10 Favorite Writing Tips from Successful Authors

When it comes to writing advice, there are some fundamental truths for tackling first drafts, and committing to the process of writing itself.
Author:
Publish date:

If you ask 10 different writers for tips on writing, chances are you’ll get 10 completely different—sometimes contradictory—pieces of advice, as the writing process is a little different for every author. There are some fundamental truths that most writers agree on, though, particularly when it comes to approaching first drafts and committing to the process of writing itself.

We asked some of our WDC19 speakers for their favorite writing tips, and their responses were practical, inspirational, and—somewhat surprisingly—pretty consistent.

Image placeholder title

CARLA HOCH (Fight Write, WD Books): Tosca Lee once told me to write the first draft like nobody will read it. That really takes the pressure off.

STEVEN JAMES (Synapse, Thomas Nelson): Never fall in love with your first draft. Too many people with great ideas end up settling on an early draft when they really need to keep revising their story. I remember revising the first chapter to one of my books more than 50 times. It was brutal, but essential. That opening chapter remains one of the most powerful I’ve ever written.

JEFF SOMERS (We Are Not Good People, Gallery): Elmore Leonard’s brilliant “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” I always rework that into “Skip the boring parts.” It’s so easy to implement, too: If you find yourself struggling, if writing a scene feels like lifting a heavy object over your head, ask yourself if you’re bored, if you’re writing it just because you think you have to. If the answer is yes, skip it.

CHRISTINE CONRADT (Murdered at 17, HarperTeen): Never stop writing at the end of a scene or chapter. Stop midway through even though you know you know what comes next and could finish. It makes it that much easier to start again tomorrow and get into the flow of writing again.

PAULA MUNIER (A Borrowing of Bones, Minotaur Books): Here are the three rules that guide my writing process: 1. Keep the reader reading. 2. Don’t get it right, get it written. 3. Writing is rewriting.

JORDAN ROSENFELD (How To Write A Page-Turner, WD Books): Persist. Talent is no guarantee of success; persistence is. You can learn to be a better writer. You can write more drafts, take more classes, query more agents. If you persist at what you need to do to become a published author, you will succeed.

JESSICA STRAWSER (Forget You Know Me, St. Martin’s Press): It depends on what day you ask me! But in the thick of a draft or a revision, I think my favorite advice comes from Patricia Cornwell: To treat your writing like a relationship, not a job.

LILLIAM RIVERA (Dealing in Dreams, Simon & Schuster): Make time for your art because no one else will. Even if you have to steal 10 minutes a day, make sure you help grow your gift.

ZACHARY PETIT (The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing, WD Books): It comes from the writer George Singleton: “Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don't write daily, you will get rusty.”

JENNIFER BAKER (Everyday People: The Color of Life, Atria Books): Take your time. Many writers especially rush to get something out because they have a contract or an editor/agent showed interest and the work simply isn't ready. Take your time, get feedback on (and distance from) the work, then submit. Also ask questions; it's never a bad thing to be upfront with what you don't know rather than be embarrassed for asking in the first place.

What’s your favorite piece of advice that keeps you writing?

Writer's Digest Annual Conference

Write better. Get published. Build your network.

Writer's Digest Annual Conference | August 22-25 | New York City

WDVintage_10_29

Vintage WD: The Truth about True Crime

In this article from July 2000, true crime novelist and former New York Times correspondent Lisa Beth Pulitzer shares with us some key insights for breaking into the true crime genre.

new_agent_alert_barb_roose_books_such_literary_services_adult_christian_fiction_and_nonfiction

New Agent Alert: Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Grinnell_10:28

Evoking Emotion in Fiction: Seven Pragmatic Ways to Make Readers Give a Damn

Evoking emotion on the page begins with the man or woman at the keyboard. Dustin Grinnell serves up seven straightforward tactics for writing tear-jerking stories that make your readers empathize with your characters.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 546

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a spooky poem.

Richard_Shadowlands

Learn Better World-Building Strategies Through World of Warcraft and the New Shadowlands Expansion

WD editor and fantasy writer Moriah Richard shares five unique ways in which writers can use World of Warcraft to better build their worlds—without playing the game.

Hall_10:27

Seven Tips for Intuitive Writing: The Heart-Hand Connection

Award-winning author Jill G. Hall shares her top tips for how to dive into your latest project head-first.

bearing_vs_baring_vs_barring_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Bearing vs. Baring vs. Barring (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use bearing vs. baring vs. barring on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

15_things_a_writer_should_never_do_zachary_petit

15 Things a Writer Should Never Do

Former Writer's Digest managing editor Zachary Petit shares his list of 15 things a writer should never do, based on interviews with successful authors as well as his own occasional literary forays and flails.