15 Motivational Tips to Help You Achieve Your Writing Resolutions in 2018

[Can you impress us in 1500 words or less? Enter the Short Short Story Competition today! Deadline January 15, 2018]


New Year’s resolutions can be tough to keep—and doubly so if one of your resolutions is to write a novel before the year’s end. Here, some of our favorite bestselling authors, ace agents and brilliant WD writers share their best tips, insights and inspirational advice. Learn how to get started, and how to keep your writing resolutions on track throughout the year and successfully crank out your story.

“I think in shapes and patterns, and so what I need to start on any given day is what I call a kernel, which is a very vivid image, a line of dialogue, an emotional ambiance—anything I can see or sense concretely. And so if I’ve got this image I will write it down in a line or two, and then I sit there and stare at it; I take words out and I put them back; move clauses around. And what I’m doing here is using the conscious part of my mind to make that sentence as clean and elegant and euphonious as it can be, and to describe this whatever it is in the clearest terms I can.”

—Diana Gabaldon, Writer’s Digest January 2012

“If I write in public, every time I need to know what a character is doing with his hand or foot, I can look up and study people and find compelling gestures that I can harvest. Writing in public gives you that access to a junkyard of details all around you.”

—Chuck Palahniuk, Writer’s Digest October 2007



“If I were allowed to offer only one simple, practical piece of advice to every writer I knew, it would be this: Pay attention to how you feel, both when you’re writing and when you’re not. Nothing has been more useful to me as a writer, and as a person, than paying attention to and caring about how I feel.”

—William Kenower, Fearless Writing

“Focus on improving your writing, not on getting published. Don’t be so worried/excited to be querying that your manuscript isn’t the best it could be. You won’t get far with an excellent query but a sub-par manuscript.”

—Michelle Witte, agent at Mansion Street Literary Management

“There are always fresh things going on—always. All you have to do is read the newspaper, and you can get a dozen scenarios for suspense.”

—Mary Higgins Clark, Writer’s Digest October 2003

[Read more from Mary Higgins Clark in the Iconic Women Writer’s Archive Collection.]

“Once you’re ready to [brainstorm], begin wherever you have the most heat, the element that has been driving you to write this particular story, that keeps it in the forefront of your mind, whether it’s a compelling situation, a particularly fascinating character, a dramatic and overarching theme, or the climactic and memorable ending. GIve yourself at least a two-hour block of uninterrupted time to do nothing more than focus on the expansion of your primary idea.”

—Susan Reynolds, Fire Up Your Writing Brain

“There’s this feeling in the world that artistic ability is just a gift and there’s nothing else to it. I think it’s a skill set. It’s no different than math. It’s a thing you need to learn how to do—you need to practice it.”

—Andy Weir, Writer’s Digest January 2018



“Write what you are comfortable with, write what you’re interested in and what makes you happy. Because if you are enjoying the writing experience, you’re probably going to be more successful with it. And finish it! Even on my [current] book, I have to remain disciplined and get the things done.”

—Rachel Renée Russell, Writer’s Digest January 2015

“If I were to say to you, ‘Describe for me this lamp,’ you would begin listing of its traits in earnest. ‘Base made of ironwood, 60-watt lightbulb, fraying electric cord, lampshade made of human skin,’ and on and on. But that is not what you do in fiction. I don’t want you to describe every detail. I don’t seek an accounting of all the brass tacks. The first lesson is: Don’t describe everything. Knowing how to write description is often knowing what not to describe.”

—Chuck Wendig, The Kick-Ass Writer

[Rethinking Protagonists and Antagonists: Parallel and Perpendicular Character Perspectives in Star Wars]

“I don’t think you can grow if you’re putting expectations on everything that comes out of you every day. Like, if I sat down and wrote a sentence and then said, ‘This is going to be a New Yorker story,’ I guarantee you I’d never finish.”

—David Sedaris, Writer’s Digest October 2013

“… ideas come from everywhere, provided that you’re thinking about everything that happens to you as a potential story. I like to think that the differences between storytellers and nonstorytellers is that we storytellers, like fishermen, are constantly dragging an “idea net” along with us. Other people pass through their lives and never notice how many stories are going on all around them; we, however, think of everything as a potential story.”

—Orson Scott Card, Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

“My motivation for writing has always been curiosity. I prefer to write about things that I know a little about, but not a whole lot about. Then when I write the novel, it becomes completely interesting to me because I’m finding out about things I didn’t know before.”

—Jane Smiley, Writer’s Digest September 2015



“It’s so important for writers to read as much as they can in their genre. Through reading you begin to understand what the expectations are of the community you hope to be a part of. You begin to develop a certain language and shared knowledge with people who have immersed themselves in the genre. And when you pitch agents and editors, you are able to reference other works and explain what about your work stands out and where it follows conventions or familiar tropes.”

—Reiko Davis, agent at DeFiore and Co

“… what I’ve learned is that you just have to weather [moments of self-doubt]. You really have fight through them, no matter how unpleasant it is. Just be kind of blue-collar about it: Come in, do work, check in every day, check out at the end of the day, do what you have to do, trust in the process, and hope that something miraculous will happen down the line, and it will all be worth it.”

—Khaled Hosseini, Writer’s Digest July/August 2013

“… it’s just never been a better time to be a writer. It’s a world of opportunity. You can do whatever you want. You can do it however you want. It’s magical to [say], ‘You know what? I’m going to write a new adult series’—and then write it. It’s amazing. I don’t have to convince anyone, I don’t have to sell anyone on it. I don’t have to run it by an agent or a publisher. I’ll just do it.”

—Bella Andre, Writer’s Digest September 2014








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About Jess Zafarris

Jess Zafarris is the Director of Content Strategy and Online Content for Writer’s Digest and ScriptMag. Her eight years of experience in digital and print content direction includes such roles as editor-in-chief of HOW design magazine and online content director of HOW and PRINT, as well as writing for the Denver Business Journal, ABC News, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. She spends much of her spare time researching curious word histories and writing about them at UselessEtymology.com. Follow her at @jesszafarris or @uselessety on Twitter.