7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Jaime Lee Moyer

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Jaime Lee Moyer, author of DELIA’S SHADOW) 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.

GIVEAWAY: Jaime is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; 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: burrowswrite won.)


color crop of me          delias-shadow-novel-cover

Jaime Lee Moyer lives in San Antonio with musician Marshall Payne, two cats,
three guitars and a growing collection of books and music. Her first novel,
DELIA’S SHADOW (Sept. 2013), is out now from Tor Books. Two other books
will be published in June 2014 and February 2015, respectively. Her novels are
represented by Tamar Rydzinski of Laura Dail Literary. Connect with her on Twitter



1. No one else can teach you how to write. Writing wasn’t something I could learn from a how to write book or by hitting all the steps in a how to video. The only way for me to learn was to write and keep writing. I didn’t wake up one morning writing stunning, professional prose or perfect plots (no one does). Like all crafts, being a writer takes practice. I wrote all I could in any scrap of time I could find, then I wrote more.

2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, toss what doesn’t work, and start again. Professionals throw away chunks of novels and stories all the time and start again. Not every story will work, not every plot will come together or every character come to life. None of the mistakes I made were a waste of time or effort, because each one of them taught me something that made the next story better. The same is true of query letters. If the one you’ve written doesn’t get you requests, start over.

(Writer’s Digest asked literary agents for their best pieces of advice. Here are their responses.)

3. The more I learn about writing, the more I find I don’t know. One skill builds on another and new skills strengthen things I’ve already learned. It’s not as if I can learn it all and stop, it’s a process that will continue my entire life.

4. Writing is not for the timid or faint of heart. I can’t flinch or pull back because writing something is “hard” or painful, and take the easy way around. If anything, that means I have to write what’s making me flinch and give it my all. The difficult and the painful bits of a story are what make it real. And I can’t be afraid of what others will think about what I write, or that a reader might equate a character’s thoughts and actions with mine.

5. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking every word you write is perfect and untouchable. Really, they aren’t. Too much praise is as dangerous for a writer as too much harsh criticism. Beta readers who point out what you do right, as well as what needs to be fixed, are a writer’s best friend. The flip side of this is learning to trust your instincts. If you know down in your bones that something is right for your story, and absolutely needs to be there, stick to your guns. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

(What does that one word mean? Read definitions of unique & unusual literary words.)

6. If you can’t figure out what’s wrong with a story, put it away for a few months. Or longer. Write more stories while this one sits in a drawer. This is a luxury writers who aren’t writing to deadline should take full advantage of. That constant learning curve might have taught you what’s wrong and how to fix it when you pull it out again. Or you may recognize that the story is still and will always be a hopeless mess. Either way, you win.

7. The only way to really and truly fail as a writer is to stop trying. I believe that with all my heart.

GIVEAWAY: Jaime is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; 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: burrowswrite won.)


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by Ronald Tobias, 20 Master Plots.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


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16 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Jaime Lee Moyer

  1. txmartyhm

    Greetings from a fellow San Antonian. 🙂

    Tip #2 really resonates with me. I remember a great professional photographer I worked with in the AIr Force. When he was asked the difference between a professional and an amateur, he replied, “The number of pictures I throw away.” In other words, the amateur takes one picture, and that’s it! The pro takes dozens and chooses the best one. I’m trying to remember to do the same with my writing.

  2. timjones

    Super fantastic advice, Jamie! I think most writers nowadays are able to remain humble through the whole process and you are one of them 😀 Good luck, and I look forward to reading you book! xo Tim


  3. vrundell

    Thanks Jamie for your insight. It seems the key here is to write, write, write and then revise well. Good advice! And, it’s true about lifelong learning–we can find lessons in any direction we look–we simply need to be keen observers,
    Best of luck with your books!

  4. BetiSpangel

    I’d like to add that you’re never too late to start. I’ve finally gotten serious about the craft, now, at age 50 and after a life changing accident. I don’t want my obituary to say “She never fulfilled her dream of writing her novel.” Screw that! I’m kicking ass and taking prisoners, and now I know that I’m unstoppable.

  5. dymphna st james

    Good motivating advice. I believe what you said about your learn to write by writing,. I have taken 2 creative writing classes and don’t have an MFA but believe you need to just keep on writing. Good luck with your book it looks fascinating.

  6. Jhinnua

    I concur with the last notation as well. As well as 5 and 6. Haha. I know after I finish a bunch of short stories I have going, I’m going to be going back to finish my sci-fi and then after the rough draft is done I’mma work at my first novel attempt…again.

  7. Lina Moder

    The last piece of advice is the best and so so true.

    Love what Jamie says about always learning, which is good because you can always be a writer who gets better and better:)

    Thank you Jamie for this wonderful advice:)

    linamoder at gmail dot com


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