Probably one of the best bits of writer’s “life” advice I received came from my editor, Deb Werksman, at Sourcebooks, who wisely told me: Don’t read the bad reviews. I’ll tell you if you’re doing something wrong.  Reading reviews is crazy-making, and that goes for both good reviews and the bad ones.  Sharing something you’ve written is a vulnerable space to live in and too often, romance writers question whether all the effort and emotion they put into their book is even worth it.  But I can expand on Deb’s wonderful advice: don’t read other writer’s reviews, either.  There is no truer adage in the business of writing than this: comparison is the thief of joy.

But when it comes to writing advice, Sol Stein’s books on craft are among my favorites.  His books are loaded with great information—so much that it’s difficult to retrieve it all during the writing.  During the revision stage, though, I have a little Sol Stein cheat sheet that I refer to.

The one guideline of his that I try to remember during the drafting is this: On every page, is there something active and visible?

That idea was simple enough to hold in my mind as I wrote, and it shifted my perspective. Writing became a little more like creating a play in my mind, where everything happens right in front of the audience.  Or, in my case, in front of the reader.  Dialogue is always active, so when I’m tempted to have my hunky, wounded hero brood and stare unseeing off into the horizon (because dreamy), I stop myself and ask whether or not I might have him talk or do something, so the reader can infer his emotion (and find him even dreamier). 

Sol Stein says this is courteous to the reader, because it’s more fun for her.  I don’t always accomplish it, but I see my favorite writers manage this quite often.  There’s that saying that a writer starts the story, and the reader finishes it, so you have to give them the room to do that.  Sol Stein’s books are among the ones I recommend to writers at any stage in their career.

Originally posted on The Sassy Bookster, 2 September, 2016

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