On The Best Advice They’ve Received About Publishing and Writing

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Since I often ask similar questions of people I interview, I wanted to collect some of their responses here, under the umbrella of that particular topic. That way, if you’re looking for quick advice or inspiration on a particular subject, you can browse these posts to see what a variety of very talented writers and other professionals say.

Here, I’ve collected together responses to the question: What’s the best advice you’ve received about publishing or writing?

I’ve linked to each full blog post below–and if you click the link, you can also scroll down to find the ways you can follow or connect with these authors.


“I think the best advice I ever got was from my dad. He always said to me that the key to getting published was persistence and that you just had to keep going and working hard whenever you received a setback. It helped me get into the right mindset from the very beginning and not just expect that everything would come straight away, or easily.”

Alex Bell


“The best advice was from Steven King’s book On Writing. It read something like, ‘Don’t listen to all the ta-do about how hard it is to get published. It may be hard. But there is always room for those who are talented.'”

Carol Plum-Ucci


“This advice is from Ernest Hemingway, and it helped me cope with my fear of long-form writing:

The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work.

I was afraid I would run out of gas or lose my place if I attempted to write every day for months on end. When you save a little juice for the next day, you start with a push that sparks your imaginative engine. You live to chug away yet another day.”

Kathleen O’Dell


“If something is too clever, you need to cut it.” My editor wrote that in my very first edit letter and at the time I was like “Wut” but it’s so true. Isolated bits of cleverness, too-pretty writing you spent hours labouring over, puns, etc., can rip a reader out of the flow, slow things down, be jarring and annoying. I’m still learning this lesson, but I think writing books is about sustaining and modulating mood, not stringing together clever bits of dialogue and visuals.”

Stefan Bachmann


“The best advice I received was to write another book while I was querying my first. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear— I wanted the book I was querying to land an agent and a book deal! That book didn’t pan out, and it was easier to move on and set it aside because I had another manuscript ready to go. I’d tell authors who want to get published to always be thinking about the next book and not to pin all their hopes on their first book.”

Kara Thomas


“An older, wiser writer once told me: “write what obsesses you.” I’ve never forgotten it. Being completely obsessed with your work– or the question it strives to ask– is the only way you’ll have the passion and energy to see it through to the end.”

Danya Kukafka


“I kept my writing dreams mostly to myself for the 10 years it took me to get published. (I would certainly approach it differently now, but back then? I didn’t want to hear how hard it was to get published, or how I should maybe give it up. I wanted to succeed.) So the best advice I’d have about writing/publishing is #1) revision is your friend–I revise my novels about 20 times now before submitting them. And, #2) always be working on something new. Don’t wait around. The more you write the better you get. And if you’re always working on something new, the rejections that will almost certainly come won’t sting so much.”

Wendelin van Draanen


“The best advice I got about writing, I actually received when I was fifteen years old, from Andre Norton, who answered fan letters personally. She said to read history. Get outside of the US-centric view. (This was particularly important in the days when history was taught so very US-centric, when I was a kid.) The best *publishing* advice I got that might be useful to writers now (things have changed so very much) was : learn to rewrite, and get an agent if you are no good at marketing yourself.”

Sherwood Smith


“Business-wise, some things do get easier—hopefully, once you’ve found an agent, you’ll be able to stick with them over time. But that’s not necessarily true of editors and publishers. Having a track record can be a double-edged sword: if your first book doesn’t sell commensurate to the publisher’s expectations, it can actually be more difficult to sell the second one. And having published a book in a specific genre and tone can lead pretty quickly to pigeonholing—i.e., you become known as a writer who does a particular kind of thing. If that thing isn’t in demand, it can be tough to sell another book in that style; and it can be even tougher to reinvent yourself, write something completely different, and then persuade editors to consider you in a different context.”

Geoff Rodkey


“‘Write the book you would like to read.’ This sounds obvious, but it is important to trust your own taste. Unless you feel–passionately–that the book you are writing will be a great one, then you won’t have the strength to see the project through, at least to see it through at the level of excellence required to break into a crowded market.”

William Landay


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