Advice to an Aspiring Author


My advice to aspiring authors varies depending on how cynical I am about the book business on a given day.

When I’m philosophical, I tell aspiring writers:
A book begins with a single word. Many novice writers get intimidated by the thought of writing an entire book, but all you ever need to write is one word. I know that’s not much of a goal, but in the end, it is the only goal. That’s how every book all through the ages got written — one word at a time. By stringing single words together, you get sentences, then paragraphs, pages, chapters, an entire book.

When I want to be encouraging, I tell aspiring writers:
Write your book. Rewrite it. Edit it Re edit it. Study the publishing business. Learn everything you can about good prose, story elements, promotion. With so many millions of people out there who have written a book or who want to write a book, the competition is fierce. A writer does not attain maturity as a writer until he or she has written 1,000,000 words. (I’m only halfway there.) So write. Your next book might be the one that captures people’s imaginations and catapults you into fame and fortune. Not writing another book guarantees you will never will reach that goal. It also keeps you from doing what you were meant to do.

When I’m cynical, I tell aspiring writers:
If you aspire to be a writer, write. That’s all it takes.
If you aspire to be a good writer, write — and read. Read how-to books about writing and read good books to absorb good writing.
If you aspire to be a bestselling writer, write, read — and gather luck. Less than 1% of 1% of writers ever attain that status.

Here are some responses from other authors about advice they give to aspiring writers:

Polly Iyer
Polly Iyer

From an interview with Polly Iyer, Author of “Hooked”:
You’ve heard it before. Keep at it. Period.

From an interview with Sandy Nathan, Author of Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could
You’ll make more money as a brain surgeon.

From an interview with S. M. Senden, author of “Clara’s Wish”
Write from a place of knowing. Bring your experiences to what you write; be willing to invest a piece of yourself in your writing so it will be real to the reader.

From an interview with Tom Rizzo, Author of “Last Stand At Bitter Creek”
Read—not only for enjoyment. Treat your reading as a study lab, taking note of how the writer lures you into the story, how characters are introduced, and what makes you like or despise them. Reading soaks the brain with ideas and possibilities. And write, of course. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just write.

What about you? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

  1. Avatar of Paula Boer
    Paula Boer says

    I would add, join a writers group or find some other way to network with fellow writers. By nature, writing is a solitary vocation. Mixing with peers is informative and motivating as well as possibly opening up opportunities.

    Critique other writers’ work – I learn more from bad writing than from good writing. Try writing in different genres and styles until you find your voice. Stretch yourself – don’t always stay in your comfort zone eg push your daily word limit, change point of view, try first person. If you write novels, try essay writing (and vice versa). Enter competitions and read the winning entries to see how they compared with your own. All and any writing will help you fine tune your skills.

    Listen to feedback. Listen to all feedback. That doesn’t mean you act on what someone else says, but try to see why they are saying what they are, then find the cause behind the symptom. If more than one person is saying the same thing, listen harder.

    Writing is work. Don’t expect success without pain. Of course have fun along the way, but don’t give up because things get difficult.

    Sandy Nathan said you’ll make more money as a brain surgeon. I made more money cleaning toilets! Good job writing is something I am compelled to do.

  2. Avatar of Joyce White
    Joyce White says

    Writing is kinda like talking without being interrupted. As we get older the past looms over us and we often try to rewirite what went wrong.

  3. Avatar of Alan Place
    Alan Place says

    My advice has never wavered from day 1, when I said to my editor and friend, Julia Petrakis “There is only one thing you need to succeed, that is money.”

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