The best writing advice I ever received…

For this post, twenty authors and writers contributed the best writing advice they ever received. As writers, we sometimes find ourselves discouraged by the lengthy process toward success. I’ve created this post as a source of support, guidance, and reference.


“The best writing advice I’ve ever received was…”

1. Raven McAllan: “The best writing advice I’ve ever received was write as you can, not as you think you should. Also…Remember, all reviews are subjective and you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Raven is the author of Rogue Scandals (Wallflowers Don’t Wilt: To Please A Lady and A Most Unusual Mistress), Ladies of London (La Bella Isabella: The Best Man’s Bridesmaid: A Most Unusual Mistress), The House on Silk Street (Silver Silk Ties: A Shimmer of Silk). Links: Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

2.Caitlin Hensley: “The best writing advice I’ve ever received was from a great book on writing that I read. The book said to write for yourself, not other people. If you spend all your time imagining how friends or family would react to what you’ve written, you’ll never be truly happy with your books. So write, and enjoy writing, and don’t think about possible reactions until you’ve typed out every word.” Caitlin is the author of Paranormal Legacy, due to be released March 2013. Links: Blog, Facebook.

3. Laura Monti: “Try to avoid adverbs and adjectives ending in ‘-ly.’ Show don’t tell, paint a picture with your words. Watch the vocabulary when expressing a story. It is not a time to show off a sophisticated vocabulary. Readers don’t like to look words up in order to understand what the writer is talking about.” Laura is the author of The Last Christmas Tree.

4. Michael “Mag Dee” DeNobile: “The best writing advice I’ve ever received: Read like a writer and write like a reader. The two actions are inseparable. When we read, in addition to being entertained, we should subconsciously be studying how the writer constructs letters into words, words into phrases, and phrases into poetry, prose, and drama. When we write, while we first write for ourselves, we need to be aware of our intended reading audience, who we want to read our work. We need to study our audience by getting engrossed in their culture, their euphemisms, their lifestyle, even in a figurative sense. Then, write. Read, then write some more.” Links: Facebook, Twitter1, Twitter2.

Quote: “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” ~CS Lewis

5. Jessica E. Subject: ” The best writing advice I’ve ever received was… to join a critique group and have my work read and critiqued by other authors.” Jessica is the author of Beneath the Starry Sky, Satin Sheets in Space, and more. Because everyone in the universe deserves a happily ever after. Link(s): Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon.

6. D. F. Krieger: “The best writing advice I’ve ever received was the answer will always be “no” if you don’t try.” D.F. is the author of various titles at Secret Cravings Publishing, Evernight Publishing, and Breathless Press such as To Honor, The Submission, and His Prey.

7. Adrienne Thompson: “The best writing advice I’ve ever received was to forget about word counts and to write until the story is completed, let the story guide you and you can’t go wrong.” Adrienne is the author of Bluesday, Been So Long, When You’ve Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven), Lovely Blues, and See Me. Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo.

8. Ivy Bateman:  “The best writing advice that I’ve ever received wasn’t even advice, it was an observation I made. A few years ago, a shop I worked in hosted a monthly writing group. It had been ages since I’d written anything and years since I’d showcased anything I’d written to the public. The topic for the group that month was gardens and spring and I wanted to write a heartfelt piece about my Grandmother and her garden. However, the more I thought about it, the further away from writing it I got until, literally about an hour before the group was to meet, I thought of my daughter and how she wrote. Ever since she learned to write, she has been writing stories. To get the to point, the advice she offered me, or rather showed me, was to stop thinking and just write. So, I picked up her cue and followed her technique; I sat down with some paper, but a pen in my hand, put my head down, my pen on the paper, stopped thinking and wrote. I was amazed how much I could write when I stopped thinking too much. I’ve written that way ever since and every day I’m thankful for “advice” my daughter taught me.” Ivy is the author of Between the Lines and The Fifth Story, both of which are published by and available at Breathless Press. Her next released, Baby, You’re Cold Inside is set to be released from Breathless Press on Dec. 21, 2012. Links: Twitter, Facebook, The Fifth Story By Ivy Bateman, Book Trailer.

9. Kelly Darrow: “You have enough here for two books. Drop about a hundred pages. Author of Shop Side and The American Dream Poetry Collection. Links: Shop Side  e-book and print version:,,

10. Donna Miele: “…was from Emmy Laybourne, author of Monument 14. When writing a first draft, don’t let that asshole writing partner in your room… you know the one, who peers over your shoulder and says, ‘Oooh, that really sucks. No, you can’t write that. You know what? It’s really not happening today.’ That guy is great for telling you when you’re drinking too much, or for reminding you not to yell at your mom, or curse in public. But you can’t invite him along while you’re writing a first draft.” Donna is the author of Excisions, Cuppa Pulp Booksellers and Writer’s Space owner and manager.

11. Maria Costa: “The best writing advice I ever received was to keep writing. Good, bad, awful, excellent… Keep going!” of

12. Tanya M. Beltram: “The best writing advice I’ve ever received was stop making writing harder on yourself by being your worst analyst. There’s a group of people out in the world waiting to do that for you, so why be one of them? Your role is to make your writing journey as easy as possible. If your chapter one sounds better as chapter three, move it there without thinking. If half of your last chapter sounds better as a chapter one, start cutting and pasting. You know your work better than anyone, so do everything you need to do in order to finish your book, short story or poem the easiest way you can. Leave judgment for your editors, audience and critics. Your job is to just write. Why stress something that you have the power to always fix?” Inkwell Journal‘s former Editor-in-chief (2011-2012) and Fiction editor (2010-2011). Links: (coming soon!)

13.Erika Kimberly: “The best advice I’ve ever received came from a workshop I took with Toi Derricotte, co-founder of the Cave Canem Foundation. She explained to us that as writers our job is to uncover the details in the poems we wish to tell. So sometimes we sit down to pen what we think is the “the” poem but, it’s not. There is always a deeper place, a deeper space where the real poem comes from. That space is where raw emotions dwell but too often because they’re powerful we don’t use them as much as we should. In the workshop we did three writing workshops that lead us to our ‘hot spot’. Her advice to us was to write quick declarative sentences about the situation you want to write about. For example, I was tired. I was hungry. I was cold. Then, she told us to take one or two of those sentences and flesh them out into a paragraph about the situation. Finally, we used that create the poem. I’ve used this exercise many times to help me write about things that were layered in emotion when I didn’t know which angle to use to get in and pull the poem out. So in short, the best advice I’ve gotten so far is to sit down and find your hot spot!” Links:, Twitter.

14. Maureen Mancini Amaturo: “1. Keep writing. The only writer who never succeeds is a writer who quits. 2. Write scenes that show, don’t tell. Let the action happen and the reader can feel it along with the characters. Make your writing real and take full advantage of the five senses in your scenes. 3. Get out there. Join writers groups, critique groups, classes, and attend writers conferences. Network. 4. …and the advice I give other writers, especially young writers, if you can speak, you can write. It’s a matter of letting the words to to print instead of voice. Write as you would speak. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you are writing!” Links: Unicorn Writers’ Conference.

15.Frank Valbiro: “The best writing advice I ever received came from my editor, Pamela Palmer Mutino. She instructed me to always lock into a train of thought that focused on the human condition. No matter what the subject matter is, you need to find elements in a story that could be relatable to a reader who lived in the 21st century, or the 10th century. Jealousy, anger, hope, joy, love found, love lost, fear, irrational anxieties; it’s all relevant to living a human life at any point in our history. Quality literature isn’t dated.” Author of Phantasma, Jet Fuel Crucifix. Links: Amazon.

16. Lorraine Danza: “The best writing advice I’ve ever received was… ‘don’t be afraid to go far enough’ by Pat Gauch.”

17. Alicia Zadrozny: “My inner radio station is perpetually set to KFKD (as Anne Lamott coined in Bird by Bird.) It plays loudly. It reminds me of my failures. It doubts my abilities. It gets particularly deafening when I sit down to write. I’ve worked in publishing and journalism and have absorbed a lot of writerly advice along the way. The best of it tells me to turn off the chatter and just sit down and do it. The authors I most respect do this too. They are free of excuses. They are not free of neuroses exactly, but they have the ability to sit down and turn the down their radio stations to an acceptable level. So I try to do the work of a writer and just sit down and write. But I admit it still not very easy. Thankfully, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield landed in my path. In it, the author and screenwriter lays out that to destroy the inner beast of Resistance I must decide if I am a professional. Amateurs let themselves get distracted–they don’t do the work. Professionals show up to the job every day despite success and failure and soaring self-confidence and crushing self-doubt. After reading it, I decided that I will be a professional rather than an amateur. I will go to battle every day. I will write. Professionals can’t necessarily revoke KFKD’s license. But they can make it the least interesting programming of the day.” Links:

18. Tiffany Fuentes: “The greatest writing advice I’ve ever been given came to me when I was desperate for guidance. I spent a year creating a manuscript and after it was done, nothing changed. Yes I worked hard, but only I knew the sacrifices that were made. The paper wasted and the sentences that repeat themselves from memory in different arrangement each time, because there are so many options, and the brain makes writing choices while actively considering other options. I thought about who was going to read my work and be honest with helpful feedback, but even those that know I write aren’t going to read thoroughly enough, even if I did give it to them. And so, writers don’t have enough time to read, and/or compare their pages to those of best selling authors, but why on Earth would they do that, but by this time, the only thing he/she can ask is, “What the hell am I doing?”

That was when John J. Herman brought me back.

‘All writers go through periods when they ask themselves, What am I doing? Yes, that’s a part of the trade. But there is no certain answer.
The world doesn’t NEED new novels, etc. We ultimately do it because we want to, I suppose. Because we think we’re not bad, have a little to say, enjoy the process while it’s going well, and don’t want our lives to seem entirely meaningless. The truth is, we all drown in the end, so we must do whatever the hell we please and some of us write books!”

Once you accept that you don’t have to actually do anything but survive. Everything else seems so much easier.” Links:

19. Gayl Taylor: “The best writing advice I ever received was to write, write, and then write some more. Write every day whether it is 100 words or 1,000. Shut down the internal editor and don’t stop until you write ‘The End’.” Author of Ride a Cock Horse, Lady Luck, and co-author of The Hero Sandwich. Links: Facebook1, Facebook2, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon.

20. Max Ellendale: In writing this post, I realized I was one author short! So I figured I’d put in my two cents. “The best writing advice I ever received was given to me by Joanna Clapps-Herman and later John J. Herman. Both of these wonderful writers and teachers gave me a list of Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing Fiction. To this day, I refer to this list whenever I’m tackling a fiction manuscript. They are as follows:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

– Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.”


Thank you to ALL of the contributors to this post. Your advice and wisdom is a blessing. Whether published or not-yet-published, words from other writers and authors is an valuable source of motivation and encouragement. Today, I leave you with a bit of my own advice… no matter what you endeavor for in life, DO WHAT YOU LOVE so that you can love what you do.




13 thoughts on “The best writing advice I ever received…

  1. It’s not like I’m the big shot writer but if I could: don’t overwrite. Less is more. Let the reader do their part. Let them use their imagination. My writing is not particularly descriptive; it is flat and unemotional but the emotion is there. See, but that’s just my style. That’s what works for me. I’ve said this before; words serve me. I don’t want to show off. I’m not looking to patronize the reader. First I think about what I want to say. I’m looking for that payoff and it could be one sentence or even a word.

  2. I want to say something about difficult. If it’s hard for me to write then it seems as though I am forcing something. I don’t want my work to show. I’m not trying to exceed my talent or the parameters of my style. I’m not into showing off. I’m not in love with words but I am in love with power. I’m thinking about what I want to say first. Then I want to get there fairly directly. I have a voice. Where it came from at this late stage in my life, I don’t know but, but, but, maybe I’ll just say it: I think it’s God given.

  3. Jessica Subject says:

    All great advice! 🙂

  4. gayl taylor says:

    It i interesting to see what other writers have to say about the advice they received. I think there are several that I will take to heart! Thanks for posting this and I love your site!

  5. Iris says:

    The only thing I don’t agree with was Kurt Vonnegut’s 8th point – that the reader should be able to finish the story for themselves. No way! Whatever happened to unpredictability? That’s why you have twists!

    Anyway, for myself, my own two cents would be: find the ending of your book before you write it. It’ll save a world of heartache and 20k deleted pages. You can’t go anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going – but once you have your ending, you’ll know better what’s the best path to take to get there. Editing, rewriting, adding scenes and chapters become a lot lot lot easier because now you know what needs changing.

    And one more – decide you’re going to finish before you start. I’d never have finished my manuscript otherwise. Don’t give yourself a choice – you must write. It is very similar to what Alicia Zadrozny said in number 17 – are you a professional? If you are, then write. The most liberating fact I found in writing is that finishing is always a choice – it is a matter of your will, not your whim.

  6. […] on Max Ellendale’s blog, you can check out “the best writing advice” 20 authors have ever received. And […]

  7. Ali says:

    hi! I love your writing so so much!

  8. Great advice. Especially the 8 Rules by Vonnegut. Loved it! But I had a little trouble with #8 as well. If the reader can predict the ending from any point in the book, then what’s the point?

  9. lizaoconnor says:

    My best advice would be to find your unique voice and stay true to it.

  10. Matt says:

    Thank you so much for this amazing blog entry. I also have found that your blog has a lot more amazing resources. Thanks again and see you in next entry. Matthias

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