where the writers are
On Writing Well: A To Do List
Set in the lush vineyards of present and past Sonoma Valley, Ruby Among Us weaves a story of three generations of women and the memory that binds their hearts together.

1) Slow down. Too many writers write too fast. When I first got published I put a lot of pressure on myself to write faster, but faster is not better. This time around, I’m slowing down. As my agent recently told me, it is better to take your time and make it great.

2) Don’t write for publication. Writing only so you can get published is a trap for bad writing, even if you already have a few books under your belt. Write because you love to write and do it to tell the story of your heart. Your motives will show in your writing, so let it be your passion that shows and not your desire to be published.

3) Go beyond the spell checker. This one is so basic that even published authors make mistakes. Have a trusted friend look over your writing for spelling and grammar errors before entering a contest, querying an agent, or pitching your manuscript at a writing conference.

4) Always Listen to your mom. Do seek the affirmation of your mom, dad, aunt, sister, best friend or anyone who is going to love you no matter how well you write. Let her/him read your work. Consider their advice and let yourself believe them when they say you deserve a Pulitzer prize in fiction even if they don’t really know what that is.  

5) Never listen to your mom. Whatever you do, don’t listen to your mom. I know this is the opposite of what I just told you, so after you listen then take a minute to not listen. People who love you unconditionally might not tell you that your manuscript is riddled with errors, that your main character’s name keeps changing or that your ending falls flat. Get a second opinion from a good, but not best, friend or a real writer friend who can identify areas of your story that could be improved upon. This would be a good time to join a writer’s critique group.

6) Do it 6 days a week. Write almost every single day to create a writing habit. Sticking to a writing schedule is the only way your novel will ever get written. Be sure to give yourself one day of rest. For me, I honor the Sabbath. I used to write on Sundays, but now I do my best to spend that time with my family because it refreshes my writing and refocuses me on what is important in life (and it’s more than just writing books).

7) You are what you read, so read better books.  Don’t just read a book because it has a big glossy sign at the bookstore. Read a new genre. Read something that challenges you. Read books by writers who are better than you. Your own writing will be better for it.

8  ) Get out of the box. Just because you wrote one type of story the first time around does not mean you can’t write something different or better the next. Try to best yourself on each novel. If you are already published, there will be a temptation to let yourself be put in a box where all of your stories become the same, only with new characters. Don’t let the quest for book contracts saddle you with expectations that keep you from becoming a better writer.

9) Go out on a limb. Do not censor yourself. Write the crazy plot that you haven’t told a soul about. Sometimes the story that you long to write, but think would never go over, will be your breakout novel. Even if it is not, you will be glad you wrote it and you will learn a ton about writing along the way.

10) If writing is getting difficult, it’s probably a good sign. I am writing something right now that I have loved every minute of, but the story has been a lot more difficult to write than my previous novels. I could quit and delete the whole story, or I could follow the advice of a fellow novelist who told me that it is a good sign when writing gets difficult. If writing used to be easy for you and now it’s hard, you might just be feeling some growing pains. Keep writing.

Tina  Ann Forkner is author of two published novels, Ruby Among Us and Rose House, from Waterbrook Press/Random House.  Her writing life as a published author  has been an adventure in which most things have not changed all that much. www.tinaannforkner.com


2 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

Read Better Books


thanks for sharing your process. A lot of what you do I do as well. Sometimes it's just nice to hear it from someone else.

I especially like your comment to read better books. Absolutely. It's the only way we can get better. I write primarily in the horror and science fiction genres, but I read mostly literary fiction. Why? Not only because I enjoy excellent material, and not only because I'm often reading authors better than me, but because it allows me to inject new literary blood into my own genre through my own writing.

Thanks for sharing the list.


Weston Ochse - Fiction Author and Superhero for Rent

Comment Bubble Tip


Love the advice, Tina, about listening to Mom. Mom knows best. And I love the advice about never listening to Mom. I see merit in the contradiction.

I try and follow the advice about not writing on Sunday, and wonder if I'm cheating when I sneak downstairs to dash off a blog on something topical.

But thanks for the list. Very helpful and concise.

Good luck with your writing!

Chris R.