Creative Writing Tips From Novelist Michael LaRocca

Michael LaRocca, author of 8 novels, shares his favourite creative writing tips. Find out how to prepare for your first draft, what to do when the words don’t come, and whether writing rituals can help you write better.

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Michael LaRocca about how to get freelance editing jobs, and this week he shares some of his favorite creative writing tips.

Michael has published eight novels, three of which were EPPIE finalists. He works as a freelance editor and offers some good advice for young writers at his site Michaeledits.com.

This is a transcript of our phone conversation.

Do you have a favourite creative writing tip?

I always keep coming back to Hemingway: “Long periods of thinking; short periods of writing.”

The idea that you can just sit in front of a blank computer screen and say “now I will produce great writing” rarely works. You need the thought behind it.

What about writing rituals? Do you have any?

Some authors write first thing in the morning; others write in the evening. Some write when the mood hits. Or they write a certain amount of words per day or for a certain amount of time per day.

And every author seems to have different advice. I think new writers should try it all, and then you will find out what works for you. It’s different for everybody–there isn’t one secret writing ritual that will make you write better stuff.

I prefer to write at night. But I have had times where I write in the morning, noon, anytime.

The important thing, like I said, is to just try a bunch of different things until you find something that works for you.

How do you start writing a novel? Just start writing?

I personally spend a lot of time working on my characters, conflict, the structure, and once I’ve got that down, then I’m probably half way done.

Is having a blog or website a good thing for new writers?

I think so. But as long as someone doesn’t get so busy that they don’t actually write their first book. Writing should always come first.

Lots of us can do editing, promotion, and marketing. But only you can write that book.

What about revisions? Should you just plug away at draft after draft of a novel?  I mean what if you are struggling? Do you keep grinding out drafts? Or should you stop writing put some more thought into it?

I recently had this experience. I had written over 30,000 words and if you asked me what the book was about, I still didn’t know. In this case, it was the only way I could get the job done, but that is the wrong way to write.

So what would be your advice then? You have a draft of a novel or story or poem and it just doesn’t seem to be working. What should you do?

Put it aside. Work on something else.

Do you prefer working on multiple writing projects at once?

Other writers that I’ve read seem to recommend working on multiple writing projects at once. That’s just not me. I grind it to the end.

But if it isn’t working, I put it aside for a few months and work on something else.

Any final creative writing tips? Or advice for new writers?

My best advice is to find out what other writers are doing because they all offer different creative writing tips and advice. James Michener wrote the last page first. And then he would work towards that page.

I don’t do that. When I get to the end I’m just as surprised as anybody else. I’m making it up as I go.

Find and read other writers. And don’t get distracted by blogs and the other stuff too much. At some point, you actually have to write that first book.

Thanks Michael.

Michael also gives some great tips for English majors looking to get freelance editing jobs.

My interview with former Amazon.com Music Editor about how to become an editor also gives some career advice for English majors, especially MA’s and PhD’s.

Want some feedback on that first draft? Michael works for three literary publishing companies and offers editing and manuscript evaluations for fiction writers. He will read your manuscript and give you a candid evaluation, helping you become a better author in the process.

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