7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Hollis Gillespie

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer Hollis Gillespie. Hollis Gillespie is an award-winning humor and travel columnist, with her column appearing every month on Atlanta magazine's coveted back page. She is also a best-selling memoirist.
Publish date:

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Hollis Gillespie, author of TRAILER TRASHED) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent -- by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

Hollis Gillespie is an award-winning humor and
travel columnist, with her column appearing
every month on Atlanta
magazine's coveted
back page. She is also a best-selling memoirist, NPR
commentator, professional speaker,
comedian and guest on the Tonight Show
with Jay Leno. She runs Shocking Real Life, the largest writing school in
Atlanta, which
offers workshops on blogging and social media.
These days she gets most of her exercise running to catch flights.

1. Social and digital media are now essential as well as inescapable. As a writer, if you don't update your skills so they include social and digital media then you might as well lumber off to your secret lair to languish with the other old elephants. If writing is your craft, these tools are now necessary for you to continue it. Other professions are subject to updating—you don't see doctors who cure fevers by blood-letting anymore—and writers are not exempt.

2. There is no such thing as a "finish line." When you sell a book, you are creating a new job for yourself, one that will hopefully replace your old one. It almost doesn't matter how successful you become, you still never feel relaxed enough to rest on your accolades. There have been times as recently as, like, yesterday, when I've told myself that if the restaurant where I waited tables in college knocked on my door right now offering me my apron back, I'd jump at it.

3. Literary agents have very, very specific needs when it comes to material. When you pitch an agent, you have to make sure your material is perfectly in line with the genres she represents. Most likely, that agent has cultivated relationships with publishers that specialize in a very particular line of books. When considering an agent to pitch, at the very minimum make sure there is a book in her client list that strongly compares to your own manuscript.

4. No one is going to steal your memoir idea. Stop worrying about that.

5. No one is going to sue you for how you portrayed them in your memoir. Stop worrying about that. They might not like what you said about them, but since when is it illegal to have a low opinion of someone? I usually put it to my students this way, "If someone in your life has behaved like a volcanic @sshole, you're not legally liable just because you noticed."

6. Fear is the most creatively corrosive element that writers have to face each day, and it comes disguised as so many things. The one I see encountered most often has a lot to do with #5 above. I can't count how many times I've heard a student recount the most fascinating—and marketable—life story, only to insist they can't write about it because they're afraid of how it will be taken.

7. It helps to write your story as though no one will read it. That goes a long way toward solving #5 and #6 above.


Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds 
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more. 
Order the book from WD at a discount.


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.


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?

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)

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.


New Agent Alert: Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.


Timothy Miller: The Alluring Puzzle of Fact and Fiction

Screenwriter and novelist Timothy Miller explains how he came to write historical fiction and how research can help him drive his plot.


Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.