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

Poetic Forms

Rannaigecht Mor Gairit: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the rannaigecht mor gairit, a variant form of the rannaigecht.

Weinstein_1:21

The Writer, The Inner Critic, & The Slacker

Author and writing professor Alexander Weinstein explains the three parts of a writer's psyche, how they can work against the writer, and how to utilize them for success.

Stottlemyre_1:21

Todd Stottlemyre: On Mixing and Bending Genres

Author Todd Stottlemyre explains how he combined fiction and nonfiction in his latest book and what it meant as a writer to share his personal experiences.

plot_twist_story_prompts_take_a_trip_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Take a Trip

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character take a trip somewhere.

Probst_1:20

Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction

In this article, author Jennifer Probst explains the differences between romance and women's fiction, the importance of both, and how you can make the genre switch.

Wrobel_1:20

Stephanie Wrobel: On Writing an Unusual Hero

Author Stephanie Wrobel explains how she came to write about mental illness and how it affects familial relationships, as well as getting inside the head of an unusual character.

who_are_the_inaugural_poets_for_united_states_presidents_robert_lee_brewer

Who Are the Inaugural Poets for United States Presidents?

Here is a list of the inaugural poets for United States Presidential Inauguration Days from Robert Frost to Amanda Gorman. This post also touches on who an inaugural poet is and which presidents have had them at their inaugurations.

precedent_vs_president_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Precedent vs. President (Grammar Rules)

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

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 554

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 future poem.