The Writers’ TOP TEN

Top-10-ListI LOVE end of year top ten lists…the best and worst dressed..the most embarrassing political moments….the best/worst movies, books, etc… They are everywhere!

Which means we need one, too.

So here it is! To inspire you for a great writing year in 2013…..MY top ten list:

THE BEST ADVICE I’VE RECEIVED (and often given), 2012 EDITION!

(feel free to take it, or not!)

10. Don’t hold back that revelation! This is a big one for me. What I mean: Instead of saving it for the end of the book, USE IT NOW…and see what happens next. What you find out will ALWAYS be more interesting than what you need to fill the pages, waiting to spill that revelation.

9. TRY EVERYTHING! Do I need to explain? In my class, the writers that are getting agents/getting into MFA programs/having great years are the ones who take advice and try!!!! Even if you end up deleting the writing, you learn something new about your character!

8. Don’t write when you don’t feel safe.  This is a tough one. And very personal. Writing can be a very dangerous activity….and it can be scary. So if the kids are sick or your hubby/wife needs attention or life is hard, that comes first.

7. Plot logically. Find the easy answer. Over and over, ask yourself: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Think: action/reaction.

6. Know what your book is about. Know what you want to say. Think about this as you write. Believe in yourself.


5. An essential aspect of creativity is NOT being afraid to fail. (Actually, you have to embrace failure!!! It’s an essential part of the process. My bad drafts teach me so much!!!! Then REVISE.) Remember: if you are not willing to look stupid, nothing great will ever happen.

4. Before you work on VOICE, know what your characters want and why. Know your plot. Foundation first. Otherwise, you’re probably just making darlings. Okay?

3. Take the time to figure out what your characters have in common with you on an emotional level. It’s there! I promise!

2. Two pages a day. Every day. Make the commitment.

And the most important piece of advice I have EVER RECEIVED…and continue to give it over and over again…….

celebrate 2

CELEBRATE every step! Chocolate and flowers, writers! Every milestone. Every correspondence. My kids know when I have hit 100 pages, because that’s when I make Thai Seafood Soup! This may sound silly, but when I’m on page 70, just thinking about that soup helps me write.

Happy New Year!!!!!

Sarah Aronson keeps a scrapbook  of great quotes, great writing advice, and occasional writing prompts on her blog, Beyond Revision. It has YET to get a comment. Come check it out in 2013!

Sarah Aronson
  1. Love this list. FB’ed it. My favorite is number 5 because failing is my greatest obstacle. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. Always love reading inspirational top ten lists! Thanks for writing this as we head into a fresh new year!

  3. Marvelous list, Sara! I loved reading it. You make some really good points that I definitely use. Some of these, like knowing your “theme” or where you’re going next sometimes happen as we write the book – or during the revision process. 🙂 Happy New Year!!!

    • @Kimberley Griffiths Little, Lately, I’ve been spending more time making a synopsis. Chapter to chapter. It’s funny how our processes change!!!

  4. Sarah Aronson, what a great post! Number 8 has to be one of my most favorite bits. Every time I feel that I can’t write because certain parts of life are overwhelming (and the overwhelming parts are never the same twice in a row, and I, as a person, am tough with myself), I do my utmost to bull through it, get that writing done. Even if some of it does end up on paper, I feel as though I am running at top speed and the situations clamoring for attention are all chasing me. Until I read #8 today, I thought it was just me letting life be difficult. This writing advice also is a crucial piece of riding (as in horseback) advice. During some years that were riddled with varied, unrelenting problems, if I felt that things would not go well if I saddled up my very energetic and ambitious Anglo Arab horse and rode on a given day, I didn’t ride. Again, I thought it was Just Me. Years later I read the very same advice I had been giving myself, and decided I really wasn’t so far off the mark after all. He would have realized that something was bothering me, my feelings would have transferred to him, and it would have been a very uneasy ride. Dangerous, actually. Thanks so much, Sarah. Oh—and about celebrating writing milestones which may seem small to an onlooker, but we know they are huge–I’m so glad you added that. Celebrating whenever we wish, is important and adds such energy to the whole process.

    • @Pat Wooldridge, in this long career, I have had to periodically forgive myself. In a world where recognition is sometimes hard to ask for, we think we have to be always producing. We feel guilt. But one of my mentors gave me permission to take the break when I needed it. When crap is happening in your life, you have to take care of yourself. You don’t have to be productive (even though the whole two pages a day thing IS true.)

      GOOD LUCK and Write WELL!!!!!

  5. I love the advice about giving yourself the freedom to try new things and fail!

  6. Really like #5, great list overall.

  7. * Wow, what a great list! Thanks, Sarah!! #5 says it all for me.

    • @Gerri Lanier, This is a piece of advice I keep on an index card, taped to my wall. Success can’t occur unless you’re winning to fail. BE BRAVE!!!!!!

  8. Great list! I ususally OD on #6 though, sometimes at the expense of story. But all can be fixed with careful application of the delete key…

    • @S. Pinneo / Julia’s Child, Bow down to the delete key!!!! (We’ve been spending quite a bit of time together recently!!!)

  9. Oh, that is a great list!!! I’ll have to print this one out.

  10. Sarah,
    Great list. I especially like #10 also. I’m guessing this makes you come up with an even bigger revelation for the end. Am I right?