7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Liane Moriarty

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Liane Moriarty, author of WHAT ALICE FORGOT) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. 


Liane Moriarty is the author of What Alice Forgot
(June 2011, Amy Einhorn/Putnam), the story of a
woman who loses 10 years of her memory. Publishers
Weekly described it as “moving, well-paced and
thoroughly pleasurable,” and Fox 2000 has
the film rights. She has written two other novels as
well as the Nicola Berry series for children. She lives
in Sydney, Australia. See her website here.

1. Every time I sit down to write I need to commit to a word count goal, otherwise I waste too much time editing and re-editing my previous work, staring dreamily off into space, pretending that I’m thinking profound, poetic thoughts when really I’m just thinking, “Look at me being a writer! I’m so happy I’m a writer!’ My real thinking and planning gets done when I’m doing something else like driving or walking or taking the shower. When I’m at the computer, I need to write.

2. Actually, writing is nearly always the answer.
Sometimes when I’m stuck, I really do need that cup of tea, or that chocolate, or a break, or a walk, but in most cases what I actually need to do is make myself keep writing until it flows again. I’ve always found this hard to accept because it’s counter-intuitive, like when people say you should exercise harder to cure a stitch. (Although, I don’t believe that at all. Stop! Rest!)

3. Asking myself “Is this any good?” is pointless. It just slows down my writing and I can’t tell anyway. It’s always the paragraphs I loved most, the ones I tenderly polished and re-read with pride, that my editor will suggest cutting.

4. Google is my best friend and my worst enemy. It’s fabulous for research but then it becomes addictive. I’ll have a character eating an orange, and next thing I’m googling types of oranges, I’m visiting chat rooms about oranges, I’m learning the history of the orange. It’s bad for my word count.

5. Friends and family do not believe you write fiction. They truly believe that every word you write is either autobiographical or based on them. I once had a character say that she never wanted to be invited to another children’s birthday party, and I never received another children’s birthday party invitation ever again.

6. Get a website.
I thought it would be somehow presumptuous to have one too soon, but it’s the best way of connecting with your readers and I wish I had one so much earlier. (www.lianemoriarty.com) If you’ve finished your book, and you’re waiting to find a publisher, start developing your website.

7. Sometimes, just agree. When your publisher sends you the cover for your new book with the message, “What do you think? We LOVE it!” the correct answer is, “WOW! I LOVE IT TOO!”

Liane is excited to giveaway a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before.
(Update: Elizabeth won.)


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19 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Liane Moriarty

  1. Kerensa Huffman

    Thank you so much for this. I had to laugh about reading it because I find myself staring dreamily into space when I’m supposed to be writing. I have started a word count goal but at times it just doesn’t come, not matter what I try. As for Google? Well, I know it’s my worst enemy. I try to avoid it all while writing. The netbook works wonders because I hate surfing the web on the tiny screen.

  2. elizabeth park

    The part about the birthday parties — I am forewarned and perhaps may spend the rest of my life without playdates. As to agreeing with everything, a reluctant laugh, so true. Best wishes, Elizabeth Park

  3. Leonora

    Your book sounds really intriguing. Your points were helpful and true, especially #3. I was surprised by the last one, though, as the cover makes such an impact on whether people buy the book. I don’t know if I could keep my opinion to myself.

  4. Kristin Barrett

    Thank you for these tips. The word count is one I have not tried yet, but I am sure it will help. I, too, sit there sometimes and think the same thing. With a word count to reach, I won’t be able to space out on "being a writer."

  5. Kendy Sproul

    Great advice! I have the same issues when I set the timer for my writing. I’m going to switch to the word count goal and see how that goes. Thanks for the great article!

  6. Julie Nilson

    Your line about the children’s birthday party is hilarious–my family is the same way! My dad is a little put off by the fact that one of the "bad guys" in my novel is the lead character’s father, even though they couldn’t be more different.

  7. Heather McCorkle

    These are excellent! I especially love #1. That wasn’t an easy lesson for me but you’re right Liane, it’s best to get through that first draft and not waste time editing yet. Sometimes I still struggle with that. 🙂

  8. Kim Wright

    I love the last point. When I first saw the cover of my book I got so upset that I literally stretched out flat on the floor or my foyer while the dog sniffed worriedly around me. But a more experienced friend explained to me that a) writers have virtually no imput on a book’s cover b) this is a fight I won’t win so c) I was best served by saying "Wow. Can’t wait to see it in the bookstores." Which was true, and far more politic than saying "Why are you trying to sink my book before it even gets published?"

  9. Crystal Eynon

    Thank you for the great advice. I have read many books that give advice on writing and publishing books; however, your post has related to me more than any of the books I have read except Yahoo happens to be my best friend and worst enemy. Anyhow, thank you for the advice. The more advice I can come across, the better. I am a student as well as a mother of 4 and I am desperately trying to make it into this world as an author. I am working on a book but have only made it as far as the first 5 chapters within the past 4 months.

  10. Karen

    I loved this post. It made me want to read your book. And thanks for the nudge: I’m off to work on my website while my book is in submission and I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF! ARGGGHH!!!!

  11. ED Martin

    Great advice, especially on making yourself write. I’ve found that websites like 750words.com and writeordie.com are helpful for hitting that word count goal, and then after I’ve made it, I often keep writing because I have the rhythm down.


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