to be insubstantial, but this one piece of advice is what I’ve heard every great writer say, and what has been proven to me throughout my journey as an author . . .
There is not “right” time to write. Write anyway.
It is always going to be easier to not write than it is to write. Sitting down with no distractions, opening up a blank document unsure of what to fill the page with, staying there for hours, days, and years of your life until you feel like you’ve finally come close to what you wanted to say are just a few of the reasons why you should just close your laptop and give up on the novel you dreamed of writing one day. But those reasons won’t deter the passionate writers. The ones who dream of their stories every time they close their eyes. The ones who see the people walking down the street as characters. The ones who itch to get their words down on napkins, receipts, or the back of their hands when nothing else is available. To them, writing isn’t confined to a certain time of day, or a certain mindset. To them, writing is something that happens always, just because they are alive.
I agree with those who argue that setting aside a certain time of day, every day, will help a writer get their work finished. But relying on that time alone increases the risk of the writing never happening at all. Schedules change every day. Kids get sick and stay home from school, friends ask you to stop by for dinner, partners need someone to talk to after a stressful day. Writing time gets interrupted, and it can be hard to get back when you forget that all day, any day is the perfect time to write.
Louis L’Amour said it best when he wrote, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
There will always be an excuse to not write; the timing isn’t right, there’s too much on your to-do list, you feel uninspired. Start writing anyway. You’ll be grateful you gave all the time you had to your story when your finished novel is in your hands.
What’s the best writing advice for beginners you’ve heard? Let me know in the comments below!