Things You Never Hear Writing Teachers Say

categories: Cocktail Hour


“Just write what comes into your head!”

“Too many specifics.”

“To hell with commas!”

“This piece needs more dialect.”

“I’ve never read a piece about a grandparent dying before.”

“Your work is too disciplined.”

Please join the fun.  Add your quotes in the comments section below.


  1. Larry Lynch writes:

    The end, where she she died in her dream, only to awake actually dead? A novel idea. Please sign up for Creative Writing two. Can’t get enough of the undead.

  2. Bill Lundgren writes:

    and don’t worry about grammar/mechanics–Your computer will fix any mistakes.

  3. Bill Lundgren writes:

    don’t worry about revising: true genus lies in writing a masterpiece in one draft.

  4. Kerry Headley writes:

    Now that everyone has a smart phone, there’s no need to explain anything to readers. They can just look it up on their phones.

  5. Noah writes:

    You could benefit from the use of more adverbs, specifically as modifiers for dialogue.

    What makes me very excited about your piece is the quote at the beginning from the contemporary indie band of whom I’m only vaguely aware.

  6. vince p writes:

    Christ, you suck.

    Have you seen my handgun?

    You’re right to admire Jonathan Safran Foer so much.

    Why don’t we just fucking arm wrestle?

    I like the drawings.

  7. Lisa Gardiner writes:

    “What this essay needs is less focus.”

  8. Bill writes:

    No, no, that’s fine–you had no way of knowing your roommate was in my class last year and that I’d remember her story! Why, it’s even better the second time around!

    • dave writes:

      You’re back from the wilds. (I’m saying that as myself–not as a writing teacher.)

  9. Jordan writes:

    “I was actually hoping you wouldn’t have your story done on time.”

    “Today, I’ll be telling you the secret to getting published.”

    “I like how the main action occured at a frat party. Classic.”

  10. Cheryl writes:

    Don’t bother revising.

    That one-word paragraph? Brilliant.

    Stuffed animals make good protagonists.

    Try overstatement. You really should stress that point as much as possible. Say it as many ways as you possibly can. Or your readers might miss it. if you don’t say it enough.

    I liked how you played with the phrase “all intensive purposes.”

  11. Natalie Harris writes:

    Stream-of-consciousness, especially with a stoned narrator who has no idea where he or she is, or why, or when, really draws the reader in.

    Try writing a story from the point of view of a cat/dog/hamster/gerbil who wanders far from home. Then write a companion story from the point of view of the child who loves her lost animal and is responsible for its escape (and perhaps demise).

  12. Jenny Boylan writes:

    I thought it was so sad when Mindy was run over by that drunk driver at the end. And on her prom night, too!

  13. jo(e) writes:

    Please, could you string together more rhetorical questions? I just can never get enough of those.

  14. Dani writes:

    I could really feel the romantic tension as their eyes met across the keg.

  15. dinty writes:

    Hey, I saw that same plot on Law & Order just last week. It is such a pleasure to see it again in the story we are workshopping.

  16. Jeff Lyons writes:

    “Make it a dream, and have the narrator wake up at the end.”

  17. Adrian Koesters writes:

    More descriptions that begin with “the dreaded” or “the oh-so-dreaded.”

    I like how you spelled it “defiantly.”

    No, no–go ahead and take a nap if you need one.

    I’d be more than happy to discuss my credentials in more detail. It’s very important to me that you feel comfortable understanding how I got this job.

    I’ll get these back to you tomorrow.

  18. john harvey writes:

    “Needs more parenthetical asides.”

    “Use the second-person – it never fails.”

    Also, “I had to fire my butler (not Alfred, but Jeeves, the one I won in that poker game with Gay Talese; you remember – it was the same night George Plimpton wouldn’t stop hitting on that redhead from the massage parlor, even after she slapped him – twice). He left the Bugatti – no not Plimpton, Jeeves – Jeeves left the Bugatti in the drive overnight where it got sprayed by George Hamilton’s sprinklers. I keep telling the bastard that he needs to convert to bubblers – if not for the sake of my cars, then do it for the goddamn environment. We’ve got level 3 water restrictions for chrissake.”

  19. monica wood writes:

    More stories about things that actually happened. To you.

    More trick endings!

    More female characters named Whitney and Brooke.

    More stories that begin with an alarm clock going off.

    More characters looking into more mirrors to see their own “haunted” faces.

  20. Susan Pearsall writes:

    I’m laughing too hard to comment coherently. Great post! This one should set a new record for comments.

  21. JS writes:

    You need more people getting high. That bong scene should be twice as long.

  22. Erika writes:

    Don’t bother to read widely, it will only make your work less original.
    Try replacing some of the words with other words that mean the same thing but have more syllables.
    Also, this piece needs more adverbs.
    Also, I’m rich.

  23. Anne writes:

    This class will spend several sessions on developing a thriller novel franchise, negotiating movie rights, and dealing with the media, because you can’t make progress as a writer until you’ve mastered those skills.

  24. Teresa writes:

    Don’t worry about your story making sense.

  25. Wendi Berry writes:

    Don’t think so much. You’re too intense.

  26. Peter Steinberg writes:

    I hope you eclipse me, career-wise.

  27. George de Gramont writes:

    And do not forget what the Emperor Franz Joseph said to Mozart “Too many notes”.

  28. Tom Fate writes:

    This piece really needs some work. But if you have other work that you’ve been wanting feedback on–particularly some longer more meandering pieces–please forward them to me, as I’d love to read them.

  29. Nina writes:

    Write in the present tense (making sure to occasionally veer into the past tense for no apparent reason).