Skip to main content

7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Tom Bentley

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 Tom Bentley. Tom Bentley has run a writing and editing business for more than 10 years. He’s published many freelance pieces—ranging from first-person essays to travel pieces to more journalistic subjects—in newspapers, magazines, and online.

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Tom Bentley) 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



Tom Bentley has run a writing and editing
business for more than 10 years. He’s published
many freelance pieces—ranging from first-person
essays to travel pieces to more journalistic subjects
—in newspapers, magazines, and online. He’s also
a published fiction writer. See his lurid website
confessions (and the range of his writing
services) on his website.

1. Submit the project and move on. Whether it's a personal essay, flash fiction or a tone-poem rewrite of Finnegan's Wake, endless dithering over whether there's too much passive voice or too little interior dialog means the work is endless too. Ship it.

2. You're only as good as your next sentence. Resting on your post-published laurels is much like resting on your hind end. Comfortable, but it won't keep the hounds of "what have you done for me lately" at bay. By the way, thinking that something you've done is "good enough" might mean it isn't—but being paranoid is really the province of serial killers and tax assessors, so keep that keyboard warm.

3. Fifteen minutes of work on something is 100 times better than thinking about working on something. Heck, write it by hand, write it after a crisp martini, write it on one of those diver's slates for writing underwater. Write for 15 and you might write for 15 more. Tolstoy only did a half-hour a day, and look where he went. (Note: this is a lie, but I like to think of it as a “writing prompt.”)

4. Reading writing blogs, publishing news, and/or cleaning up your submissions spreadsheet is not writing. Sure, all those things need doing, and in good time. But not in the good time that you could be spending writing. Writers write (though you can forgive yourself for imagining the publishing party and that killer black dress you'll wear).

5. Trust your voice, even if you occasionally hear all your favorite authors and your mother among them. You do have a voice, don't you?

6. If you're not fearless, fake it. Do you know that info about people "fake smiling," and it having a positive effect on their moods? Fake your fearlessness: Write about things that make you uncomfortable, that are edgy, that sting. You’ll fear them less and less after you brush their hideous fangs up close and personal.

7. Don't worry about two editors or publishers or agents hand-wringingly wanting your book at the same time (through simultaneous submissions); this is like expecting to win the lottery, get that first elusive kiss, and bake a perfect lemon chiffon pie the first time out. Worry about wrinkles or the demotion of Pluto instead.

Image placeholder title


Join the Writer's Digest VIP Program today!

You'll get a subscription to the magazine, a
subscription to WritersMarket.com, discounts
on almost everything you buy, a download,
and much more great stuff.

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.

Your Story Writing Prompts

94 Your Story Writing Prompts

Due to popular demand, we've assembled all the Your Story writing prompts on WritersDigest.com in one post. Click the link to find each prompt, the winners, and more.

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

Historical fiction relies on research to help a story’s authenticity—but it can also lead to developments in the story itself. Here, author Lora Davies discusses how inspiration and research helped shape her new novel, The Widow’s Last Secret.

Poetic Forms

Saraband: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the saraband, a septet (or seven-line) form based on a forbidden dance.

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

International bestselling author Karen Hamilton discusses the “then and now” format of her new domestic thriller, The Ex-Husband.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character give or face an ultimatum.

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

Sylvia Beach was friend to many writers who wrote what we consider classics today. Here, author Kerri Maher shares six things everyone should know about her and Shakespeare and Company.

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

Author Katherine Quevedo takes an analytical look at the creative process in hopes to help other writers find writing success.

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Award-winning author Nick Petrie discusses how he listened to the story that wanted to be told in his new Peter Ash thriller novel, The Runaway.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 596

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 punishment poem.