#5OnFri: Five Tips of the Trade

by Dee Willson
published in Writing

Now, you can find writing advice anywhere, but here on DIY MFA, we’ve got some words of wisdom you just gotta take to heart. Each one of these amazing writers have something to share with you: a lesson learned, a friendly pat on the shoulder, good old fashioned experience, tips we wish we knew before we knew. Pull up a chair and let’s chat!        

1) Think outside the box

A highly regarded  literary agent once told me that many well written manuscript submissions cross his desk but it’s those with a unique premise that really get his attention. Slush piles brim with tired themes  – serial killers for example are a dime a dozen. So that topic has had its day – right? Set the manhunt in the middle of the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. east coast in decades, as one new Canadian crime writer has recently done, and you’ve given readers a whole new look at the subject. It’s worth spending the time to craft an irresistible premise.

D.J. McIntosh, National Bestselling author of historical thrillers:The Witch of Babylon, The Book Of Stolen Tales, and The Angel Of Eden

2) Let it flow

The best advice I’ve received is to write a first draft as quickly as you can. I’ve found that my best storytelling happens not when I worry over every line and detail but when I allow story to erupt out of me—messy and unplanned. A first draft is not the finished product. It’s not a product at all. It’s an explosion of primal thought, and no explosion is neat.

Therese Walsh, award winning author of The Moon Sisters, The Last Will Of Moira Leahy, and creator of Writer Unboxed

3) Take Your Time

Don’t publish too soon. Too many new writers today are publishing because they can, and before they are ready. Take at least one good novel writing course. Learn about plot structure, viewpoint rules, the need for believable motivation and how to write dialogue. Take the time to learn your trade.  Just as a painter wouldn’t expect to sell his very first painting, a writer shouldn’t expect to sell his first work. Learn the craft.  And then – be fearless.

Melodie Campbell, author of the award-winning mob caper series, The Goddaughter

4) Know Thy Tools

Scrivener rocks. Yes, it looks complicated. Yes, you’ll probably need to take the two hour tutorial. But if you’re serious about writing novel length works, Scrivener is a godsend. Looking for a specific passage you wrote three months ago in a cornfield of fifty thousand words? Easy peasy. Want your outline visible and research and links a click away? No problem. Need to format your manuscript into a DOC file (or EPUB or MOBI or PDF or RTF) in two minutes flat? Done. Believe me, the benefits far outweigh the learning curve. ‘Nuff said.

Tanis Mallow, author of Murder At The Beach

5) Enjoy the Ride

AKT+e-book+cover+final+1400x2100Do it for yourself. Write for you, because you love it, because writing makes you happy, because there is no other way you’d like to spend your time. Life it too short to have it any other way. Oh, and read A LOT.

Dee Willson, author of A Keeper’s Truth, launching worldwide February 2016, and GOT (Gift of Travel)

Now that we’ve shared our best tips with you, pass them on! One of the greatest things a writer can do, is help another writer.


downloadDee Willson felt the writer’s call at fifteen, when she penned her first novel and received her first rejection to go with it. Over twenty years later, Dee Willson has published short stories, interviews, contributed to blogs, and wrote the novel A Keeper’s Truth, followed by GOT (Gift of Travel). She currently resides in Burlington, Ontario, with her husband and their two daughters. Visit her online at www.deewillson.com and on Twitter @denisewillson


  • Hey roomie. As always great tips! I agree with Therese Walsh–get that first draft out in one fell swoop. I did that with my WIP, although (cough, cough) it’s taken too long to revise. However, I set aside my desire to get it published fast because I knew it was flawed and needed serious triage. And instead of fretting as the years go ticking away, I worry less about reaching “Goal”. Now I stop and enjoy the “scenery.” I’m happy to note, It’s come along way from when I started writing this beast in Brooklyn and I like the direction it took!

    • Denise Willson

      That’s awesome, Rebeca! I often say that writing took the ‘slowly marinated’ route to me. I think it’s a good thing. LOL

      Thanks for joining us on DIY MFA!


  • Tanis Mallow

    Thanks, Dee, for your terrific post.

    BTW – For those of you interested in test-driving Scrivener, they are offering a NaNoWriMo 2015 Special Trial Edition. http://www.literatureandlatte.com/nanowrimo.php

    • Denise Willson

      Wonderful tip, Tanis. For those wanting to try Scrivener, it’s a great way to give it a shot.


  • Vaughn Roycroft

    Thanks for the uplifting advice, Dee! They’re all wonderful, but yours is a particularly important reminder. You can’t hear it enough. Have a great weekend!

    • Denise Willson

      So true, eh Vaughn!
      Thanks for joining us on DIY MFA.


  • Denise Willson

    Haha! A signed copy is surely in the cards for you. LOL
    Happy to see you here on DIY MFA. Wonderful writer friends pitched in with some great advice.

  • Rita Bailey

    The hardest thing for me is Tip # 2: Write fast. Let the story erupt out of you, step over the mess and keep writing. That was the advice I most needed to hear today. Thanks for the words of wisdom, Dee and friends!

    • Denise Willson

      You’re right, number 2 is a great tip. We all have our own writing style, but experimenting with new ways is always a good idea. You never know when you find a new technique that CLICKS for you.
      Thanks for stopping by, Rita.

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