I love reading interviews with authors. There are few things better than finding out what inspired their books, how they go about revising stories, why they made certain decisions, and more. And in this post, I've collected the answers to one of my favorite questions: "If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?"
You might think I'd get 21 answers that say the exact same thing. But you'd be wrong if you did. While there is definitely a little cross over, it's incredible how many different tips are shared.
So without further ado, here's one piece of advice for writers from 21 published authors.
Dive into the world of writing and learn all 12 steps needed to complete a first draft. In this writing workshop you will tackle the steps to writing a book, learn effective writing techniques along the way, and of course, begin writing your first draft.
Devi S. Laskar: Ignore the Naysayers
"Don't give up, and don't lose your stubborn belief that you have a story worth telling. I've had so many people tell me over so many years that I didn't have the qualities needed to be a writer. All of my writer friends and I have one thing in common: We didn't listen to the naysayers. We kept writing. And eventually we have all been published."
Christina Lauren: Write What Makes You Excited
"Run your own race. Don't worry about how fast someone else writes, how much another author makes, how many followers another author has. Write what makes you excited, and the enthusiasm will come through on the page."
Scott Kenemore: Make Art That is Meaningful to You
"I would advise writers to aim to make the kind of art that is meaningful and amusing to them personally. So much about writing is unknowable, but you (probably) know what you personally find impactful, novel, and cool. So let that be your guide!"
Kimmery Martin: Read in and out of Your Genre
"Read! Read in your genre, of course, but also read outside it and try to analyze the voices you find most appealing. This will help you but it will also spur some teeth-gnashing and garment-rending at your own perceived inadequacies. Or maybe that's just me."
Afia Atakora: Develop Writer Friendships
"Writer friends are everything! We all know that the act of novel writing is solitary, and sometimes lonesome work, but when you crawl out of your cave it's so important to have friends there waiting who get it, who are ready to read and cheer you on, and who will send you right back into the cave when you need it."
Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai: Write Stories That Move Us
"I used to be a documentary filmmaker, and a film director once told me: 'You can't make a good film unless your hands tremble behind the camera.' Let us write stories that move us to the core, because when our pen is trembling, the reader can feel it, too."
Leslie Lutz: Learn to Let Go
"Write often. I won't go so far as to say you have to write every day, but I do think you need to make this a part of the texture of your life, something that you do on a regular basis, like a workout schedule.
"Then, learn to let go. Let go of old drafts that aren't going anywhere, or scenes that don't work. Don't spend months tweaking a fundamentally flawed project when you can move on to the wonderful new projects that are percolating in your head. The 'you must start what you finish' attitude—although admirable—can actually be a pitfall, because it prevents you from taking a necessary course correction when you need it."
Bill Higgs: Follow Your Passion
"Write something you are passionate about. Your passion will carry you through the ups and downs of the process."
Bonnie Tsui: Write What You Can't Stop Thinking About
"Books are hard and they take an obscenely long time (even my seven-year-old knows this by now!). But if you find that you can't stop thinking about a particular book idea, even on your downtime and in your dreams, it's time to write it."
Jess Zafarris: Be Deliberate About the Words You Use
"Words have extraordinary power—their definitions and colloquial meanings, the way they evolve, and where they come from. Be deliberate and selective about the words you choose. Be voracious about collecting new words for your authorial toolkit. Always look up words you've never met before. And above all, wield your words for good, for creativity, and for the cultivation of knowledge."
Haley Shapley: Write What Piques Your Curiosity
"Write what you love, what truly piques your curiosity every day. I've met authors who have told me they were sick of the subject matter in their books by the time they came out. I'm so glad I don't feel this way!
"I never tired of learning about the stories of strong women and finding a compelling way to tell those stories. I love to discuss the themes in the book—cultural standards, resilience, overcoming odds, equality, breaking barriers—so even when I'm tired, I'm always energized by the opportunity to have meaningful conversations around this work.
"You're most likely going to spend a long time writing a book, and then more time promoting it, so make it something you're passionate about so that even when you collapse into bed exhausted at the end of the day (or fall asleep on your couch with your laptop open, as I’m prone to do), you'll feel fulfilled."
Kris Spisak: Keep Going
"The writer's life is one filled with creativity, sure, but there are so many other skill sets you need to practice before bringing your books to your readers (or literary agents and publishers). Keep going. Keep writing. Keep learning.
"Persistence and determination can have amazing results!"
Camilla Bruce: Set Ambitious Goals
"Don't be afraid to set ambitious goals—and try not to settle for anything less than those goals on days when motivation is scarce."
Maisy Card: Join a Writing Group
"Find a writing buddy or join a writing group. Writing can be very lonely, and it can be hard to stay motivated on a long project. It’s great to have people to hold you accountable."
Robert L. Richardson: Dive Deeply Into Research
"Be guided by carefully developed chronologies. Establish clear causal relationships. Dive deeply into available research sources (National Archives, CIA library, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Archives of the NSA, and others)."
Christopher J. Moore: Don't Follow the Trends
"[S]tay focused and write what you enjoy writing. Don't write for money or follow the trends of what might be selling at the time. Write something that you cannot only be proud of, but also enjoy the process of writing.
"A successful career in writing typically takes too long to achieve to be writing something you're not passionate about. Write from your heart, and write what gets you excited to sit at your computer every day.
"Most of all, make sure you have a life while doing it—exercise, teach, build, vote, explore, learn, grow, fellowship, and most of all, love. It will not only inform your writing but you'll also be a healthier person for it, mentally and physically."
Jaime Breitnauer: Trust Your Idea
"Trust your idea, and just start writing. It can seem like a huge task, especially if you have had your work commissioned and there is a relatively fixed deadline, but once you start putting words on the page it will come together, and there is always someone you can ask for a little bit of support."
Samantha Mabry: Do the Work
"All of my advice is stolen from other writers! I heard Lauren Groff once say something along the lines of how the only real difference between someone who has written a book and someone who hasn't, is the willingness to 'do the work.' It's helpful for me to approach writing as work and not some grand creative endeavor."
Tessa Wegert: Be Flexible
"The best advice I can offer aspiring authors is to be flexible. Be willing to experiment with new genres. You might find your niche somewhere unexpected."
Akemi Dawn Bowman: Focus on Your Own Journey
"[F]ocus on your own journey, and try not to worry about what's going on in the lane next to you. I know it's hard, because it feels natural to compare. And sometimes it's important, to know what barriers exist and how they impact marginalized writers. But from a productivity standpoint, the comparisons tend to do more harm than good. Because everyone's publishing journey is different.
"Everyone has ups and downs at different moments, and paying too much attention to what other people are getting is only going to slow you down. Focus on the page, and the words, and do what you do best—write."
Mindy Mejia: Study the Craft
"We're all students of the craft and every book we read is another chance to learn. Read voraciously. And write exactly the kinds of books you like best."
This course will demonstrate that the best way to become a good writer is to study the writing of others, especially the work of the masters. Because there are no hard-and-fast rules to writing, it’s important to study what other writers have done and how they consciously make narrative decisions and meticulously select details based on audience and purpose. Clearly, before you can become a good writer, you must read like a writer. In other words, you must become a superb reader who discerns the nuances of narrative techniques and language.