• Prompt: Hurts, Hearts, Keep Going

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 28 comments



    Discussion question: This week we welcome two new writing coaches! For a prompt, write a response to one of the following pieces of writing advice offered by Tariq and Darcie: 1) Write what hurts most; 2) Keep going; 3) Ask yourself what the story is doing in the reader’s heart.




    This week I want to welcome a couple of new coaches to WriteByNight, Darcie Abbene and Tariq Shah!

    Darcie comes to us from Vermont, where she writes for Kirkus Reviews, among others, works as the managing editor of Green Mountains Review, and teaches at Northern Vermont University.

    As for Tariq: Back in May 2020, when we were still in the early phase of the pandemic and learning how to be shuttered in our spaces, I ran a post about how I was struggling with my attention span. (P.S., I still am! It’s fun.)

    In that post, “One Sitting Books,” I wrote, “I wanted something new, and just in time, in the mail came a new novel called Whiteout Conditions by Tariq Shah, a quick 115-pager that looks good and, perhaps even more importantly right now, is something I can knock out in one sitting.”

    I did knock it out in one sitting. I liked it and enjoyed it, and justlikethat Tariq had me reading again. So imagine my pleasure when Tariq applied to be a coach here at WriteByNight!

    If you’re interested in working with Tariq or Darcie, sign up for a free consult in the blue sidebar to the right and let’s talk!


    When we take on a new coach we always offer a Q&A so you can get to know a bit about them. One of my questions is “Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?”

    Tariq replies, “Here are two: 1) Write what hurts most, and, 2) ask yourself what the story is doing in the reader’s heart.” (Read Tariq’s entire Q&A here.)

    Darcie’s: “Keep going.” (Read Darcie’s entire Q&A here.)

    For this week’s prompt, choose one of those three pieces of writer wisdom and write about it.

    And then share it with us in the comments below.


    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you reach your creative potential. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres. Browse our book coachingmanuscript consultation, and publication assistance services, and sign up for your free writing consultation today.

    david blog


    WriteByNight writing coach and co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.




    5 2 votes
    Article Rating
    Notify of

    Newest Most Voted
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments

    Congrats on the new coaches and new services! Your “Beta Reading, Critique & Writing Workshops” page looks like a good assortment of writer helps. Regarding the writer wisdom offered by your new coaches, I feel the most connection with “Keep Going.” Regarding writing, I’ve done that for many years. Not so much out of tenacity, but rather, I can’t help myself. I keep going (reading, writing, blogging, critiquing, reviewing, etc) because to not do so would be to emotionally lay down and die. I suspect many people can say this about the disciplines and visions they pursue (like brick-masonry or hair-dressing).… Read more »

    JL Mank.

    Maybe Tariq are related in that what hurts you the most may be what hurts the reader most (in his/her heart). It’s about the connection, right? if you’re writing about grief it’s going to land best with someone in grief. Etc.

    david lemke

    Welcome Tariq and Darcie and hi Dave. Keep going is always the best advice. For myself, when I finally got back to writing, I wrote nearly every day and finished the first draft to “Vermin” A novella about an intelligent ogre who joins a writing group. I also reviewed the first novel I ever started, “Cult of Devay” and began again to work on it. The other two pieces of advice, “Write what hurts most,” and “ask yourself what the story is doing in the reader’s heart,” both for me, relate to later drafts. I can’t imagine writing what hurts most… Read more »

    david lemke

    How’s your writing going? You know the use of a timer set for only 15 minutes did wonders.

    david lemke

    Orange juice is good in screwdrivers! That 15 minutes on the timer is just a nonthreatening jump-starter. It didn’t take long before I didn’t need it. If I stall out for a period of time, I may resort to it again. I’m writing nearly every day and usually a page or better.

    david lemke

    Nearly twenty years ago I had a dream which became the inspiration for a novel which I started that same day. However, when I took a writing course through Writer’s Digest, the teacher made me start something from scratch and to give him two choices. So, I wrote up the beginnings of two novels, the one her chose would in time, become “Intrusion”. The novel that I had to put on hold at 177 pages, Cult of Devay, is a science fiction set in the future. Years ago, a space pilot Devay found a planet this a massive ancient, abandoned… Read more »

    Last edited 2 years ago by david lemke
    david lemke

    Never noticed that, not intentional, though often I take a word or name and change it by spicing, adding or cutting. The hero’s name in a throw-away piece is Daye Tripper.

    Elissa Malcohn

    Welcome, Darcie and Tariq! (Welcome to Brooklyn, Tariq. I’m a native, though I haven’t been back in decades.) Write what hurts most: My actual writing of “Lazuli” (Asimov’s, Nov. 1984) occurred on three days, but over the course of two weeks. That was because after each writing session I had to literally curl up in a fetal position for a while and wait until I had the strength to draft the next section. The novelette made me a finalist for the 1985 John W. Campbell Award (given to the best new SF writer of the year), so I guess it touched some hearts.… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Totally different, due in large part to the additional restriction of limiting myself to ephemera. (Technically you could say I’m using it throughout, but with copious handwavium involved.) Last year’s 366 could be called an adventure story with something that vaguely resembles a structure, whereas Framed is much more scattershot and impressionistic. More stream-of-consciousness than plot. It’s satisfying for what it is, i.e., a stretching and priming exercise.

    Elissa Malcohn

    Frequently! Notes from May 8: “I had thought today’s installment would be hard to write, not least because I have no idea where I’m going. But then the words began to flow. Part of me rebels against Framed in a way that I did not against 366. Chafes against the restraints. Leans toward throwing any old thing up there. It all feels much more directionless. I keep reminding myself that it is not meant to be any good, it is just meant to be, a kind of free-association. And within that loosey-goosey attitude is yet an obedience to those restraints and, within them, at least some attempt at… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    I was pretty diligent on taking daily notes for 366 as I tried to plot it out. In contrast, I had mostly abandoned the practice for Framed by April and my notes there became incidental (occurring most recently on Nov. 11). 

    On the other hand, I had rarely read prior entries as I worked on 366, whereas it’s a frequent practice with Framed because I’ve got several threads going that sometimes run in parallel and sometimes intersect. So I pay much more attention to continuity issues and improvise the threads from there.

    Barbara Mealer

    Write what hurts most hit home for me. Why? I tend to avoid the strong emotions. That is one of the reasons I’ve avoided publishing anything for the past year. When you tip-toe around the emotion it won’t connect with the reader. So I’m working on putting it all out there, not matter how much it hurts. Then I’ll see what response I get.

    Jess Lowrie

    I’ve always gone by “write what hurts least.” Because it’s hard to get in there. I don’t lack the courage, but when I try it’s like I lack the words, like English is suddenly a foreign language. I’d like to change that. New year’s resolution, maybe.

    Sid Kemp

    I was going to go with “write what hurts most,” which I believe and live. But I was in the middle of a deep Zen retreat (the toughest one each year) and so I contemplated that idea and took it much deeper. I’ve come to a new place that includes variations on all three of these wonderfully encouraging ideas from Tariq and Darcie. In qigong, we stand in an utterly relaxed and natural stance, aware and breathing gently. We know we’ve got it right when we hit the point of maximal pain. In Zen, we always come back to the… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    I guess I’m lucky. The topics I avoid writing about show up as severe illness and nightmares. So my body and my unconscious keep me writing!

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x