Don Fry has taught over 10,000 writers worldwide to write better and faster with less agony. He a writing coach who has worked with newspapers and magazines, radio and television stations, and non-profit organizations. He is the author of 17 books including Writing Your Way: Creating a Writing Process That Works for You. Here in an exclusive interview he offers writing advice, thoughts on working with editors, and more.
What message do you find yourself repeating over and over to writers?
Your writing has to be perfect only at the end, when you hand it over. Trying to make and keep everything perfect early in your writing process will make you slow and hurt your confidence. Keep saying to yourself, “Get it down, then get it right.”
What piece of advice that you received over the course of your career has had the biggest impact on your success?
My former student Roy Peter Clark and I decided to write for readers, not for ourselves and not for teachers. Together we reoriented journalists to write for readers, not for the newsroom.
What's the worst kind of mistake that new writers, freelancers, or book authors can make?
They must never give up. Getting started as a professional writer is just one discouragement after another. They have to convince themselves not to take rejection personally and to persist.
How would you describe your writing routine?
I think in pictures while wandering around thinking about what I want to say. When it’s all there in my memory, I type it as fast as I can without revising. Then I take a long break, read it aloud, and revise whatever needs work. If I have time, I revise it once more.
If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?
Beginning authors face daunting obstacles when trying to break in. Agents and publishers keep rejecting them, often without helping. I would change the tone of these interchanges. Online publication, alas, may eliminate agents and publishers, but authors need their guidance and help.
In what way has your writing/publishing life changed in the past 5 years?
I’ve written two blogs, which required me to create a new voice, and I’ve shifted from writing non-fiction to fiction. Both of these have been remarkably freeing experiences. I’ve never struggled as a writer, but I’ve also never had so much fun.
Do you have any advice for new writers on seeking agents?
Buy a guidebook to agents to find out their specialties Ask every writer you know who represents them, and how they’re treated. Then make up a list of target agents and keep approaching them until you hit.
What about advice for writers on working with editors?
Never argue with editors. In all discussions with them, reorient everything to serving your readers’ needs, not your tastes or the editor’s.
What do you see as your biggest publishing accomplishment?
My latest book, Writing Your Way, resulted from 32 years of writing and coaching writers. If I had read it when I was 18, I would be a different person today.
Any final thoughts?
Writing doesn’t have to be agonizing, and can be fun. Read Writing Your Way to learn how.