Goodreads Blog

Advice from Writers about Writing and Publishing

Posted by Cynthia on July 9, 2018
Writer’s block is no joke, and the path to publishing is a long and sometimes bumpy road. Take comfort in knowing that many bestselling writers were once in your shoes and can share their wisdom based on their experience for your benefit.

Jane Yolen, author of The Devil's Arithmetic

“I always listen to critiques, but never take them in whole. Early on I learned to read the readers. Everyone reads a different story than you put down. They read it with their own baggage in tow. Even good readers, even the greatest, even editors, especially critics. So take what you need from their advice, twist it to your own needs, move on. In the end, it's the story that will tell you what to do but you have to listen.”

Susan Ee, author of Angelfall

“Try to get into the habit of writing every day. Freewrite to exercise your story muscles (write whatever comes to mind without filtering and without judging). Take creative writing workshops and get feedback from other writers in your classes.

Read a lot of books that interest you. Write the stories that interest you regardless of what kind of stories your teacher or classmates prefer. If they love literary slice-of-life vignettes but you love epic adventures, write epic adventures. You’ll find your true audience later.”

Joseph Delaney, author of Revenge of the Witch

“Keep a notebook and write down all your ideas (don't edit your ideas but record everything), read widely, observe the world around you, persevere, develop a thick skin and make sure you write as much as you can.”

Tami Hoag, author of Ashes to Ashes

“Write something you love, and learn as much about the business side of being a writer as you can before you try to publish. It's not enough to write a good book. You need to know where it will fit in the marketplace, what publishers you should target, and so on. If you want to be a professional you have to learn about the profession. And lastly: be resilient, adaptable, and determined. This is a tough business.”

Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

“My advice would be to be smart about how you're targeting the people you are querying and to do your research ahead of time. There are strict rules about a query letter. Read up on them, seek out agents who represent the work you write (looking up the agents of writers you are similar to is a good start), and be confident about your work.”

Shayla Black, author of Wicked Ties

“This may sound simple, but you should approach writing a love story (or any story, really) from the heart. Get to know your characters and their conflicts well, figure out what’s keeping them apart, how they need to grow as individuals and as a couple to live happily ever after, then discern what events must transpire for them to start the process of changing and melding together. If you know them well enough to answer those questions and you’re listening to them as you write, making those transitions that slowly reveal the emotional growth in the story will be as natural as breathing.”

Paul Tremblay, author of Head Full of Ghosts

“I think write-you-know is a bad, awful advice. It should be write-to-know or write-to-want-to-know. Anything you write is going to have pieces of you in there, regardless. You don't have to work at that. You (the general you) will never grow as a writer if you're not willing to take on story ideas or characters who different from you and your experience. The best fiction comes from that challenge. Most of the stuff I write is me trying to learn about the people in the situations I put them in. I want to know what they will do, what decisions they will make and why. Starting from a place of empathy (not sympathy); I want to understand.”

What's the best advice you received about writing and publishing? Share it with your fellow authors in the comments below!

Next: The Business of Being a Writer: Turning Attention Into Sales

You might also like: Marketing Advice from Young Adult Author Jenni James

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Comments Showing 1-50 of 53 (53 new)

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message 1: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Appleby-Dean The best writing advice I ever got was to accept that you have to write a bad book before you can write a good one. Look at your first attempt as a learning experience rather than a career-defining masterpiece.


message 2: by David (new)

David Hodges Writing is the most soul-destroying/fantastically rewarding experience, but is like gambling and any other form of addiction - you cannot stop. The worst thing is having a blank screen in front of you and not a single original thought in your head. We've always been there, but as one fellow author said to me, 'If you can't stand a joke, you shouldn't have joined.' Keep at it - it is the Bread of Life!


message 3: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Osborne Benjamin wrote: "The best writing advice I ever got was to accept that you have to write a bad book before you can write a good one. Look at your first attempt as a learning experience rather than a career-defining..."

My sentiments exactly!


message 4: by N. (new)

N. Keith I finally had to follow one of my philosophies, 'Never neglect the gift within.' So I wrote my first book about my dad, who always thought I had writing skills. So I suggest that a first-time author to write about something you know very well first. I'm now working on my second book which will be fiction/mystery, now that I have the bug.


message 5: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Osborne N. wrote: "I finally had to follow one of my philosophies, 'Never neglect the gift within.' So I wrote my first book about my dad, who always thought I had writing skills. So I suggest that a first-time autho..."

So true, N. Good luck with your second book! :-)


message 6: by Denise (new)

Denise Keustermans Ik verwacht mijn nieuw boek MELDA medio Maart in het Nederlands. Het schrijven ervan, geeft me energie en kracht en maakt voor mij het leven de moeite waard. Mijn moeder was mijn steun en sterkte. Haar verhaal waar veel pit, anecdotes en conflicten in zitten brengt tegelijk een boodschap van hoop en liefde.


message 7: by Julian (new)

Julian Lee The best advice I received in writing was that you might never be #1 bestseller, but at least you can improve someone's day with your book. Happy reading!


message 8: by N. (new)

N. Keith Julian wrote: "The best advice I received in writing was that you might never be #1 bestseller, but at least you can improve someone's day with your book. Happy reading!"

Thanks Julian for that comment. I've been disappointed that I've sold only about 30 of my books. But each one that has read it has enjoyed it immensely and shared great reviews about it. So it makes me happier knowing I improved someone's day by them reading it. Thanks for that uplift.


message 9: by Julian (new)

Julian Lee N. wrote: "Julian wrote: "The best advice I received in writing was that you might never be #1 bestseller, but at least you can improve someone's day with your book. Happy reading!"

Thanks Julian for that co..."


I have only sold 2 copies, because 14 copies were free during giveaways. So you did better than me. Good for you!


message 10: by N. (new)

N. Keith My book has been out for about 18 months. So that's just less than 2 a month. They were all sold on Amazon. I too have given away about 10. But all my reviews have been 5 stars. My goal is to turn it into a movie. My last one was sold last July.


message 11: by Julian (new)

Julian Lee N. wrote: "My book has been out for about 18 months. So that's just less than 2 a month. They were all sold on Amazon. I too have given away about 10. But all my reviews have been 5 stars. My goal is to turn ..."

Mine has only been out for 4 months


message 12: by N. (new)

N. Keith My best results was posting it on my facebook. Got more results when my son posted it on his facebook. Have you tried that, having friends on facebook helping you out?


message 13: by Julian (new)

Julian Lee N. wrote: "My best results was posting it on my facebook. Got more results when my son posted it on his facebook. Have you tried that, having friends on facebook helping you out?"
No, I don't have facebook. My mom does and I got a few people to read it that way


message 14: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Osborne Julian wrote: "The best advice I received in writing was that you might never be #1 bestseller, but at least you can improve someone's day with your book. Happy reading!"
The best writing advice I got was, keep writing, don't stop after the first book! In addition, read, especially in the genre you're writing in. It's so easy to get carried away with how many sales we get/or don't get with our first book, but I think it's important to use our first book as a litmus test, to test out our writing skills so to speak. Our first book is not going to be our best work – it’s our first attempt at creating a book and putting it out there for the world to read! The more we write the better we get at it and that's what we should strive for as authors. I know that it's tough starting up as a self-published author, and that's why I'll continue to support my fellow self-published/ indie authors! Keep up the great work and keep creating! :-)


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael Zuniga My first book took about a year and a half to write. It was never published, and does not deserve to be published. It was total rubbish! But I don't feel that that year and a half was wasted. It was a learning experience. Now, I have a book published, far better than my first. Just keep writing, and never give up the dream.


message 16: by David (new)

David Hodges I agree very much with Michael. I started writing in my late teens, then because of my job and the restrictions this imposed on me, I had to put my manuscripts in a drawer for over 30 years. When I retired from my job, I returned to writing with a lot more life's experience, got a publishing contract with my first book, then got another and another. I now have 11 books published and am working on my twelfth - ten crime novels and one auto-biography. It took many, many hours hard soul-destroying work to succeed and a single-minded determination as well. So, my advice is to keep at it and have faith that one day you will get there! There are no 'free lunches' in the writing game, just hard work, and a dedication to the craft that can sometimes be almost too much to endure - and the learning never ends!
David Hodges


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

I received an ad from NABE asking if I wanted to submit my book for the 2019 Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards - for a fee/buying a membership of course. Has anyone done this? Results? Worth the money?


message 18: by Marilynne (new)

Marilynne Adams Ralph wrote: "Ralph GriffithI have been out of federal prison a year and a half, and not a moment to write. As an Indie author and publisher I have got to personally learn how to market, fo..."

I know how you feel. I wrote and published my first book at 71, while I was babysitting full time for a baby for 4 years. The writing was easy, the book was good (so say my friends), but I could not afford the time or $$ to schlep around and promote it! Every place I tried was a dead-end. Every suggestion for ways to promote the book cost hundreds of $$. Even this site (GR) cost more than I had to spend, and, again, I am on the back pages. I am on the verge of giving up. I have two more books written, but unless this one sells more, I can't afford to keep trying. Frustrated.


message 19: by Marilynne (new)

Marilynne Adams N. wrote: "Julian wrote: "The best advice I received in writing was that you might never be #1 bestseller, but at least you can improve someone's day with your book. Happy reading!"

Thanks Julian for that co..."Promotion is the hard part. I don't know what else to do to sell my book. I seem to be on the "back pages" of all the book sites, so if people don't know the name of the book or my name, they aren't going to be able to find it.. Seems like if you have tons of $$ to spend on promotion, you can sell it. If you don't, you are dead in the water.



message 20: by Max (new)

Max Kont Thank you for these tips. Unfortunately, they don't fully suit me because I sought for the tips for writing task at college. I usually order here https://essaysmatch.com/homework-writing and today I wanted to try to write an essay myself.


message 21: by Rajeshdeepak (new)

Rajeshdeepak A bit of very unique and good advice for us. This type of blog post is very helpful for a new blogger to get motivation.

https://www.todayfirstevent.com


message 22: by Luka (new)

Luka J. Riek The best advice I received in writing is that, as a beginner you need to be "mentally crazy" meaning you have to believe that anything is possible since all humanity is equally potential with unlimited gifts. You have to reassure yourself that you're a human being, that you're not far more different from the best writers. All you need is to hang on to this belief and work on it every single minute.


message 23: by Etain (new)

Etain Am still writing, reading, learning and submitting, if you are in writing for just pure financial gain, you will fail dismally.


message 24: by Jerald (new)

Jerald M. I write for self satisfaction. I really could care less if I never sell any.


message 25: by Stan (new)

Stan Singh I have a passion for writing and reading since my good old school days. When I first started writing my first novel The Tears of a Father I did not know the plot or the story I wrote. As someone said once you start it comes naturally...just like riding a small boat in a lake- no matter which direction one goes, shore is bound to come.


message 26: by Stan (new)

Stan Singh Etain wrote: "Am still writing, reading, learning and submitting, if you are in writing for just pure financial gain, you will fail dismally."

Well said Etain...I do not at all have expectations for a lucrative financial returns...it is an expensive hobby in which I get the contentment.


message 27: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Davies Read a great deal. Study great writers and writing techniques. Experiment. Find your strengths, and play them. Aim for perfection; that way you'll produce your best work. Don't imitate other writers; aim for your own authentic voice. Write with passion. Write with humour. Write every day. Focus. Believe in yourself!


message 28: by Madhurima (new)

Madhurima Jain Suzy wrote: "Read a great deal. Study great writers and writing techniques. Experiment. Find your strengths, and play them. Aim for perfection; that way you'll produce your best work. Don't imitate other writer..."
You have put it down so beautifully! I agree completely.


message 29: by Madhurima (new)

Madhurima Jain Writing down my story felt like connecting with my inner most self which was very divine. As I experimented with new words and dived deeper in my story, a miracle started happening. I started recovering from an illness due to which I had been bed-ridden for almost two years. That is when I realised the power of the mind. So yes listen to your heart.... it never lies, it only loves!Princess Mandira - Destiny’s Child


message 30: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Cart Good advice from all. It is always trial and error. I think being honest with yourself is key. A good editor will force your hand to be honest. We don't know everything, we are always learning. My book has been on all the retail sites only two months. In the beginning, I emailed every friend and family member and colleague alerting them of the premiere date. Many bought my book right away, and now reviewing and posting. Its a good launch with those you have kept in touch with over the years who love to read. I am grateful that I get five stars, even though I urge them to be fully honest because it is my first book and I want to be better. Two novels are coming and presently a collection WIP that is important work. I feel, like many, writing from the heart and uplifting others is where we are now in writing as the world is caving in and we need elevation of the spirit. Bless you all in your efforts!


Allen Olen Howard I was looking over a friend's FB page and noticed she had authored a novel. Well, needless to say I was very impressed and more so upon reading it. I asked her how she did it, and what made her theme. She told me (and I am paraphrasing) to write what you know and a story will come. I took that advice and "ran with it." My wife joined me later as the co-author and "PRESTO," "Elah's Bones" was born. Although many times I would come to the dreaded wall... "writers block" I would take some time away and write a short story with other ideas I had, always finding my way back to the novel. One of the most helpful things to me is allowing myself to become the characters. They might be evil, victim, heroic, childish, male, female it does not matter. When I write I become the person or entity I need be.
goodreads to all, Allen Howard


message 32: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Davies Madhurima wrote: "Suzy wrote: "Read a great deal. Study great writers and writing techniques. Experiment. Find your strengths, and play them. Aim for perfection; that way you'll produce your best work. Don't imitate..."

Thanks! Hope you found it helpful :)


message 33: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Davies Madhurima wrote: "Suzy wrote: "Read a great deal. Study great writers and writing techniques. Experiment. Find your strengths, and play them. Aim for perfection; that way you'll produce your best work. Don't imitate..."

Thanks!


message 34: by Frank (last edited Oct 03, 2019 07:43AM) (new)

Frank Clark The Writer's Inner Voice

So often I am asked, where do you get your inspiration. I always reply that my inner voice is my source. The source of my inner voice is my higher power, if you believe in such things, which I do.

Some writers take a story idea and develop it with outlines and references and other “real world” tools to help the story grow. Most writers that I know use this method as it is a tried and true approach.

I take a different approach though, one I have used repeatedly with great success. Free flowing thought, stream of consciousness, whatever you call it, it is the same process.

Read the rest of this blog here: http://frankwaltersclark.com/2019/09/...


message 35: by Jane (new)

Jane Abraham Wow, am new in the writing industry and being an author of self-publishing, its not that easy as i thought, I just publisher my first 5 books and struggling to get readers and reviews, even after given 5 days of FREE promotions, now am trying to make FREE giveaways and ads............spending extra money.... himmmmmmmmm


message 36: by Frank (last edited Oct 09, 2019 05:00AM) (new)

Frank Clark Frank wrote: "The Writer's Inner Voice

So often I am asked, where do you get your inspiration. I always reply that my inner voice is my source. The source of my inner voice is my higher power, if you believe in..."


Jane, I admire your persistence and your desire. Keep at it; don't let anyone tell you different: you are an author, and always will be. Keep writing and get better as you go...

The first thing I did when I started my writing career was learn how to spell properly. The second thing was how to write sentences with proper grammar and structure. And don't be a slacker on either of these two skills, even while posting!

Thirdly, I found an author I liked (Hemingway), and wrote several of his short stories word-for-word, as an exercise toward learning a style of my own. Copying, mind you, not plagiarizing.

Did the same thing with Stephen King. Now I've developed my own style, one that falls somewhere between King and Hemingway.

Read--literally--everything you can get your hands on. Don't be afraid to "go outside the box" when it comes to reading material. Read both fiction and non-fiction, stuff you've never considered any other time in the past.

Ideas come from doing that. Soon, you'll have so many fresh ideas popping in your head you won't know what to do with them all. Just grab one and start writing...

And that's a good thing for any writer!


message 37: by Sarojini (new)

Sarojini Pattayat Thanks everyone for writing advice. I am fighting with myself to write again after publishing two poetry book and one short story book. These three books are in my mother tongue 'Odia'. I have now choosed to write in English. I wished to be a novelist and now reading novels basically fantasy.
Thanks a lot.
I am inspired reading you all.


message 38: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Davies Frank wrote: "The Writer's Inner Voice

So often I am asked, where do you get your inspiration. I always reply that my inner voice is my source. The source of my inner voice is my higher power, if you believe in..."


This is so interesting. I use a combination of both techniques.


message 39: by Jane (new)

Jane Abraham Yes the inner voice is the true silent voice its always good to followe your instinct, gods and believe in the power within!


message 40: by Frank (last edited Oct 15, 2019 02:21PM) (new)

Frank Clark As a professional copywriter, I write (or have written) many different kinds of materials, including personal blogs, web pages, social commentaries, advertising, news print, magazine articles, to mention only a few outlets. I believe it is this continued expression through the various media that is helping me develop my "author's voice," to find words that ring true in my fiction.

The fact that I have two degrees, one shy (Basic Latin, of all things!) 4 sem. hrs. in Creative Writing, the other an associate of science, electronics engineering. also plays an important role in forming my style. Not by any means does becoming a published author require a degree; a deep and abiding passion for the written word will also do the trick.

The point of this/my writing exercise is to show the effect of the mechanics of writing; it's not just all ideas and their development. Sometimes it's just the physical action that incites the creative spark. Just write down whatever comes to mind, and the words will begin to flow--naturally.

Flex those fingers (and imaginations), people!


message 41: by Jane (new)

Jane Abraham Wow, I like your insight, very direct straight to the point. People always believe writers can write everything but its not always the case, following your instinct will lead to a flow.


message 42: by Frank (new)

Frank Clark Muscle Memory

The process is commonly known in the sports world as “muscle memory.” A phenomenon not limited to athletes, writers engage in very similar practices in order to excel at their craft.

Storytelling, whether faction or fiction, uses the same principles. Training through exercising—writing—testing, adjusting, and exercising—rewriting—again.

Top athletes are known to train for long hours in a concerted effort to become the best in their chosen sport. Quite often, a truly dedicated athlete will have begun at an early age and will have trained for years before reaching the pinnacle of their division or field.

My training began while I was a little boy, sitting with my mother while she read Bible stories to me and my brother. To use a similar analogy, she was “priming the well” of my imagination.

Read more: Muscle Memory


message 43: by Frank (last edited Oct 31, 2019 03:42AM) (new)

Frank Clark Tulis menarik, menerbitkan, mengiklankan, menjual, mengulangi.
Semoga berjaya!


message 44: by J. (new)

J. A. How do I do review?
Currently reading about 6 ebooks to review. Where do they go when I am working on review draft?


message 45: by Dana (new)

Dana Holland Marilynne wrote: "Ralph wrote: "Ralph GriffithI have been out of federal prison a year and a half, and not a moment to write. As an Indie author and publisher I have got to personally learn how..."

Hello Marilynne, You need to go to Amazon!! You can publish in all formats and Amazon walks you through the whole process and the prices aren't astronomic!!


message 46: by Raletta (new)

Raletta Thanks for the good advise! You can also check our blog and can write for us ONLINE JOBS, it will help our visitors.


message 47: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Ashton Blake Snyder's Board will help many an author get past writer's block painlessly. All you need do is shuffle the cards around on the board and start writing at a different spot. Well worth exploring - my blog post on Snyder and his board: https://glennashton.blogspot.com/2011...


message 48: by Madiha (new)

Madiha Jamal The best advice I have received as a writer,
"You don't need words to write, you need a creative and innovative mind which directs you to plot your thoughts on the paper, no matter how sloppy the writing gets. Keep plotting your thoughts and one day these will make a perfect structure and ultimately your identity. "


message 49: by Suzy (last edited Jul 26, 2020 04:59PM) (new)

Suzy Davies Jane Yolen has nailed it for me. Just give of your best. Always write something that interests and captivates you and your readers. Don't be satisfied or complacent. Seek to improve your writing with constant practice. Read to keep yourself informed of your market. Write for yourself and be aware of your audience. Have your work edited thoroughly. You will know when you have written a good one! It feels right. It sounds right.


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