What Advice Do You Have For Writers? [Roundup]
I asked several writers what advice they’d give to other writers. The answers were interesting.
What advice do you have for writers?
Here are their unedited responses.
Click on a photo to go directly to the author’s Facebook page.
My advice to writers is very simple. Writers need to write constantly.
I write every single day, usually between 5,000 and 10,000 words. This includes posts on social media, blogs, books, projects for clients, and anything else that is aimed at being published in one way or another.
That’s the second advice that I have writers: writers need to publish their works.
Writing for oneself is great, keeping journals is awesome, and having a notebook where you scribble your thoughts is wonderful. Those are all great exercises for writers.
But in order to be a professional writer, you need to publish. By publish I mean your work needs to be out there in some way so that others can read it. This can be on your blog, on social media, books on Amazon, works for clients, magazines, or anything else. The only criteria is that your written material needs to be available for others to read.
You see, when you write for others it raises level of professionalism. You have to go that extra step to proofread your work, preferably several times, to edit your material, and to promote it so that others can view it.
Which brings us to my third piece of advice: you need to promote your work. The idea is for you to write so that others can read it, and they can’t read your material if they don’t know that it’s there. People can’t buy your books if they’re invisible or located in a place where they can’t be found.
So my advice to writers, in summary, is to write, publish and promote. You should aim to do these things every day, even if it’s just a quick blog post, and entry on your social media, or chapters in a book.
I can only say what advice I have for writers like myself, who are working on their debut book. Here are things you shouldn’t motivate yourself with:
- fame (you won’t get it)
- money (you might get it, as Richard’s example proves, but NOT by putting out a tome of poetry or a short story every six years)
- groupies (I’ll let you know when I get one, but don’t hold your breath
- family approval (just tell them you’re a garbage collector and they’ll be relieved to hear you have a Real Job)
- market trends (unless you can produce a high quality book within a few months, because any longer than that and the market will change).
Write the book you want to read and make it as good as you possibly can. Work with beta readers. Don’t take their feedback personally. Don’t respond with an attack or telling them that they are wrong. Don’t use your friends as beta readers, unless you fully trust them not to be nice to you because you’re a friend. (“Nice” is not a useful quality in a beta reader.) When you find yourself spending three hours reordering words in one sentence, go for a walk or cook something nice. Work with an editor.
When advertising your book, keep in mind that the audience will see the entire advert, not just the cover. If you spent money on having a professionally designed, elegant cover don’t plop it on bright pink background surrounded by lime green Comic Sans text. And please, please check those ads for typos! I’ve been put off buying a book when I saw a two-sentence extract featuring a typo. If this is the level of detail the writer is aiming at, I am not interested.
One more thing: if you want to see your book out there, don’t stop writing it.
There are many resources out there who will gladly teach you the ropes, anyone from a traditional publisher to a fellow author and a great many consultants in between. Sadly, not all of them are dedicated to getting your book published with sterling results, so research the hell out of the ones in whom you plan to place your trust.
Among the myriad of things your resource will teach you is the importance of an excellent editor and proofreader. When I handed over my first manuscript to a publisher, I was sure no edits would be necessary, I had written each line brilliantly and checked everything carefully. Five edits and five proofs later, I began to realize that my perfect tome might have been a tad shy of perfection.
You will be pounded by advice from every friend, acquaintance and family member – and much of it will be contradictory. Go with advice from those with a positive track record (that has been proven) and listen to your own instincts.
Every resource that I encounter advises that I start a mailing list – and I refuse for two reasons. I have three published books in my series. Some folks have read all three – so I don’t need to mail to them, some folks will never read any of them – so I don’t need to mail to them. How many times can I send the same message to the same group of people without annoying the hell out of them? The answer is: not many. I know that because I am on a number of author mailing lists – and the majority annoy the snot out of me. I won’t treat my potential readers differently than I want to be treated. I want to entertain, not annoy them.
Am I wrong about mailing lists? Perhaps, but I’ve not yet seen evidence to convince me, so for now I’m going with my gut.
When my publisher was sold, the new publisher picked up the contract for my first book, which was the only one published at the time. But my second book had been through several thorough edits and was ready for proofing. I asked them about the status of my second book and they knew nothing about it (I realized in retrospect that keeping it from them had been a “gift” from my original publisher).
They took four months to give me an answer and when it finally came it was “send us the manuscript and we’ll read it.” So I did. Their response after several more months was “this is a mess, we’ll have to edit this and we will charge you $4,000.”
I cannot begin to express the shock which quickly turned to anger. My original publisher had never charged me a dime – yes, they expected my book to earn enough to cover it’s nut – but it was all on their dime. After much research I decided the self-publish route made sense for me at that juncture. I planned on proofing and releasing my second book – after which I would cancel the contract for my first book in order to re-release it myself. There was no need to cancel. Once the new publisher saw that my second book was in proofing form they sent me a note to inform me that they wanted the whole series or nothing at all, and promptly gave me notice. Fine by me. I’ve been self-publishing since then, and although I do miss the support of my wonderful first publisher, I feel much better off for having some control of my destiny.
My final word of advice is to carefully manage your own expectations. Many famous and brilliant authors did not become so until long after their death. Folks like Dan Brown, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson are the minority. And even James Patterson has to run a fortune worth of really humiliating ads in order to boost his sales to a satisfactory roi.
Donna Leigh Mysteries
I’m still new myself, so it’s difficult to offer any useful advice. The biggest thing I have learned is that the work of writing is really editing. I can think of hundreds of ideas. I can even sit and pound out story after story. That doesn’t mean it’s a good read. What happens is that I spend quite a bit of time editing what I’ve written. I understand some of this has to do with my newness and that as I write more that I’ll need to edit less, but I still think there will be more editing at a higher level at that point.
That’s my advice – write, write, write, but don’t think your job is done until you’ve edited, edited, edited, edited, edited, edited …
Dixie Maria Carlton
Advice I’d Give to other writers.. Write, write, write. If you get stuck on something, write it out, if you have writers block, write anything, if you are feeling happy, sad, frustrated, angry – write. It’s a muscle that needs exercising and capturing your emotions as well as unblocking your stuck points through your writing will always pay off.
My advice is to learn the craft of writing by joining writer groups. National ones, like Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, or local author guilds or organizations. Join groups that have workshops or conferences on the craft and business of writing. You can be a great storyteller, but if you can’t convey the story in the written word, you need to learn more about the craft of writing. Maybe you can write beautiful grammatically correct sentences, but if you don’t know story, your book won’t resonate with readers. That is where learning craft- plotting, pacing, GMC all are needed to take your writing to the level that will have readers coming back for more. Also learn the business side of writing. Do you want to go with traditional publishing or do Indie/self-publishing? You need to know the pros and cons of both to make a discerned decision. If you have perseverance and dedication to craft, you will succeed.
Words can be powerful in a lot of venues. Attracting readers to your particular style is a start for most writers. I have accomplished that through blogging and free lancing for a periodical. The guy who recruited me was already a reader and wanted me to keep my personal nuance when writing. For me, that is down home and folksy. Tech writing is just a matter of talking about what you know and using the resources available to back yourself up for clarification.
I highly advise writers to join a critique group. Having said that, a writer has to learn which suggestions to take to heart and which to ignore – that comes with time and experience. If you present a piece to your writers’ group and three or more of the more accomplished writers are all telling you the same thing – you might want to make the change or changes they suggest. I belong to Naperville Writers Group and have been a member since August 2011. In the past seven years my writing went from making all the usual beginners’ mistakes to being a twice published author. An established critique group can offer free advice that is normally expensive if you hire a professional editor.
My advice to other writers is to simply keep writing. Whether you’re writing a story or a poem, just keep writing. If you find yourself staring at a blank screen with the cursor blinking, just write. It doesn’t have to make sense at first. The creative brain will take over and ideas will flow. It won’t happen if you keep staring at the blinking cursor. And because most people don’t haul their computer everywhere they go, know that you can write on small pieces of note paper, napkins—even your phone has an app for notes. Write down ideas when they come to you. The brain is awesome but forgetful. So, write it down. Your words matter.
Read and write and read and write some more.
Read in your genre, the top authors in your field. Read once for enjoyment and then read again for research. How do they make their characters live and breath and make you care about them? How do they keep your attention with a tight plot arc and occasional twists and surprises? How do they help you to see in your mind like it was playing on a movie screen in full color?
Then write. Write bad stuff. Write good stuff. Then write some more. Set an appointment with yourself to write every day. Once writing daily becomes a habit, you will begin to develop a style that is recognizable as your style. When you write every day you stay connected to your story and you will find that writer’s block becomes a non-issue.
- Read every day even if its just for 10 mins.
- Free write for 10 mins before starting work on your manuscript – it oils the gears.
- Beta read – it teaches you so much about what works and spotting what doesn’t. Plus its a great help to others AND it creates a pool of people to return the favour.
- Never stop learning.
This passion, it is not a sprint. It is not even a marathon as many say. It is a hard slog, day after day, through the trenches of rejection and ever-wondering if your work is good enough to “make it” according to what your goals for your writing career are. It’s not just you and the world out here. It’s you, the world, their dead relatives and everyone and everything else we don’t know about that wants to write a book and succeed with themselves in the spotlight. How do you stand out? Why should others read your works as opposed to others? Passion – that is the key to long-term success. People will recognize passion when they read it. But what’s more – success – 9 3/4th of the time, does not come overnight. Time, weeds out the hopeful from the relentlessly determined. Time, will speak on your behalf if you have enough passion to carry your will through to the end. The struggle will be real – there will be nights where you’ll wonder if you’re doing the right thing. There will be times where you considering abandoning your ambitions – never capitulate to these drifting notions – they are but distractions. All in all, if you’re dead serious about writing, get ready for a fight, get ready to think outside the box, get ready to wear a lot of hats. But above all things, get ready for the bliss on the other side of it all once you’ve achieved – and broken past – your gold standard of success. Craft what your heart wants to. Endure. Overcome. Never surrender. Network and marshal forward with a grin, for if you want it, you will have it.
Thomas J Eyre
The advice I would give to someone aspiring to be a writer is to write. Then write some more and more and when you get to an impasse or writers block write about something else. Take your mind off what you were writing and go in a completely different direction until the idea drops out of the ether and sets you writing again on your original topic.
They do say write what you know, but I don’t see the efficacy in that statement otherwise Mary Shelly would never have written Frankenstein and become the creator the science fiction genre. There are however caveats such as if you have no idea of how military procedures or military humour and slang are derived, I would stay away from trying to write novels about military life. It takes a long time, and you have to have been there and done it, to understand the military mind and military personnel will identify a civvy trying to write military in an instant at which time your novel will get added to the DNF pile, and you will start to get 1-star ratings and nasty comments.
Another thing I suggest is prepare for that 1-star rating because it will come. It doesn’t matter if you are the best writer in the galaxy you will get a 1-star rating. Take that 1-star and love it. It doesn’t matter that one person thinks your writing sucks because at least it’s caused a reaction. If one person is prepared not to like your writing someone else will love it and give you 5-stars; don’t let that 1-star dent your ego or make you think that you aren’t good enough to be a writer. Know you are good enough because other people tell you so with their 5-Star ratings and here comes the next caveat. If you only get 1-star ratings and people slagging your work off, then maybe they have a point. Look at the comments you get and a lot of what is wrong with your work will get highlighted by similar words or themes. It’s then that you have to re-evaluate your work and think again. That’s not to think again about your career choice, though if having nasty comments about your work sends you into a meltdown of self-doubt then perhaps you should look again at your career choice. No, I’m referring to looking again at your work. If lots of people take the time to point out what is wrong, then be gracious and accept their criticism, because, in the long run, they are helping you to become a better writer.
The last bit of advice I will give is don’t think you can do it all yourself. The production of a novel or work of non-fiction has to be a collaborative venture. I dare say there are a few people in the indie clique who aren’t normal and will spot every single mistake, unrealistic plot twist, misspelt word, or error in their grammar, those people are few and far between and I would suggest proof of alien life on Earth. For the rest of us mere mortals, we need editors and street teams of beta readers, and I bet even then there will be tiny errors that slip through but don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re only human.
All that said, enjoy your writing and don’t let the naysaying bastards grind you down.