Author James Scott Bell on Writing, Publishing & Starbucks



What piece of advice have you received over the course of your career that has had the biggest impact on your success?

To write a quota of words each day. I heard this early on, and have stuck to it ever since. Writing is a discipline as well as a craft. The only way to grow is to put those words down, day in, day out.  

What message do you find yourself repeating over and over to writers?
Honor the craft. Too many times I see new writers with a passion for the story they’re working on, and thinking editors or agents will automatically share that passion. They won’t unless it is in a form that readers will respond to. That’s what the craft is all about.

What’s the worst kind of mistake that new writers, freelancers, or book authors can make?
Stopping the learning curve. Thinking they’ve “arrived.” You have to keep growing as a writer, the rest of your life.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without in your writing life?
Starbucks.

What does a typical day look like for you?
Starbucks.

If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?
A shorter time from completion of the manuscript to the bookshelves. It’s roughly 18 months from idea to appearance in the stores. That’s too long.

In what way (if any) has your writing/publishing life changed in the past 5 years?
It’s gotten busier. That comes with the territory if you continue to publish books. You answer more mail, speak more, travel more. Sometimes all that gets in the way of the writing itself. I try not to let that happen.

Do you have any advice for new writers on fostering a strong author/editor relationship?
Be professional. Don’t waste their time. Know what they value in a writer and give it to them. If you have a complaint, make it objectively. Don’t burn bridges. The days of the prima donna are over.  

What do you see as your biggest publishing accomplishment?
That I’ve been able to do what I love for as long as I have, and been able to help a great number of younger writers along the way.

Any final thoughts?
I like what author Michael Bishop once said. “One may achieve remarkable writerly success while flunking all the major criteria for success as a human being. Try not to do that.”

Get the Book!
Learn valuable writing strategies with the Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

For more on tips and techniques for mastering the revision process, check out Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.

Read an Excerpt!
Read an excerpt from chapter fifteen and discover why it’s so important to do a careful first read-through of your manuscript before you start the actual revision process.

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