10 Writing Tips from Lisa See

Author Lisa See was the guest of honour at this year’s Historical Novel Society virtual conference. Lisa’s writing is highly acclaimed and includes wonderful tales such as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls, and her most recent The Island of Sea Women. During one conference session, she presented her tips for writing and publishing.

  • Write 1000 words a day. Lisa had this advice from her grandfather and still follows it once she starts writing a new novel.
  • Write a charming note every day. According to Lisa, this is her mother’s advice. On any given day, Lisa might write to another author, an editor, her agent, a bookseller, someone in the local media. Her objective isn’t to ask for something but to compliment the recipient in some way.
  • Be passionate about your writing. Words are the author’s heartbeat.
  • Look at the bestseller list for the books that came ‘out of nowhere’. Analyze why they’re successful and consider what you might apply to your own writing.
  • Writing is not a one-night stand, it’s a marathon. You have to be in it for the long haul and there are always ups and downs.
  • Say yes! Go everywhere and do everything to build your readership one book at a time. Lisa gave bookclubs as an example and said that she always includes book club questions with her novels.
  • While you’re writing, forget about the marketplace. Instead, leverage the passion you have for the story itself.
  • Continue writing even when you know it could be better. You can shape it later once the story is down. When editors give feedback, they might be right, they might be wrong, or they might have pointed out that something is wrong and you have to figure out what.
  • Read your manuscript out loud. If you do, you’ll discover the morning parts, the places where the dialogue isn’t right, and whether your writing has rhythm.
  • Find your own beautiful voice. Don’t try to mimic some other writer’s voice.

Toward the end of her presentation Lisa said to remember that writers are paid to daydream, but it’s difficult work to be creative.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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5 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Janet Alcorn and commented:
    I rarely reblog, because I feel like people come to blogs for original content, but this post is so wonderful, I have to share. There’s such great advice here for being a successful writer and a successful human. I especially love the advice to write a charming note every day. I don’t know that I’ll manage that, but I’m going to aim for at least once a week.

    1. Hi Janet – thanks for sharing the post! The idea of writing a charming note really appeals to me too – your suggestion of once a week is probably ideal.

  2. When starting to write make sure to prepare yourself for writer’s block as well it’s a part to writing career specially when beginning your writing career. Cheers!

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