Blogfest: My Best Advice to New Writers

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I wanted to say in this particular post. One of my personal philosophies when it comes to writing is to give as little actual “advice” as possible, because I prefer to just share my own journey, and if it resonates with someone, that’s groovy. If not, then I’ve caused no harm.

However, the whole purpose of this ‘fest is advice, so I’ll pass along to you seven tenants of my personal writer’s philosophy. If you find something that resonates with you, feel free to claim it for your own. If not, just consider it a peek into the mind of a fellow writer and leave it at that. 

If you write, you are a writer. Don’t hide behind “aspiring” or “newbie” or “wannabe”. Even if you have to whisper it, call yourself a writer. In time, you’ll even come to believe that it’s true…and that’s the whole point, more than anything else. When you believe it, others will too. Until you believe, pretend.

Everything you need to know about writing a book, you’ll find in other books. Read. Read widely, across all genres and time periods. Immerse yourself in books, and not just a zillion books *about* writing. Read what you want to write. When you think you’ve read enough – grab another book. The best writers are voracious readers.

Study the craft. Learn all the “rules” and guidelines that lurk on blogs and in writing books and classes. Study plots and structures, and how to outline, and how not to outline. Then when you sit down to write – put all of that knowledge in the back of your brain somewhere, and just write, lest all that technical “stuff” gets in the way of a good story and authentic voice. You’d be surprised how much of what you learned ends up on the page organically.

Show your work. Invite critiques. If you want to be published, you can’t be afraid to let others see your work, so get over that urge to hide it as soon as possible. It only gets harder to share the longer you wait. Find a critique partner, or a trusted group of writers, and learn from whatever comments you get back.

Books are not babies. They’re words on a page (or several). If a story doesn’t sell or gets bad reviews, we can always write another one. Once the story’s written – let it go, and move on to the next. Don’t become so attached that you cripple your chance of success.

Beware of any advice that starts with a definitive (including mine). Never. Always. For every definitive “rule” bandied about for writers, there’s probably a huge, bestselling author breaking it (and a whole bunch of mid-listers too). While we’d all like to believe it’s just because an author has sold a lot of work, I’d urge you to go back and look at his/her debut books. Odds are, you’ll find the broken rules there as well. My point: in the grand scheme of things, story wins over technicalities, eight times out of ten. Tell a good story. That’s what matters most.

Write what you know and what you can learn. Never let a lack of knowledge hold you back from writing what you want to write. If you don’t know something, look it up, travel, or find someone you can experience it vicariously through.

There you have it. Words to write by – or not – as you wish. Feel free to add, subtract or discuss below.

You’ll find links to more (27 more!) posts for the blogfest over at Peevish Penman – enjoy the ‘fest!

15 comments on “Blogfest: My Best Advice to New Writers

  1. Karen Strong

    This is some great advice, Jamie. I love what you have to say about learning from reading books.

    I’ve learned so many things just by reading the authors I love. It’s like taking a master class.

  2. Carolina Valdez Miller

    Fabulous advice. I think so often we do become attached to our stories. And we do take everything so personally, to the detriment of our success. Thanks for the inspirational post.

  3. Dawn Maria

    I think you’re very good at giving out advice!

  4. Roland D. Yeomans

    Great advise.

    What we write is, in essence, a piece of our soul and our heart, so criticism can feel very personal.

    Publishing isn’t personal. It’s a business. And we who want to be published are just applying for a job interview.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting. Yes, my posts are often long. Sigh. I’m working on that.

    People want to visit and run. I like to think that if folks stay awhile, they’ll like what they find.

    Have a great weekend, Roland

  5. WritersBlockNZ

    “If a story doesn’t sell or gets bad reviews, we can always write another one.”

    Wonderful advice. And so important to keep in mind when things aren’t working the way they should, even when you’re just at the writing phase. If you’re a writer, you’ll just keep writing. No matter what.

  6. Carrie Bailey

    What resonates with me is “pretending” to be a writer. When I first explained I was writing, people treated me like a writer. And I believed it more and the fear of being a dreamer and a fraud fell away.

    I wondered if other people had this experience. Jamie, I’m glad you mentioned it, because when I learned to enjoy “pretending” to be a writer is precisely when I started getting paid for it. The “writer” feeling came first.

    Thanks for these insights. Great post!

  7. Tawna Fenske

    Amen to all of this! Terrific advice, particularly the one about learning what you need to know from other books. I’m always amazed when writers tell me they “don’t really read much.” WTF?

    Great post!

  8. Jamie DeBree

    Thanks for stopping by, everyone. 🙂 It’s funny how different bits resonate with each of us, depending on where we’re at in our writing career/journey, isn’t it?

    And Roland…if you take a gander around the blog, you’ll see I have issues with brevity as well. LOL

  9. Andrew Rosenberg

    Nice advice.
    I would just say
    “Beware of any advice” and leave it at that. I’ve been burned a lot by bad advice…

  10. Carol

    Great advice Jamie!

  11. Jamie DeBree

    Me too, Andrew – hence my caution in giving it, and my advice to not think much about rules while writing. Sometimes you just have to go with your own gut.

    Thanks Carol! 🙂

  12. Amos Keppler

    If you write, then, not long afterwards you’re indeed a writer.

    And “Variety pages” is a good name for your blog.

  13. Grace Meadows

    Wise words especially for this emerging…um…er…I meant for this writer. Thank you for requesting a copy of my erotic flash fiction — Animal. Please send me your email address and a copy will arrive in your inbox — like magic. : )

  14. Cynthia Schuerr

    Probably the most direct and honest advice I’ve heard or read about
    writing. I totally agree!

  15. Jo Hart

    Your advice here does resonate with me, and most of it is already a part of what I do as a writer. I particularly liked the point of putting all the ‘rules’ and guidelines to the back of your mind when writing so the technical stuff doesn’t get in the way.