Skip to main content

The 90 Top Secrets of Bestselling Authors

Here, some of the most successful writers in recent (and not-so-recent) memory share their take on everything from how they get ideas (or go find them), to the best way to start a manuscript (or why the only important thing is that you start at all), to their most methodical writing habits (and quirkiest rituals), to writing with the readers in mind (or ignoring them entirely).

Writing advice: It can be all at once inspiring and contradictory, uplifting and off-putting, insightful and superficial. There are successful writers who impart wisdom freely and willingly, and then there are literary icons who claim to have none to dispense at all. As for the rest of us, we just can’t seem to help but look to our fellow writers who’ve achieved so much and wonder: What’s their secret?

Here, some of the most successful writers in recent (and not-so-recent) memory share their take on everything from how they get ideas (or go find them), to the best way to start a manuscript (or why the only important thing is that you start at all), to their most methodical writing habits (and quirkiest rituals), to writing with the readers in mind (or ignoring them entirely). The quotes were pulled from 90 years' worth of Writer's Digest magazines (as fascinating as it is to observe what’s changed since 1920, it’s equally refreshing to realize how much good, sound writing wisdom remains the same).

We trust you’ll find some quotes to be admirably succinct, others to be charmingly old-fashioned but timeless all the same. Above all, we hope you’ll find them all useful as you embark on another year of your own writing life.


—No. 1—
“Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.”
—Peg Bracken

—No. 2—
“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.”
—Ray Bradbury

—No. 3—
“Good writing is remembering detail. Most people want to forget. Don’t forget things that were painful or embarrassing or silly. Turn them into a story that tells the truth.”
—Paula Danziger

—No. 4—
“I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.’”
—Stephen King

—No. 5—
“A writer need not devour a whole sheep in order to know what mutton tastes like, but he must at least eat a chop. Unless he gets his facts right, his imagination will lead him into all kinds of nonsense, and the facts he is most likely to get right are the facts of his own experience.”
—W. Somerset Maugham

—No. 6—
“Don’t put down too many roots in terms of a domicile. I have lived in four countries and I think my life as a writer and our family’s life have been enriched by this. I think a writer has to experience new environments. There is that adage: No man can really succeed if he doesn’t move away from where he was born. I believe it is particularly true for the writer.”
—Arthur Hailey

—No. 7—
“Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow. You’ll be amazed at what will come out on paper. I’m still learning what it is about the past that I want to write. I don’t worry about it. It will emerge. It will insist on being told.”
—Frank McCourt

—No. 8—
“My advice is not to wait to be struck by an idea. If you’re a writer, you sit down and damn well decide to have an idea. That’s the way to get an idea.”
—Andy Rooney

—No. 9—
“As writers we live life twice, like a cow that eats its food once and then regurgitates it to chew and digest it again. We have a second chance at biting into our experience and examining it. … This is our life and it’s not going to last forever. There isn’t time to talk about someday writing that short story or poem or novel. Slow down now, touch what is around you, and out of care and compassion for each moment and detail, put pen to paper and begin to write.”
—Natalie Goldberg


—No. 10—
“I have a self-starter—published 20 million words—and have never received, needed or wanted a kick in the pants.”
—Isaac Asimov

—No. 11—
“Two questions form the foundation of all novels: ‘What if?’ and ‘What next?’ (A third question, ‘What now?’, is one the author asks himself every 10 minutes or so; but it’s more a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if ‘X’ happened? That’s how you start.”
—Tom Clancy

—No. 12—
“I think my stuff succeeds, in part, because of what it’s about—a diagnosis by attempting the adventures oneself of universal American daydreams. Now, I’m not saying that any writer who decided to select that device or notion could have written a bestseller; you have to add ingredients that are very special, I agree, but I think I started out with a good pot to make the stew in.”
—George Plimpton

—No. 13—
“Beginning a novel is always hard. It feels like going nowhere. I always have to write at least 100 pages that go into the trashcan before it finally begins to work. It’s discouraging, but necessary to write those pages. I try to consider them pages -100 to zero of the novel.”
—Barbara Kingsolver

—No. 14—
“When I start on a book, I have been thinking about it and making occasional notes for some time—20 years in the case of Imperial Earth, and 10 years in the case of the novel I’m presently working on. So I have lots of theme, locale, subjects and technical ideas. It’s amazing how the subconscious self works on these things. I don’t worry about long periods of not doing anything. I know my subconscious is busy."
—Arthur C. Clarke

—No. 15—
“An outline is crucial. It saves so much time. When you write suspense, you have to know where you’re going because you have to drop little hints along the way. With the outline, I always know where the story is going. So before I ever write, I prepare an outline of 40 or 50 pages.”
—John Grisham

—No. 16—
“I do a great deal of research. I don’t want anyone to say, ‘That could not have happened.’ It may be fiction, but it has to be true.”
—Jacquelyn Mitchard

—No. 17—
“Being goal-oriented instead of self-oriented is crucial. I know so many people who want to be writers. But let me tell you, they really don’t want to be writers. They want to have been writers. They wish they had a book in print. They don’t want to go through the work of getting the damn book out. There is a huge difference.”
—James Michener

—No. 18—
“Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first 10 years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.”
—Andre Dubus

—No. 19—
“Writing is like being in love. You never get better at it or learn more about it. The day you think you do is the day you lose it. Robert Frost called his work a lover’s quarrel with the world. It’s ongoing. It has neither a beginning nor an end. You don’t have to worry about learning things. The fire of one’s art burns all the impurities from the vessel that contains it.”
—James Lee Burke


—No. 20—
“What a writer has to do is write what hasn’t been written before or beat dead men at what they have done.”
—Ernest Hemingway

—No. 21—
“You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, ‘This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I’m doing the best I can—buy me or not—but this is who I am as a writer.”
—David Morrell

—No. 22—
“Oftentimes an originator of new language forms is called ‘pretentious’ by jealous talents. But it ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
—Jack Kerouac

—No. 23—
“I think I succeeded as a writer because I did not come out of an English department. I used to write in the chemistry department. And I wrote some good stuff. If I had been in the English department, the prof would have looked at my short stories, congratulated me on my talent, and then showed me how Joyce or Hemingway handled the same elements of the short story. The prof would have placed me in competition with the greatest writers of all time, and that would have ended my writing career.”
—Kurt Vonnegut

—No. 24—
“You should really stay true to your own style. When I first started writing, everybody said to me, ‘Your style just isn’t right because you don’t use the really flowery language that romances have.’ My romances—compared to what’s out there—are very strange, very odd, very different. And I think that’s one of the reasons they’re selling.”
—Jude Deveraux

—No. 25—
“I guess I believe that writing consists of very small parts put together into a whole, and if the parts are defective, the whole won’t work.”
—Garrison Keillor

—No. 26—
“I’m very concerned with the rhythm of language. ‘The sun came up’ is an inadequate sentence. Even though it conveys all the necessary information, rhythmically it’s lacking. The sun came up. But, if you say, as Laurie Anderson said, ‘The sun came up like a big bald head,’ not only have you, perhaps, entertained the fancy of the reader, but you have made a more complete sentence. The sound of a sentence.”
—Tom Robbins

—No. 27—
“We, and I think I’m speaking for many writers, don’t know what it is that sometimes comes to make our books alive. All we can do is to write dutifully and day after day, every day, giving our work the very best of what we are capable. I don’t think that we can consciously put the magic in; it doesn’t work that way. When the magic comes, it’s a gift.”
—Madeleine L’Engle


—No. 28—
“The only obligation any artist can have is to himself. His work means nothing, otherwise. It has no meaning.”
—Truman Capote

—No. 29—
“Indeed, great fiction shows us not how to conduct our behavior but how to feel. Eventually, it may show us how to face our feelings and face our actions and to have new inklings about what they mean. A good novel of any year can initiate us into our own new experience.”
—Eudora Welty

—No. 30—
��You need that pride in yourself, as well as a sense, when you are sitting on Page 297 of a book, that the book is going to be read, that somebody is going to care. You can’t ever be sure about that, but you need the sense that it’s important, that it’s not typing; it’s writing.”
—Roger Kahn

—No. 31—
“They have to be given some meaning, the facts. What do they mean? The meaning’s going to be influenced by a lot of things in you and your own culture. And some of these things you may be unaware of. But every historian has some kind of philosophy of life and society. … All kinds of strands and currents and factors are involved. You have to separate and put together and from that we should deduce that there’s no situation in the present that’s simple, either. No simple answers. And the historian, when he looks over one of these situations, is going to try and consider all these things and try to be objective and fair and balanced, but what he picks out as the meaning will, of course, be what he himself believes.”
—T. Harry Williams

—No. 32—
“I’ve always had complete confidence in myself. When I was nothing, I had complete confidence. There were 10 guys in my writing class at Williams College who could write better than I. They didn’t have what I have, which is guts. I was dedicated to writing, and nothing could stop me.”
—John Toland

—No. 33—
“I write in a very confessional way, because to me it’s so exciting and fun. There’s nothing funnier on earth than our humanness and our monkeyness. There’s nothing more touching, and it’s what I love to come upon when I’m reading; someone who’s gotten really down and dirty, and they’re taking the dross of life and doing alchemy, turning it into magic, tenderness and compassion and hilarity. So I tell my students that if they really love something, pay attention to it. Try to write something that they would love to come upon.”
—Anne Lamott

—No. 34—
“[The writer] has to be the kind of man who turns the world upside down and says, lookit, it looks different, doesn’t it?”
—Morris West

—No. 35—
“The real writer learns nothing from life. He is more like an oyster or a sponge.”
—Gore Vidal

—No. 36—
“I think most writers … write about episodes meaningful to them in terms of their own imaginations. Now that would include a great deal of what they experience, but I’m not sure there’s an autobiographical intention. … I believe I’m telling the truth when I say that, when I wrote Catch-22, I was not particularly interested in war; I was mainly interested in writing a novel, and that was a subject for it. That’s been true of all my books. Now what goes into these books does reflect a great deal of my more morbid nature—the fear of dying, a great deal of social awareness and social protest, which is part of my personality. None of that is the objective of writing. Take five writers who have experienced the same thing, and they will be completely different as people, and they’d be completely different in what they do write, what they’re able to write.”
—Joseph Heller


—No. 37—
“A genuine creation should have character as well as be one; should have central heating, so to say, as well as exterior lighting.”
—James Hilton

—No. 38—
“The writer must always leave room for the characters to grow and change. If you move your characters from plot point to plot point, like painting by the numbers, they often remain stick figures. They will never take on a life of their own. The most exciting thing is when you find a character doing something surprising or unplanned. Like a character saying to me: ‘Hey, Richard, you may think I work for you, but I don’t. I’m my own person.’”
—Richard North Patterson

—No. 39—
“Writers shouldn’t fall in love with characters so much that they lose sight of what they’re trying to accomplish. The idea is to write a whole story, a whole book. A writer has to be able to look at that story and see whether or not a character works, whether or not a character needs further definition.”
—Stephen Coonts

—No. 40—
“When I was a Hollywood press agent, I learned how the Hollywood casting system worked. There was a roster of actors who were always perfect as doctors or lawyers or laborers, and the directors just picked the types they needed and stuffed them into film after film. I do the same [with my characters], book after book.”
—Richard Condon

—No. 41—
“I said the hell with Plot. I’m going to write stories about people that interest me, the way I see them. I’m sick of formula. I’m sick of Hero, Heroine, Heavy. … I’m sick of Characters. I’m going to write about men and women, all classes, types and conditions, within the limits of my own capabilities. People with faults, with nasty tempers, with weaknesses and loves and hates and fears and gripes against each other. People I can believe in because I know and understand them. People who aren’t like anybody else’s characters because they are themselves, like ‘em or don’t. … And all of a sudden I began to sell.”
—Leigh Brackett

—No. 42—
“When you are dealing with the blackest side of the human soul, you have to have someone who has performed heroically to balance that out. You have to have a hero.”
—Ann Rule

—No. 43—
“People do not spring forth out of the blue, fully formed—they become themselves slowly, day by day, starting from babyhood. They are the result of both environment and heredity, and your fictional characters, in order to be believable, must be also.”
—Lois Duncan

—No. 44—
“To me, everything in a novel comes down to people making choices. You must figure out in advance what those choices are going to be.”
—Marion Zimmer Bradley

—No. 45—
“The character on the page determines the prose—its music, its rhythms, the range and limit of its vocabulary—yet, at the outset at least, I determine the character. It usually happens that the fictitious character, once released, acquires a life and will of his or her own, so the prose, too, acquires its own inexplicable fluidity. This is one of the reasons I write: to ‘hear’ a voice not quite my own, yet summoned forth by way of my own.”
—Joyce Carol Oates


—No. 46—
“For a book to really work, form and function must go hand in hand, just like with buildings, as any decent architect will tell you.”
—Tracy Chevalier

—No. 47—
“The problem for me is finding my own plots. They take a long time. … I like to have it happen, just like in our own lives. We don’t always know where they’re going, and if we make formal decisions on a given night, if we sit down and put a list of things we’re going to do on a piece of paper, they almost never work out right.”
—Norman Mailer

—No. 48—
“There is no finer form of fiction than the mystery. It has structure, a story line and a sense of place and pace. It is the one genre where the reader and the writer are pitted against each other. Readers don’t want to guess the ending, but they don’t want to be so baffled that it annoys them. … The research you do is crucial. In mystery fiction, you have to tell the truth. You can’t fool the reader and expect to get away with it.”
—Sue Grafton

—No. 49—
“Sometimes one can overanalyze, and I try not to do that. To a great degree, much of the structure has got to come naturally out of the writing. I think if you try to preordain, you’re going to stifle yourself. You’ve got a general idea, but the rest has to come naturally out of the writing, the narrative, the character and the situation.”
—Robert Ludlum

—No. 50—
“I make a very tight outline of everything I write before I write it. … By writing an outline you really are writing in a way, because you’re creating the structure of what you’re going to do. Once I really know what I’m going to write, I don’t find the actual writing takes all that long.”
—Tom Wolfe

—No. 51—
“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. If we can’t make up stories about ordinary people, who can we make them up about? … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”
—John Updike

—No. 52—
“Too many writers think that all you need to do is write well—but that’s only part of what a good book is. Above all, a good book tells a good story. Focus on the story first. Ask yourself, ‘Will other people find this story so interesting that they will tell others about it?’ Remember: A bestselling book usually follows a simple rule, ‘It’s a wonderful story, wonderfully told’; not, ‘It’s a wonderfully told story.’”
—Nicholas Sparks

—No. 53—
“Transitions are critically important. I want the reader to turn the page without thinking she’s turning the page. It must flow seamlessly.”
—Janet Evanovich


—No. 54—
“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
—Larry L. King

—No. 55—
“When I really do not know what I am saying, or how to say it, I’ll open these Pentels, these colored Japanese pens, on yellow lined paper, and I’ll start off with very tentative colors, very light colors: orange, yellow or tan. … When my thoughts are more formulated, and I have a sharper sense of trying to say it, I’ll go into heavier colors: blues, greens and eventually into black. When I am writing in black, which is the final version, I have written that sentence maybe 12 or 15 or 18 times.”
—Gay Talese

—No. 56—
“I think that the joy of writing a novel is the self-exploration that emerges and also that wonderful feeling of playing God with the characters. When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. … I think the most important thing for a writer is to be locked in a study.”
—Erica Jong

—No. 57—
“I’ll tell you a thing that will shock you. It will certainly shock the readers of Writer’s Digest. What I often do nowadays when I have to, say, describe a room, is to take a page of a dictionary, any page at all, and see if with the words suggested by that one page in the dictionary I can build up a room, build up a scene. … I even did it in a novel I wrote called MF. There’s a description of a hotel vestibule whose properties are derived from Page 167 in R.J. Wilkinson’s Malay-English Dictionary. Nobody has noticed. … As most things in life are arbitrary anyway, you’re not doing anything naughty, you’re really normally doing what nature does, you’re just making an entity out of the elements. I do recommend it to young writers.”
—Anthony Burgess

—No. 58—
“The conclusion to be drawn is that I am happiest writing in small rooms. They make me feel comfortable and secure. And it took me years to figure out that I need to write in a corner. Like a small animal burrowing into its hole, I shift furniture around, and back myself into a cozy corner, with my back to the wall … and then I can write.”
—Danielle Steel

—No. 59—
“I try to keep my space very, very contained, because I feel that inspiration and the spirits and the story and the characters live there for as long as I’m writing.”
—Isabel Allende

—No. 60—
“If I’m at a dull party I’ll invent some kind of game for myself and then pick someone to play it with so that I am, in effect, writing a scene. I’m supplying my half of the dialogue and hoping the other half comes up to standards. If it doesn’t, I try to direct it that way.”
—Evan Hunter

—No. 61—
“I like to say there are three things that are required for success as a writer: talent, luck, discipline. … [Discipline] is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.”
—Michael Chabon

—No. 62—
“I threw the thesaurus out years ago. I found that every time you look up a word, if you want some word and you can think of an approximately close synonym for it and look it up, you only get cliché usages. It’s much better to use a big dictionary and look up derivations and definitions of various usages of a different word.”
—James Jones

—No. 63—
“I try to write a certain amount each day, five days a week. A rule sometimes broken is better than no rule.”
—Herman Wouk

—No. 64—
“I think writing verse is a great training for a writer. It teaches you to make your points and get your stuff clear, which is the great thing.”
—P.G. Wodehouse


—No. 65—
“I do not rewrite unless I am absolutely sure that I can express the material better if I do rewrite it.”
—William Faulkner

—No. 66—
“… Falsely straining yourself to put something into a book where it doesn’t really belong, it’s not doing anybody any favors. And the reader can tell.”
—Margaret Atwood

—No. 67—
“I’m a tremendous rewriter; I never think anything is good enough. I’m always rephrasing jokes, changing lines, and then I hate everything. The Girl Most Likely To was rewritten seven times, and the first time I saw it I literally went out and threw up! How’s that for liking yourself?”
—Joan Rivers

—No. 68—
“I’ve always felt that my ‘style’—the careful projection onto paper of who I think I am—was my only marketable asset, the only possession that might set me apart from other writers. Therefore I’ve never wanted anyone to fiddle with it. … Editors have told me that I’m the only writer they know who cares what happens to his piece after he gets paid for it. Most writers won’t argue with an editor because they don’t want to annoy him; they’re so grateful to be published that they agree to having their style … violated in public. But to defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.”
—William Zinsser

—No. 69—
“I almost always write everything the way it comes out, except I tend much more to take things out rather than put things in. It’s out of a desire to really show what’s going on at all times, how things smell and look, as well as from the knowledge that I don’t want to push things too quickly through to climax; if I do, it won’t mean anything. Everything has to be earned, and it takes a lot of work to earn.”
—Peter Straub

—No. 70—
“If you’re writing for a magazine or a newspaper, then you’re a guest. It’s as if you’re a guest violinist in some great conductor’s orchestra. You play to his rhythm, to his audience. You’re invited in and he edits you and tells you what he wants. On the other hand, when you’re writing a book, the only reason you’re writing it is to say it your own way, in your own words, and tell the story the way you see it.”
—Teddy White

—No. 71—
“There’s really a shortage of good freelance writers. … There are a lot of talented people who are very erratic, so either they don’t turn it in or they turn it in and it’s rotten; it’s amazing. Somebody who’s even maybe not all that terrific but who is dependable, who will turn in a publishable piece more or less on time, can really do very well.”
—Gloria Steinem


—No. 72—
“One of my agents used to say to me, ‘Mack, you shouldn’t submit anything anywhere unless you [would] read it aloud to them.’ ”
—MacKinlay Kantor

—No. 73—
“If you have the story, editors will use it. I agree it’s hard. You’re battling a system. But it’s fun to do battle with systems.”
—Bob Woodward

—No. 74—
“Publishers want to take chances on books that will draw a clamor and some legitimate publicity. They want to publish controversial books. That their reasons are mercenary and yours may be lofty should not deter you.”
—Harlan Ellison

—No. 75—
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
—Harper Lee

—No. 76—
“The most important thing is you can’t write what you wouldn’t read for pleasure. It’s a mistake to analyze the market thinking you can write whatever is hot. You can’t say you’re going to write romance when you don’t even like it. You need to write what you would read if you expect anybody else to read it.
And you have to be driven. You have to have the three D’s: drive, discipline and desire. If you’re missing any one of those three, you can have all the talent in the world, but it’s going to be really hard to get anything done.”
—Nora Roberts

—No. 77—
“It’s wise to plan early on where you’d like to go, do serious self-analysis to determine what you want from a writing career. … When I began, I thought I’d be comfortable as a straight genre writer. I just kept switching genres as my interests grew. I’ve since been fortunate that—with a great deal of effort—I’ve been able to break the chains of genre labeling, and do larger and more complex books. But it’s difficult, and few people who develop straight genre reputations ever escape them.”
—Dean Koontz

—No. 78—
“Inevitably, you react to your own work—you like it, you don’t like it, you think it’s interesting or boring—and it is difficult to accept that those reactions may be unreliable. In my experience, they are. I mistrust either wild enthusiasm or deep depression. I have had the best success with material that I was sort of neutral about …”
—Michael Crichton

—No. 79—
“There’s no mystique about the writing business, although many people consider me blasphemous when I say that. … To create something you want to sell, you first study and research the market, then you develop the product to the best of your ability.”
—Clive Cussler

—No. 80—
“A cop told me, a long time ago, that there’s no substitute for knowing what you’re doing. Most of us scribblers do not. The ones that’re any good are aware of this. The rest write silly stuff. The trouble is this: The readers know it.”
—George V. Higgins

—No. 81—
“If you can teach people something, you’ve won half the battle. They want to keep on reading.”
—Dick Francis


—No. 82—
“I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
—Roald Dahl

—No. 83—
“Always remember the reader. Always level with him and never talk down to him. You may think you’re some kind of smart guy because you’re the great writer. Well, if you’re such a smart guy, how come the reader is paying you? Remember the reader’s the boss. He’s hired you to do a job. So do it.”
—Jay Anson

—No. 84—
“In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I’m writing. I just write what I want to write.” "
—J.K. Rowling

—No. 85—
“I don’t believe one reads to escape reality. A person reads to confirm a reality he knows is there, but which he has not experienced.”
—Lawrence Durrell

—No. 86—
“Write out of the reader’s imagination as well as your own. Supply the significant details and let the reader’s imagination do the rest. Make the reader a co-author of the story.”
—Patrick F. McManus

—No. 87—
“The critics can make fun of Barbara Cartland. I was quite amused by the critic who once called me ‘an animated meringue.’ But they can’t get away from the fact that I know what women want—and that’s to be flung across a man’s saddle, or into the long grass by a loving husband.”
—Barbara Cartland

—No. 88—
“You better make them care about what you think. It had better be quirky or perverse or thoughtful enough so that you hit some chord in them. Otherwise it doesn’t work. I mean we’ve all read pieces where we thought, ‘Oh, who gives a damn.’ ”
—Nora Ephron

—No. 89—
“We all tell a story a different way. I’ve always felt that footsteps on the stairs when you’re alone in the house, and then the handle of the door turning can be scarier than the actual confrontation. So, as a result, I’m on the reading list from age 13 to 90.”
—Mary Higgins Clark

—No. 90—
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard. Renounce that and you get your own voice automatically. Try to become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness, and you won’t worry about being heard in The New York Times.”
—Allen Ginsberg

Seeking writing success? Start at the beginning:
The First 50 Pages


Become a WD VIP and Save 10%:
Get a 1-year pass to, a 1-year subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine and 10% off all orders! Click here to join.

Also check out these items from the Writer’s Digest’s collection:
The Novel Writer's Tool Kit
Elements of Fiction Writing: Characters & Viewpoint
How to Write a Book Proposal, 4th Edition
Breathing Life Into Your Characters

No More Rejections
Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner
How to Land a Literary Agent (On-Demand Webinar)

Writer’s Digest Magazine One-Year Subscription
Writer’s Digest 10 Years of Writer’s Digest on CD: 2000-2009

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Blackmail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Blackmail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, one character blackmails another.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

30 Poetry Prompts From 2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge

Get all 30 poetry prompts from the 15th annual November Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge here. Actually, 35 prompts if you're counting Two-for-Tuesday prompts!

How to Stalk Publishing Professionals on Social Media in an Appropriate Way

How to Stalk Publishing Professionals on Social Media in an Appropriate Way

Many people are self-professed "stalkers" on social media, whether they're following life events of friends or celebrities. But writers can learn quite a bit on social media by stalking publishing professionals too, and this post covers the appropriate way to do so.


Samantha Vérant: On Romance and Recipes

Author Samantha Vérant discusses how her writing process changed while writing her new contemporary romance novel, The Spice Master at Bistro Exotique.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 633

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 warm up poem.

Do I Pitch Different to Agents vs. Editors?

Do I Pitch Different to Agents vs. Editors?

Every so often writers ask if they should pitch different to agents vs. editors. This post answers that question and provides some extra help on how to successfully pitch both.

Urban Legend

Urban Legend

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, feature an urban legend in your story.

Grose, 12:6

Jessica Grose: On the Unsustainability of Parenting

Opinion writer and author Jessica Grose discusses the complicated subject of modern motherhood in her new nonfiction book, Screaming on the Inside.

Elizabeth Shick: On Research Through Immersion

Elizabeth Shick: On Research Through Immersion

Award-winning novelist Elizabeth Shick discusses the complete rewrite she devoted to her debut novel, The Golden Land.