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  • Writer's pictureCraig Allen Heath

A First: I'm Asked for Writing Advice

I've read everything I could find about the writing craft for more than forty years. I will always be a student of writing, as I still seek out the best advice from those I consider true professionals, like Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and James Wood.

So, I was taken aback when asked to give my own advice to others.

During my interview with Alan Rose last fall, discussing my first novel, Where You Will Die, Alan asked what I would tell others who aspire to publish their first book.

Wait, you're asking me?

I was reminded of a quote from John C. Maxwell:

“You never really know something until you teach it to someone else.”

This blog post may be a sort of graduation. Perhaps I've actually learned something about writing, something worth passing on.

So here it is, an encapsulation of what I've learned - nothing about grammar, or style, plotting or characterization. Just about being a writer - three words of advice:

Finish. Observe. Center.

Finish. They say that everybody has a book in them, a story, and I believe that. But the difference between that and an author is that an author finishes writing the work. It may never be published. It may never be read by anyone else. But finish it, whatever IT is - a short story or a single novel or a twelve-volume epic. Getting to the end of something, no matter how good or bad, is the difference. Finish the task you set before you.

Observe. Whatever we write, we are writing about the world we know, this world of humans, animals, planet Earth, the solar system, the universe. Even if your story is a sci-fi dystopia about lizard people on the planet Whoosits, you are still writing about human beings on planet Earth. So, observe everything closely, with a loving eye, with a will to see the beauty and the ugliness clearly, and don't forget what you find. All writing reflects what we see in the world. Observe the world closely.

Center. When all is said and done, your story is you. It contains and conveys your thoughts, feelings, experiences, beliefs, fears, pain, and joy. Listen to all the advice you can get, work with as many collaborators as you can, read everyone else's take on the craft, open yourself to every possible influence on you as a person and you as a writer. But when the time comes to decide if you will compromise your work in a way you don't want - and that time will come - remember that only you can tell your story. If you tell someone else's story, you deprive the world of yours. Center your vision and keep it intact.

I put "Finish" at the top of the list, and it might seem like it should be the last of the three. But if there is one thing I've learned, it is that you don't start writing until you finish a first draft. So, start there. Finish something. Anything. That's when the real work starts.

Be Well!



Blatant Self-Promotion Section

My first novel, Where You Will Die, is available now exclusively on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

"This philosophical mystery will captivate readers thanks to a winning cast and setting."- Kirkus Reviews

"Quirky, engaging whodunit." - Rick George, author of Sinister Refuge

"An enjoyable ride with a satisfying end." - Helen Reynolds, Reedsy Discovery


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