Best Writing Advice Ever!

Recently, I was invited to do a live workshop on WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE. As I was putting together my presentation, I thought I’d leave my students with a few fabulous quotes before I let them march off into the sunset to write their first book.

To find my quotes, I put out a call to writer friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Verla Kay’s message board. I asked them to tell me the best writing advice they’ve ever heard. What would they say to a newbie writer? And this is what I got.  *Maybe you’ll find a little inspiration, too.*

Wendy Shang
Write a two-paragraph summary of your novel in the beginning of the process. This forces you to give your book a good overview and figure out the basic mechanics of your story. (And it will come in handy later for queries!)

Christina Mandelski
Read, read, read both in your genre and in others. Note what you love, hate or are indifferent to. Consider reading a vital part of your education as a writer.

Kirsty Stewart
Learn as much as you can! There are so many resources online – forums, articles, blogs etc and most for free. Make the most of them

Greg Trine
If, as you’re writing, you think This Is Crap, say to yourself, Of course it’s crap—it’s my rough draft…and press on.

Kathy Erskine
Never give up! Never surrender!

Corey Rosen Schwartz
When you think your story is ready to submit, chances are.. it’s NOT. Biggest newbie mistake- sending manuscripts out too soon. REVISE REVISE REVISE
Yesterday at 10:11am ·

Esme Codell
Keep your butt in the chair.

Shelley Souza
Write what you believe in, not what you think the market wants.

Denise Jaden
Don’t compare. Ever. No two writers’ journeys will be the same, and it’s impossible to know what YOURS will look like until you get there.

Sallie Wolf
Type up some of your favorite books in the genre you write in to see what a manuscript (or manuscript page or chapter) looks like. If you are a picture book writer, type up whole books in manuscript form to get the word count, see how that ms looked when it went to the publisher.

Katie Sparks
No matter what you need to write. Brainstorm, take notes, and read, read, read but make sure you find time to do the obvious: write.

Carol Coven Grannick
Learn and practice the skills of heartfelt positivity if they don’t come naturally. Those skills will keep you resilient, and resilience is the most important tool in the writers’ toolbox.

Ame Dyckman
When THE IDEA hits you, write it down IMMEDIATELY. (Unless you’re driving at high speed.)

Larry Mike Garmon
Write good.

Victoria D. Morris
Mandy Hubbard
A published author is just an amateur who didn’t quit. Don’t quit!

Mandy Hubbard
Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.

Tim Smith
Frivolity is a stern taskmaster.

Gerri Lanier
Keep your chin up and don’t be afraid to take risks with your writing.

Heather Isbill Spiva
Hard work brings a profit, but mere talk … only loss.

Susan Manzke
There’s never enough time to write, so you have to write in the cracks of life.

Maurissa Guibord
Save all your rejection letters. They are paid dues stubs.

Walter Mayes
Writing is a craft; getting published is a business. Comport yourself accordingly.

Henry Mahncke
William Gibson’s advice: write. finish. repeat.
Wed at 3:06pm ·

Amy Reed
No matter what, tell the truth.

Maggie Moe
No story is trivial. Take time to learn the craft and always ask questions. Network. Attend Conferences. And if you end up with a practice novel (I have two) don’t get discouraged – keep going. Your story will eventually be told and it will be good.

Mindi Scott
From E. Lockhart: Give yourself the freedom to write badly. High standards are the death of creativity. Just write it badly. You can fix it later. Change it completely if need be.

Catherine Felt
Read as much as you can. Good readers make good writers.

Aimee Walker
My advice is….CALM DOWN. Patience is everything.

Jay Asher
Don’t write sucky stuff.

Lia Keyes
Turn off the internet for two hours at the same time every day until the first draft is completed. And don’t show it to ANYONE until that first draft is accomplished.

Jenni Bielicki
Don’t write for the market. Write from your heart.

Don’t be a copy. You’re not being you and you’re sure not being them, so you’re being a nobody.

Stephen Messer
Write every day.

Barrie Summy
If you write one page a day for a whole year, you’ll have a book that’s 365 pages long. (Which is longer than anything I’ve ever written!)

Michelle Thomas Houts
Read the book Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, especially the chapter called Shi**y First Drafts.

MJ Diem
If you hit rock bottom hard enough, you’ll bounce.

Stephanie Theban
If it’s in your soul to write, you’ll keep writing — whether you get published or not. Since you’re going to do it, you owe it to yourself to do it as well as you can. That means read, study, get critiques, and keep working.

Charline Profiri
Read your writing out loud.

Holly Cupala
There are two parts to writing: learning the craft, and telling the story of your soul. The one you can learn by taking classes, joining critique groups, and reading what speaks to you. The other you can only learn by living.

Duane Parsons
Write it fast,the whole thing,don’t stop until you’re done,then go back and re-write & polish at your leisure. Too many people who start novels never finish them. But I’ve read plenty of unfinished novels of very high quality; it would have sold. The first order of business is to complete it. Don’t worry about the quality of the prose itself,just get the narrative down,including dialogue. You can add all the pretty descriptive passages you want later on. They’ll be better that way in any event. People tend to stop and linger over a passage,trying to come up with poetic language. Leave it for later. Again: get it done. Start writing and don’t stop until it’s finished. This is an example. Too long. Lots of repetition. So what? I can shorten it later. Tighten it up,etc. Start,go,finish. THEN go back and rework as needed.

Now I’m finished. Cyn,let me know if you want to see a polished-up version. See kids? Just get it done. First order of business. Even if I didn’t feel disposed to go back over it my editor will probably make me.

Jodi Turchin
The thing I cherish most I learned from Jane Yolen. BIC. In order to have written, you must write. Butt in Chair and just WRITE.

Linda L. Eadie
Read, read and read some more.

Wendy Lynn Decker
Re-writing can take twice as long as writing a first draft. Never think one or two or three re-writes is all you need. You need to re-write until your story sings a memorable tune.

Jim Danielson
Enjoy what your writing — there are many revisions in your future.

Cynthia Hand
Writing takes training. Educate yourself. Then, no matter what anyone tells you, write what you’re passionate about.

Dian Curtis Regan
Marry well. Preferably, an editor.

Vicki Van Grack
Do it like the French cook. Butter, butter, butter, write, write, write…

Ed Masessa
“NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER”. wait a minute, that’s from Galaxy Quest.

Weronika Jańczuk
Write honest, and write deep. Write until you’re satisfied and then learn to tear what you’ve written apart – a true writer is a rewriter.

Jeannie Alford Hagy
Concentrate on learning the craft and wait patiently for publication. Remember that very few writers are good enough to be published without lots of YEARS of practice!

Michael Anthony Stiber
There comes a time to put all of the advice aside and listen to your heart.

M Molly Backes
Keep a list of your acknowledgements as you go, because by the time you’re finished with your book you’ll be too addled to remember everyone who helped along the way.

Edna Cabcabin Moran
It’s one thing to be a writer. It’s another thing to be a storyteller.

Laurie J. Edwards
Find a critique group that’s supportive, but honest. It’s easier if you don’t go on this journey alone.

Amanda Coppedge Bosky
Find a safe place to vent and freakout. This place does not include your public blog or Twitter. That way you can let off steam without damaging your reputation. Google finds everything.

Larry Mike Garmon
“A persistent writer knows how to reach and to scratch the most inaccessible itch.”

Kimberly Thompson Strickler
Give your story time to evolve.

Sheela Chari
You’ll never get the same amount of time to write the second book. Enjoy your time writing the first.

Denise Harbison
“To be requested and rejected is better than to never have been requested at all.” -Denise Harbison

David Case
Wait, wait, and then wait again before you sub.

Laurie Faria Stolarz
Perseverance is key.

Loretta Ellsworth
My mentor, Jane Resh Thomas, says to write what haunts you.

Diane O’Neill
Write every day. Whether it’s for five minutes or five hours, write every day. For encouragement, read Brenda Ueland’s “If You Want to Write.”

Larry Mike Garmon
The genius of Story is not in how much a writer does, but in how little. The job of a confident writer is not to include a single word to simply keep the reader’s attention. He reduces each scene to its essence, and keeps the reader there just long enough for the reader to contemplate it, to inhabit it in Imagination.To hell with suspense. The reader wants understanding. Story is not concerned with thrilling the reader, but with inspiring the reader with awe and wonder.

From Twitter

Owning Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD is like having a writer buddy on your bookshelf at any hour you need one.

Read a lot. Write the books you want to read.

write the book you want to read

Sid Fleischman said, “When you revise, don’t throw anything away. Put it in a doggy bag. You might be able to use it.” Proved true.

The best promotion is between the covers of the last book. ~Donald Maass

I don’t think writers should write about answers, I think we should write about questions. ~Paul Haggis

The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis. ~William Styron

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly. ~C.J. Cherryh

The hardest part of being a writer is not getting ur commas in the right place but getting ur head in the right place. ~Ralph Keyes

“Follow your weirdness.” (Annie Dillard) – freed me to write what my internal editor was begging me not to

Vijaya (The Blueboards)
Just write the damn book.

if you don’t take yourself seriously as a writer no one else will (so don’t feel guilty about making time and space to write)

Never interrupt the fictional dream by distracting the reader.

Ask: Do I need this chapter? Do I need this Paragraph, Do I need this Sentence, Do I need this WORD.


Pictures may be “worth a thousand words”, but words can create a thousand pictures.

“Writing for children is hard work. And if you don’t seriously pursue publication, it’s only a hobby.” Candie Moonshower

From writers at Verla Kay’s Message board (

“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“Writers write.”

Richard Bach’s “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however.”

E.L. Doctorow: Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

E. B. White: “All I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.”

Amanda Coppedge
We must shape our words till they are the thinnest integument for our thoughts.
–Virginia Woolf, “Orlando”

Writing can be difficult, but sometimes it really does feel like a kind of magic. I think that stories are living things–among the most important things in the world.
–David Almond

Adult fiction is a wonderful thing and enriching to the soul and mind, and it takes you to great places. But children’s fiction can change the world and give you a refuge from the intolerable. It can give you a place of safety and show you the world is not bounded by the world you live in–there’s more than that.
–Neil Gaiman

When we turn away from tough material in stories that kids face every day in real life, we take ourselves off the short list of people to turn to. Kids would much rather we found ways to discuss those tough issues than to pretend they don’t exist. They will always come up in real life, it seems to me we want to be there when they do. Kids say over and over that we don’t understand. Why don’t we see if we can prove them wrong once in a while?
–Chris Crutcher

[On what it takes to be a writer] It takes a thick skin and it takes professionalism and optimism.
–Cindy Pon

There’s no end to story. The world suggests stories as you go along . . . . I write a story; it goes out into the world; somebody reads it and, by reading it, completes it.
–Margaret Mahy

Marcia Hoehne
“Novel writing is the terminal stage of the disease called novel reading.”

Jean Reagan
“I write books to help children become braver, kinder, and gentler.” ~ Bruce Coville

Marissa Doyle
Madeleine L’Engle: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” Robert Frost

Words are like tigers; the writer is both hunter and prey.

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”
E. L. Doctorow

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”
Napoleon Hill

“Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.”
Sharon O’Brien

“Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Mark Twain

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.”
Author Unknown

“Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.” Going Crazy
Graycie Harmon

“A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.”
Baltasar Gracián

“It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.” Sinclair Lewis

“Books want to be born: I never make them. They come to me and insist on being written, and on being such and such.”
Samuel Butler

“Only bad writers think that their work is really good.”
Anne Enright

“The worst thing you do write is better than the best thing you don’t write.”
April Young Fritz

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”
Franz Kafka

“If you call yourself a writer, you can read all you want and people think you are working.”
Katherine Paterson

“Like everyone else, I am going to die. But the words–the words live on for as long as there are readers to see them, audiences to hear them. It is immortality by proxy. It is not really a bad deal, all things considered.”
J. Michael Straczynski (from Charline Profiri’s website)

“You owe it to all of us to get on with what you’re good at.”
W. H. Auden

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
Winston Churchill

“Success is that brief interval between a stroke of luck and a stroke.”
Ellen Jackson

“It takes a heap of loafing to write a book.”
Gertrude Stein

“You see more sitting still than chasing after.”
Jonathan Franzen

“In order to write you must have confidence in your own experience, that it is rich enough to write about.”
Natalie Goldberg

“Although sometimes I have felt that I held fire in my hands and spread a page with shining – I have never lost the weight of clumsiness, of ignorance, of aching inability.”
John Steinbeck

“The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.”
Annie Dillard

“Like dog food and coffins, children’s books are usually picked out by someone other than the ultimate recipient.”
Tracy Mayor

“Revision is when you first get to recognize the distance between what you wanted to write, what you thought you were writing, and what you actually did write. That recognition often makes you want to throw up.”
Carolyn See

“Several delusions weaken the writer’s resolve to throw away work. If he has read his pages too often, those pages will have a necessary quality, the ring of the inevitable, like poetry known by heart; they will perfectly answer their own familiar rhythms.”
Annie Dillard

“If you want to write anything that works, you have to go with the grain of your talent, not against it. If your imagination is inert and sullen in the face of business or politics…but takes fire at the thought of ghosts and vampires and witches and demons, then feed the flames, feed the flames.”
Philip Pullman

“What happens is a reciprocal gift between writer and reader: one heart in hiding reaching out to another.”
Katherine Paterson

There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
–Red Smith

Jonathan Maberry
I met Ray Bradbury when I was a teenager, and one of the things he said was: “Writing is 99% thinking about it, and the rest is typing.”

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” ~Cicero, 106-43 BC

Avalon Ink
You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.

Kathy Lawrence.
“Write, write, write.”

You don’t have to write the whole damn book today! (Carmella Van Vleet)

You want to be a writer
but don’t know how or when?
Find a quiet place,
use a humble pen. ~Paul Simon

Tammi Sauer
Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. Revise. Revise. Revise. Revise. Revise. Revise. Revise. Revise. Oh. And then revise. After that you should probably revise.

Don’t. Stop. Believin’.

3 thoughts on “Best Writing Advice Ever!

  1. Timeless tips for sure. I love the way Stephen King talks about the discipline of writing. He shares that we all need a bit of bum glue to get us writing. In other words, focus and stay seated.

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