Advice for Writers by Writers who Write

image by Charles Schulz

So the summer’s over and if you’re a writer, perhaps you didn’t get done what you thought you’d get done. That’s usually how it goes for me in my writing life, as for most of July and August the beach beckons, the gin and tonics run freely, and with a less scheduled life I just get less done. Although I must say, I read much, much more! More queries, more manuscripts, and even more actual books read simply for my own pleasure. But I didn’t really work on any fiction writing this past summer. (See my last post to see why I might even be thinking about this.)

Besides being an agent, I’m also like many of you: an unpublished fiction writer. Yes! Agents can be writers, too! I asked a bevy of authors, some published and some still on their way, “What’s one bit of advice you have for unpublished writers?” Here’s what they said…

Fill your life with other positive-minded writers so you can hang out with folks who “get” you and your dreams. Socialize with them, swap ideas, and encourage each other. If you don’t have a crit group in your area, form one! ~ Marie Lamba


Two words: patience, and grasshopper. ~ Katie Bowden


Write a synopsis, even if the agents you’ll be querying don’t require one at the query stage. As big a bitch as it is to create one, articulating your ms in a page or two will help you see it better, and might inspire necessary revision. Better now than after you get a request.

~ Rhonda Saunders


Take yourself seriously; if you don’t call yourself a writer, no one else will either. ~ Carmella Van Vleet


First piece of advice: Don’t give up. Second piece: Don’t be a jerk. ~ Damien Walters Grintalis


Join SCBWI and go to the regional conferences. Even if you’re a starving artist, it’s worth the member fee. I wish I’d taken this advice when someone told it to me. I wasted years. ~ Judith L. Roth


Write because you love to write, or need to write. Because not writing isn’t an option. Write because writing is its own reward, even when it feels like punishment. Writing is the cake. And when you have written the best thing you can write, getting published will be the icing. ~ Ruth Horowitz


Give your Muse flowers and breakfast in bed, regularly. Which is to say, be kind and gentle with yourself–especially during first drafts. ~ Michael Gettel-Gilmartin


Work on something else while you’re waiting on responses from agents and/or editors. A shiny new project is a great distraction. ~ Stephanie Winkelhake


Keep in mind that the publishing race is a marathon, not a sprint.

~ Timothy Power


Learn how the business works. Be professional. See yourself as a professional. Recognize that mastering craft is only one part of the job. ~ Amber J. Keyser



Figure out what will make a manuscript compelling before you write it rather than trying to make it sound compelling after you’ve written it. ~ W.E. Larson


 What advice do you have for other writers?


Filed under Uncategorized

9 responses to “Advice for Writers by Writers who Write

  1. Remember that what you are doing is a job, and it has to be treated as such; there are deadlines, there is endless professional development, and there is always a great amount of uncertainty and no guarantee that all your hard work will necessarily be rewarded. But it’s also the best, most interesting job in the world. That’s why it’s worth it.

  2. I love the tips!

    Mine would be to draft a query letter once the first draft of the ms is done. I find my query letters evolve with time, and I want to work out as many of the kinks as I can before I start querying. Another advantage is I sometimes don’t fully see my story until I’ve completed a draft. Having to write that one paragraph blurb that says what makes my story unique and special is helpful before revising.

  3. Emily

    Read the New York Times book review section every Sunday. It’s cheaper than a writing seminar and much more useful. Plus, pajamas are encouraged!

  4. Rhona

    I love Katie Bowden’s ‘Patience. . . Grasshopper’
    Just refrain from the lifting of cauldrons of red hot coals with your bare arms! There’s enough pain in editing without that kind of thing.

  5. Accountability. When you are unpublished there is no editor asking for revisions on a deadline. Simple goals keep you focused like: submit The Magic Orangepeel ms to Fruit Publishers by December 1. Blogging on a schedule also helps to develop discipline. (I hope accountability and discipline aren’t dirty words to writers)

  6. Read. Read everything. Read books especially in the genre you want to write, but read books outside of it as well.

  7. I don’t get much writing done over summer because the kids are home… the beach and gin and tonics (or, in my case, vodka tonics) sound like a lovely excuse. 🙂

    As much as I hate writing synopses, I think Rhonda’s on to something. I’ll have to try it before I query my next ms!

  8. A lot of great advice there. Nicely collected. I’ve been lucky this summer because I’ve really started giving myself the encouragement that I don’t get from people around me, and because of that I’ve been able to get more and more written. At the moment I’m working on two short stories at once, swapping between them whenever I need a break, and I’m getting so much done.

    But I absolutely know what it’s like to look back and wonder what I might have done, if I’d been pushing myself like I am now.

    Thank you for this post, it was very inspiring.