The Best Advice for Any Fiction Writer

My first piece of writing advice came from an unlikely (and a NOT recommended) source: my husband. Why I was inspired to suddenly write a story, I don’t know. It was one of those “do it now!” needs that bubble up in our lives.

Anyway, quickly I wrote the most brilliant several pages and proudly gave it to my husband to read (lesson #1: NO one should ever read your first draft!). He read it, had that glazed and kindly look on his face and said something like “Nice.” Which even in those early years of marriage I knew meant “Huh?”

After a painful bit of dragging out of him what he REALLY meant (lesson #2: non-writers frequently are unable to articulate more than “I like it” or “I hate it”), he finally said, “But I thought you were writing a story.” He then offered (suggested?) that I take any class I want since I enjoyed writing so much. (Lesson #3: writing isn’t as much fun when you are criticized and #4: classes are a really good place to start!).


But that first real comment of “Where’s the story?” was a best advice I’ve had. Like “Where’s the beef?”, writers need to recognize that to create a story:

  • things need to happen
  • decisions need to be made
  • and characters need to grow

That is the beef of the story–and what readers expect. Lovely wording, interesting characters and lovely settings do NOT a story make.

As for relying on a spouse’s advice, I rely on him for everything special in my life. I know I am blessed to have his sage advice and love. But I also now know an “I like it” means just that: he likes it and that I’m not likely to get any more details as to why. And that a “nice” means another revision is in order.

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