Writing Tips from 41 Experts

Writing Tips 40 Experts Wish They’d Known as Beginners

30 Jan 2018 The Writing Craft

How I wish I had known as a teenager what I know now!

At 19 I worked full-time as a sportswriter for a daily newspaper.

I loved my job, but I was ambitious and wanted to see if I could sell a story to the Features editor. I worked hard on one, on my own time, and submitted it with photos.

The editor’s response crushed me.

In red pencil at the top of the first page, he’d scribbled:

“Great pictures. Bad story.”

Humiliated, I forced myself to approach his desk.

“Sir,” I said, “could you tell me what’s wrong with this so I can fix it?”

“Sure, Jenkins,” he said. “It’s sh–.”

I staggered back to my boss, the Sports Editor, and told her what had happened.

“Did you have any misgivings about the piece?” she said.

I mentioned several things I could have done better.

“There you go. Anything you thought you should have done is what you ought to do.

I rewrote the piece that night and resubmitted it the next day. The Features editor immediately accepted it.

My mistake? I had submitted a piece of writing that was less than my best, and I knew it. I vowed to never do that again.

The thought of being able to tell my younger self what I know now prompted me to ask 39 of the best authors, writing coaches, and publishing experts I know:

“If you could go back to the beginning of your writing career and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?”

And I added one of my own writing tips to make it 40.

40 Expert Writing Tips

  1. Story is what truly grabs readers.
  2. Establish a reading habit that matches what you hope to write and publish.
  3. Always be learning.
  4. Start your email list as soon as you can.
  5. The real meaning of writing comes from the words flowing from your fingertips.
  6. Write a lot and get critiqued occasionally.
  7. Writing is more about the journey than the destination.
  8. Publish your work online (even if it’s not perfect).
  9. Take your time.
  10. The best writing serves the reader — not the writer.
  11. Schedule time to write.
  12. Dream big, execute small.
  13. Get into the habit of writing every day.
  14. Develop your spiritual practices.
  15. Dive in and be scared later.
  16. Be humble. Take advice. Be teachable.
  17. Slow down and work on your craft.
  18. Be patient. It takes time to develop your craft.
  19. Don’t use your introversion as an excuse.
  20. Believe in yourself.
  21. Pay more attention to details.
  22. Read as much writing as you can in your genre.
  23. Your writing career isn’t about you.
  24. Experts don’t always know what’s best.
  25. There’s no such thing as an instant book.
  26. Do not attempt this act alone.
  27. Follow your bliss.
  28. No great art was ever created without great heart.
  29. Establish a relationship with potential readers.
  30. Don’t be afraid to say Yes.
  31. Don’t assume you must follow a predetermined writer’s path.
  32. Story always trumps structure.
  33. Write for the love of writing itself, not what writing might afford you.
  34. Discipline is key.
  35. Write daily.
  36. Your writing isn’t about you.
  37. Don’t wait.
  38. Write what you’re personally passionate about.
  39. Find and grow your tribe as soon as possible.
  40. Become a ferocious self-editor.

1. Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story

I’d tell myself that what grabs readers isn’t beautiful writing, a rip-roaring plot, or surface drama; what grabs readers is what gives those things their meaning and power: the story itself.

And so first you have to create the story, which doesn’t start on page one, but long before it. Because the story is not about an external plot-level change. The story is about an internal change — a change that the protagonist enters the story already needing to make. Thus the protagonist walks onto the first page with a long standing driving desire — an agenda — that she hasn’t been able to achieve because an equally long standing misbelief (about human nature) stands in her way.

And here’s the last thing I wish I’d known: backstory is the most fundamental, present, and meaningful foundation of the story. Or as Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

2. Jane Friedman, writing and publishing coach/blogger

Establish a reading habit that matches roughly what you hope to write and publish. Make it as important as anything else you schedule in your day, and never allow busyness to crowd out the time you devote to consuming other good works.

It’s fine not to finish books or to abandon authors you don’t like, but never stop consuming the genre you want become known in. It raises your writerly IQ and ultimately lays the foundation for better literary citizenship and networking with other authors, editors, and agents. A non-reader is soon outed and left behind in this business.

3. Joe Bunting, founder of The Write Practice

Always be learning.

You think you’re pretty talented. You think you’re pretty smart. And you are. But the best way to fail at being a writer is to spend all your time proving you know what you’re doing rather than learning from the people and resources around you.

Stop posturing. Start practicing. And have fun.

4. Dave Chesson, founder of Kindlepreneur

Start your email list as soon as you can. I spent a couple of years not doing an email list and I can’t help but wonder how many thousands of readers I lost the ability to reach out to because I didn’t start it sooner.

There is no greater book marketing kickstart than sending a new book launch email to your already raving fans.

They’ll buy it, and even leave those crucial reviews. So, if you decide you’re going to write more than one book, setting up your email list as soon as possible is key to growing your success with each book you write.

5. Bridget McNulty, co-founder of Now Novel

Getting published is really exciting, but it’s not the point of writing.

The actual writing is what it’s all about — the daily joy in sitting down to a blank page and crafting something beautiful or funny or heartwrenching or even just blah (depending on the day).

While getting a book (and articles, and stories) published is a great ego boost, the real meaning in writing comes from the words flowing out of your fingertips — and the sense of achievement in a finished project.

6. Randy Ingermanson, novelist and creator of The Snowflake Method of plotting

You get good at writing by following these three simple steps:

1) Write a lot. The more you write, the more you’ll tune in to your unique voice and the better you’ll get.

2) Get critiqued occasionally. You should never pay any attention to what your mother says about your writing, or what anyone who loves you says about your writing, because all those people are liars. You should pay attention only to people who know what good writing is and who also know how to critique bad writing. Many who know good writing don’t have any idea how to critique bad writing and will not be able to help you.

Also be aware that many people who know how to critique bad writing would not recognize good writing if it stabbed them in the eye. This is tragic, but deal with it. You are looking for somebody who has both of these skills, and those people are rare.

You need to be told when your writing is bad and why it’s bad, because when you start writing, your work will be awful and you will imagine it’s brilliant. You also need to be told when your writing is brilliant, because by the time your writing is brilliant, you will have been told so many times that your writing is bad that you’ll imagine you are the worst writer who ever lived.

It’s just a fact that all bad writers think they are amazing and all great writers think they are terrible. And that’s why you need to be critiqued occasionally. Don’t do this every day.  It hurts too much. A little critique goes a long way.

3) Study the craft of writing in books, lectures, or wherever else you can learn it. You most especially need to do this after getting critiqued.

You can’t figure it out on your own. Find a book that explains in clear words how to do right what you are doing wrong. When you finish the book, you will again believe in yourself enough to go back to step 1 and write a bunch more.

And have fun!

Need help fine-tuning your writing? Click here to download my FREE self-editing checklist.

7. K.M. Weiland, novelist and writing coach

K.M. Weiland

I would want my younger self to realize that as wonderful as publication is, it isn’t the point of the writing process.

It’s just a stop along the road. Writing is more about the journey than the destination. As award-winning author Anne Lamott points out, “Being published isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Writing is.” So don’t let your non-published status get you down. Just enjoy where you are right now.

8. Bryan Collins, writing coach

I’d say start publishing your work online and showing it to people even if it’s not ready or perfect.

I spent years writing short stories and trying to get my sentences just right. I rarely showed them to anyone and I didn’t get the feedback I needed to improve as a writer. Instead, I stuffed my drafts in a drawer.

It was only after I started writing online that I discovered I’m better at — and prefer — writing nonfiction. If I’d learnt that lesson ten years ago, I would have saved myself a lot of time.

Still, sometimes you have to make mistakes to fall forward.

9. Rachelle Gardner, literary agent

Take your time.

There’s no rush to get published.

The more time you spend writing, reading, and learning to be a better writer, the better things will go for you.

Don’t try to hurry it along.

10. Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes

I’d tell myself that the best writing serves the reader — not the writer.

Our job as writers is to make more sense of the world, to paraphrase Anne Lamott and E.B. White and a million other writers.

So even when you’re writing about your own life and your own experiences from your own point of view, you’re nonetheless exposing something real and true and universal.

So make each sentence (and every word in that sentence) earn its keep: Is this sentence indulgent? Or does it help the reader? Does it explain, elucidate, or elevate the truth?

Get out of your head and into your reader’s.

11. Joanna Penn, novelist and writing coach

Joanna Penn

Schedule time to write, show up for that meeting with yourself, and put words onto the page.

It doesn’t matter if those words aren’t very good — they probably won’t be, but that’s OK because you can make them better when you edit them later.

But you can’t edit a blank page, so get your butt into the chair and write!

Need help with time management? Click here to download my FREE guide How to Maximize Your Writing Time.

12. Gabriela Pereira, author and founder of DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira

I would say: “Dream big, execute small.”

These words of wisdom are not my own but they have become a mantra for me.

Creative success requires both a big vision and small, deliberate steps.

Audacious goals aren’t reached without persistent action.

13. Joel Friedlander, founder of The Book Designer

Getting into the habit of sitting down and writing every day is essential.

A writer is someone who writes, and the only path to improving your craft and finding both satisfaction and success in your writing is to keep doing it.

Try to write at the same time each day, and don’t worry too much about whether what your writing is good or not — just keep writing.

14. Lisa Tener, book development coach

Develop your spiritual practices.

They are the greatest support for your writing and your creativity.

With them, you will write with greater ease, break through blocks more easily, and have the stamina to write consistently and from your heart.

15. Carol Tice, founder of Make a Living Writing

Dive in and be scared later.

Simply take action and don’t overthink where this might end up.

Think of something scarier than writing your piece, and it’ll be a breeze by comparison.

Instead of feeling scared to take action, think of everything you do as a writer like it’s a science experiment. “I’ll write this and send it off and see what happens, mwahaha.” Then, learn from that and do better.

16. C.S. Lakin, author and writing coach

C.S. Lakin

I would say to myself: “You are way too cocky.

You think you know how to write a novel because you’ve read thousands of them. You need to stop trying to publish your terrible manuscript and spend time learning the craft.

There is actually a thing called structure, and you don’t know it.

Get every good book there is on writing craft, attend workshops and retreats, and, for God’s sake, be humble! Take advice. Be teachable.”

17. Tara Lazar, children’s author

Tara Lazar

Stop being in such a rush. Slow down and work on your craft.

I wanted the agent and the deal to happen immediately. Yesterday.

Read. Write. Learn.

It will happen for you if you take the time to master your craft.

18. James Scott Bell, novelist and writing coach

Don’t be so impatient!

It takes time to develop your craft.

You spent your 20s believing what so many told you, that you can’t learn to write. But then you tried, and you discovered you CAN learn.

Keep learning. Keep writing.

Want to write a book but don't know where to start? Click here to download my FREE guide: How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps.

19. Debbie Ohi, children’s author

Don’t use your introversion as an excuse.

Yes, you may prefer to hide out in your creative cave, dreading learning to network and talk to people you don’t know. If you get out and starting practicing now, then your path will be that much smoother.

Start by joining the writers groups and getting to know others in the community.

It may be terrifying at first but it will get easier, and you’ll be surprised at how much fun you’ll have, the friends you’ll make.

20. Jennie Nash, founder of Author Accelerator

I would tell my younger self to listen to the wise elders who told me that I could make a career in the writing world.

I spent so long doubting myself, and making excuses, and waiting for someone to roll out a red carpet, and circling around the actual writing by doing jobs that were “writing adjacent.” All that delay and doubt cost me.

I recently launched a book coaching company, and we inspire writers to believe they can actually do it, and help them take the steps toward making their dreams a reality.

It feels like I’ve come full circle.

21. Chris Fabry, novelist and radio host, author of Under a Cloudless Sky

I would actually go back to my childhood and encourage myself to pay more attention to details.

Listen and observe more closely.

You think sitting at your grandmother’s kitchen table and listening to your uncles tell stories is fun.

These are seeds being sown into your soul. Soak up everything. You will use all you’re hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

When you’re an author you will draw from these holy moments. All great storytelling begins in childhood.

[Chris’s blog on how to make it as a writer.]

22. Les Edgerton, novelist and writing coach

In Jim Harrison’s words:

“Read the whole of western literature for the past 400 years.

If time allows, read the whole of eastern literature for the same time period.

For, if one cannot tell what passed for good in the past, one cannot tell what passes for good now.”

23. DiAnn Mills, novelist and writing coach

I would tell myself that my writing career isn’t about me.

True success can never be about the writer.

Fulfilling the calling is about reaching readers with an excellent story that entertains, inspires, and encourages.

Writing is about putting reader needs first, which means constantly educating myself in the craft, social media, and the publishing industry.

24. Angela Hunt, author and writing coach

The experts don’t always know best.

You can build a readership of people who like to read in different genres.

You have to stop writing sometimes to have a life that will fuel your writing. Other avocations can scratch a different creative itch and fuel your writing as well.

Fast writing might be sloppy writing, but it ends with a result that can be cleaned up and rewritten as many times as necessary. Go at your own pace, but go!

Writing is hard.

Anyone can string words together, but imbuing those words with the power to touch a heart and change a life — that takes work, talent, and skill. And perseverance. Most of all, perseverance.

25. Steve Laube, literary agent

There is no such thing as an instant book.

A book can be published quickly, but that is the exception, not the rule.

26. Philip Yancey, author

“Do not attempt this act alone.”

Yes, writing is a solitary act, performed in isolation. But the editing process needs different sets of eyes to help clarify the writer’s vision and meaning.

The grouchiest curmudgeons make the best editors; praise feels good, but only criticism helps me improve.

27. Gloria Kempton, author and writing coach

My advice to my new writing self would be the mythologist, Joseph Campbell’s, words, Follow your bliss: “Gloria, rather than following publishing trends or dictates of the Christian publishing industry, stay close to your personal truth as it comes to you when you sit down to write. Listen, not to the many publishing ’experts’ about how to craft your message, and how to sneak that message into everything you write.

Instead, explore the questions that rise within your soul that will lead you to a more meaningful writing path, one of integrity and passion for the truth that is uniquely yours as a child of God.

When you sit down to write, assume you know nothing. Become curious. Investigate. Inquire. Your mission is not to tell readers who they are and what they should believe; your mission is to ask the important questions and give readers the opportunity to explore those for themselves.”

Need help fine-tuning your writing? Click here to download my FREE self-editing checklist.

28. Allen Arnold, author, speaker, former publisher

I would tell my younger self that no great art was ever created without great heart.

In the creative process, the heart of the storyteller takes priority over everything else including formulas, word count, social media, and productivity.

So, first live well; then write well.

Allow God to awaken your own hearts before you ask your art to stir the hearts of others. That will infuse your stories with an eternal spark that transcends you and transforms others.

29. Saundra Dalton-Smith, author, speaker, physician

Focus on establishing a relationship with potential readers before you consider writing a book.

Blog, share on YouTube, participate in social media, or even have an email newsletter list.

Start building your tribe years before writing the first book proposal.

Your unique story will draw your tribe to you. The more your readers feel they are part of your story the more likely they are to share with others.

30. Becca Puglisi, author of The Emotion Thesaurus

Becca Puglisi

Don’t be afraid to say Yes.

The journey to becoming a writer can be daunting. There’s so much to do and learn, and it’s easy to look at other opportunities as distractions, particularly if you’re not totally comfortable doing them. Step out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself.

New challenges will grow you as a author and take you farther than you imagined possible. Saying Yes might be the first step in mastering a difficult area of the craft, expanding your writing options, meeting other authors who will be integral to your growth, becoming an international speaker, or selling way more books than you ever thought possible.

So when an opportunity presents itself that might seem scary or even impossible, don’t dismiss it outright. Instead, consider what it might offer. Will it teach you a worthwhile skill, give you a chance to try something new, or require you to do something that makes you nervous? If so, it might be a good idea after all.

31. William Noble, author and writing coach, attorney

Don’t assume you must follow a predetermined writer’s path, that you will be a novelist or a poet or a playwright or a journalist, and you will concentrate on this form of writing only.

Try all forms of writing, don’t pre-type yourself, produce fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, playscripts, essays, profiles, humor, memoir, and biography.

Eventually, the shape of your talent will emerge from how you have tested yourself.

32. Steven James, author and speaker

I would confirm to my younger self that story always trumps structure.

Numerous books tell how to plot and structure a story; however, these can end up derailing the story.

It’s tempting to utilize them instead of following the organic process of story shaping, but it’s vital that you let the story inform the direction of your writing. Fear will always drive you back to an outline.

Part of the artistic process is learning to channel that fear into creativity and not confine yourself because of it.

33. Michele Cushatt, author, speaker, emcee

Write for the love of writing itself, not what writing might afford you.

The writers who endure are those who can’t not write, the ones for whom contracts and publication are secondary rewards.

Rather than aiming at recognition, they chase understanding. They lean into the struggle, learn to marvel at the untangling of complexities and the transcendence of unforgettable stories.

Writing holds the power to transform you and the way you see the world in a way few other human experiences can. This is the real reward, the one that lasts long after the lights go out.

34. Marion Roach Smith, memoir writing coach


The clear, hard, cold fact is that without discipline all the inspiration and rituals, lucky pencils, good views out the window, and all those other things you think you have to have before you write, won’t bring you anything of value. They simply will not sustain you the way discipline will.

I’d tell myself that with humor and grace, however, and not a bit sternly.

No young writer should be spoken to with the least amount of stern admonition, but rather with enormous encouragement and support.

Need help getting more words on the page when you write? Click here to download my FREE guide How to Maximize Your Writing Time.

35. Patricia Raybon, author, writer, teacher

Patricia Raybon

Write daily. But not just for productivity. Write to discover yourself, getting reintroduced to the human being you’re blessed to be — that person indwelled with something of value to offer the world.

Don’t publish daily. Rather, publish regularly — fine-tuning what you want to say to the world and how to say it.

Bluster, brawling and bravado? No. Kindness, motivation and encouragement. Yes.

Even as I write this reflection for author friend Jerry Jenkins, I’m reminded why daily writing matters. It’s a bonus tool — helping unearth your brand, purpose, message, values, and audience. Therefore, write. In journals. In letters. On the grocery list taped to your refrigerator. Write something down. Today. You’ll grow as a writer. Even better? You’ll grow as a person. Your readers and your career will thank you.

36. Brandilyn Collins, novelist and writing teacher

Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn, you’re embarking on a very difficult journey.

You’ll have some highs and lots of lows. The writing business/industry will be all over the map, and no matter what you sell, you’re likely to always want more.

Remember — this is not about you. Your writing for the Christian market — writing novels that portray God’s grace and power — is for Him.

God will do with these books as He chooses. God will use the words you write to change people’s lives for eternity. And that’s something no price tag could ever cover.

Follow His will for your writing. Continue to work hard on your craft. Work hard on marketing. Give God your best. Then leave the results to Him.

37. Julie Duffy, founder of Story a Day

Don’t wait to write until you’re older/wiser/invited to the party.

Don’t wait until you have something “important” to say. You are living now, and you’ll never be able to recapture the feeling of being 15, 22, 36…not really. The things that matter to you now, won’t matter in the same way when you’re older, and the things that matter to you when you’re older won’t necessarily be more important. You might know more, but that won’t make you more interesting or important. Write now.

Don’t wait, because when you do have something important to say, you won’t want your writing to be rusty. Your writing will change and evolve, and when you get stuck you will seek out the mentors and teachers you need to move you to the next stage.

Don’t wait, because the best ideas come when you’re writing. You will never, never run out of ideas, as long as you keep writing.

Don’t wait for anyone to tell you to write. Whether or not anyone ever pays you to write, or asks you to contribute, or gives you permission to sneak off and steal an hour or two to tell stories on paper, writing is a part of you. You are more fully yourself when you accept and embrace that. You’re easier to live with when you’re writing, so claim the time you need, and don’t wait. Make it a priority to do the writing, rather than to worry about whether you’ll ever make a career of it. Don’t put the cart before the horse, my girl!

Oh, and you’re going to love this thing called the Internet.

38. Randy Alcorn, inspirational author

Write only those books you are absolutely convinced God wants you to. Not just books that are good ideas, but ideas that you’re personally passionate about and fit your heart, convictions, wiring, and style, not someone else’s.

It’s great to listen to publishers and others, hear their ideas, and modify yours as long as you can retain a sense of ownership so it really remains your book. Never write a book you can’t pour yourself into 100%. Even 90% isn’t enough, because when you hit the rough spots, your heart needs to be totally in it.

39. Jessica Strawser, author and editor-at-large, Writer’s Digest

Having since learned the power of tapping into networks of fellow writers — through genre-based organizations, conferences, Facebook groups, in-person groups, any way you can — my advice would be to find and grow your tribe as early and as well as you’re able.

Their support will buoy you at every stage, and through giving as good as you get, you’ll stay connected to the joy of the craft even when you’re feeling the heat beyond the page.

40. Jerry Jenkins, novelist and biographer, owner, Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild

Before submitting anything, be sure you’re happy with every word.

Become an aggressive, even ferocious self-editor.

Click here for my guide on this subject. And here for information on my Writers Guild.

54 thoughts on “Writing Tips 40 Experts Wish They’d Known as Beginners

  1. Jerry, I love your story about your first features article. The story itself is a great example of wonderful writing–it’s so many things that the other writers interviewed here talk about:
    – You harness the power of the past (Lisa Cron quoting Faulkner)
    – You clearly had fun writing this story (Joe Bunting’s advice)
    – You sought feedback (Randy Ingermanson’s advice) and when you didn’t get useful feedback from the first editor, you persisted and went to someone else who did provide useful feedback.
    – As Ann Handley wrote, you are “exposing something real and true and universal.”
    What a perfect introduction to this inspiring collection of writing advice!

  2. Wow, there is so much wisdom in this post. What stands out to me is the repeated call to be open to critique and get professional editorial help. I loved Randy’s comments so much, I put them in a document and plan to send it to all my editing clients. The sooner an aspiring writer welcomes feedback and instruction, the faster she will progress toward becoming a proficient author. And the other bit of advice I feel is so important is “read.” Spending time reading great writing is paramount to becoming a great writer, and it seems too many aspiring writers hardly read at all. Then, of course, you have to “live” in order to have experience in life from which you can creatively draw from. I think people have, in general, forgotten how to “live.” Take a walk in nature without your phone. Sit in a public place and just look, study, watch people, notice sensory detail. Leave your phone at home.

    I encourage everyone reading this post to print it out and read some of it every day. Jerry, how about gathering 365 of these and making one of those desk calendars, a tip a day?

  3. There is SO MUCH GOLD here! I particularly appreciate Brandilyn’s comment: “God will use the words you write to change people’s lives for eternity. And that’s something no price tag could ever cover.” Thanks for sharing this plethora of encouragement!

  4. Thanks for this encyclopedia of knowledge. It’s amazing how shadows of knowledge visit them all. As if they cut their teeth on the same pegboard. I see myself in some of them. I liked the one esp. about not worrying about structure, just writing the story. That defines to a large degree how I write. I plow in a story the same way I handle my life. Hit and run–except when I’m driivng. lol I have been doing scripts every day for a screenwriting course, and it’s all about structure; so, I have found different genres teach one different things. Writing is a smorgasbord, a feast that offers many entrees. One I never tire of, and apparently, I am not the only one. Blessings.

  5. the bit on western literature and, eastern literature in a window . Stella Lahani, advised me to read the better writers . bill browder, in nonfiction book, red notice, gave good foundation on oligarchs . read two opposing biographies on maradona one praising him, the other deprecating him for a balance . crime & punishment for a Russian perspective . gulag archipelago for more modern Russian perspective . prefer 1-2 of authors works so sense of their style .

    and like J.J. says it’s nicer to have manuscript polished per readability .

  6. Immediately after sharing this article with my writing group, I am going to file in away so I can return and drink longer of the wisdom. Thank you to the contributors and thank you Jerry for putting it together!

  7. Great advice for beginning writers and I’d agree with nearly everything that is said, because I have learned it myself and can reenforce their messages.

    However, I was disappointed that there was not an emphasis, except for a few, to discuss writing not only as a career and life adventure, but also as a business. Writing is an art, but writing is also a business. It can also be a place to earn a living, too.

    The last thing I learned, joining a secular critique group, was reading stuff OUTSIDE of my genre. Once day we read a horror piece that scared the pants off of me. But reading it and the fear and horror that I felt also brought to my mind the issue of what it might be like to visit Hell. Or coming in contact with demons and evil itself. Or the ultimate, being without Christ in eternity.

    Then there’s getting inside the opposite of who are, whether it’s dialog, thinking, emotions, or actions, this is a humorous point of what’s in our heads:

    What men are really thinking.


    What I learned from all of the above: Don’t stop learning and growing.

  8. So much good advice for writers – but one stood out. Brandilyn Collins – “Follow His will for your writing. Continue to work hard on your craft. Work hard on marketing. Give God your best. Then leave the results to Him.”

    Such wisdom for a Christian writer. Many have been blessed by my book Shekinah Lane, many have not even commented. But I am going to leave the results in God’s hands.
    Pat Strickland

  9. Everyone comments affirmatively on the contents. I agree. One comment suggests a daily calendar based on these pro quotes. I agree.

    I’d also be interested in posts concerning why many people refused to write for a long time. My personal experience happened in seventh grade when my English teacher gave me a F on a book report. She had asked why I enjoyed the book. I told her my truth. I guess it didn’t match hers. Never read another book through high school.

    Now I read most trade novels in about four hours. I have hundreds of them under my belt. I think I was on the Nick Carter series number 56 when I left the navy in 1971.

    I’m working on being a better writer, getting better at listening, and learning from the pros. Thanks, everybody.

  10. Wisdom is expanded as it comes from a variety of experts. Great gift to us writers. Thank you.

  11. What an incredible collection of expertise. Thank you, Jerry, for gathering roses for us. I am deeply encouraged by the words repeated many times above: Don’t rush the writing process. I’ve been working on the same books for several years, and even with the one closest to completion, I can think of at least five areas of the book that need additional work. That means revising from beginning to end a few more times. Will I ever get there? Does it matter if I do? I love the book and the people in it. I’ll keep growing them until I’m ready to share.

  12. To me, right now, the best advice in this collection is Randy Alcorn’s: Write what God wants you to write, something you’re passionate about. I just finished the 7-day writing challenge, and of the 7,000 or so words I wrote, the things I want to keep and edit are the things I feel passionate about.

  13. I enjoyed (#27), Gloria Kempton’s comments, “stay close to your personal truth” and “explore the questions that rise within your soul that will lead you to a more meaningful writing path, one of integrity and passion for the truth that is uniquely yours as a child of God”. I am such a people-pleaser that I forget that God has given me a voice to speak of what brings glory to Him. He has a purpose for all that has happened in my life. Self-criticism is strong and keeps me from putting down my thoughts. It paralyzes me!

    Patricia Raybon, #36, is so encouraging when she says, “Write daily. But not just for productivity. Write to discover yourself, getting reintroduced to the human being you’re blessed to be—that person indwelled with something of value to offer the world”. She also iterates, “…I’m reminded why daily writing matters. It’s a bonus tool—helping unearth your brand, purpose, message, values, and audience”. In all my writing, I’ve never learned that! Now I will begin to learn.

    Having read a number of (#39) Randy Alcorn’s books, I was pleased to hear what he had to say: “Write only those books you are absolutely convinced God wants you to. Not just books that are good ideas, but ideas that you’re personally passionate about and fit your heart, convictions, wiring, and style, not someone else’s. It’s great to listen to publishers and others, hear their ideas, and modify yours as long as you can retain a sense of ownership so it really remains your book. Never write a book you can’t pour yourself into 100%. Even 90% isn’t enough, because when you hit the rough spots, your heart needs to be totally in it.” I’ve done the negative things he talks about and have stopped writing because of it.

    I will start writing again and find what I am passionate about, the truth that is uniquely mine…then write, write, write. And write some more. For the sheer pleasure of writing and putting my ideas down in written form. Write to discover myself. Write to relearn who I am and what I want to say of value to the world. Unearth my brand, purpose, message, values, and audience. So when the rough spots come suddenly and terrifyingly like an earthquake that jolts me and shakes me around, I will not stop writing! I will not give up. I will stay the course. No more paralyzing fear.

    Thank you so much, Randy, for compiling this! It has been so encouraging to me. I hope it is as helpful to others as it has been to me.

  14. I appreciate these writing tips. Each is very real and important. Since my writing is inspirational, Brandilyn Collins’ words really hit home. It’s not about me. Rather, “God will use the words you write to change people’s lives for eternity. And that’s something no price tag could ever cover.” Thank you! I also agree with Susanne Lakin below – print these out and read them again and again.

  15. There several insights that hit home with me. I am an introvert and find it hard to participate in groups, so Debbi Ohi’s advice to network and join in the writing community now and it will become easier with time is encouraging to my insecurity and shyness. Brandilyn Collins reminds me to prayerfully write God’s words and He will use them when and where they are needed. Lastly, Julie Duffy’s exhortation to not wait to write, that the best ideas come while you are writing tells me to put fingers to the keyboard every day.

  16. Wow, some great wisdom here. Not sure, however, I’ll wait until I’m “happy with every word.” I’m never happy with every word in a world of deadlines. I just do my very best.

  17. I appreciate these writing tips and will save it to read again. Many tips struck me at different points, but one by Marion Smith I must remember, discipline. Another by Becca Puglisi, to step out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself. Thank you for the post.

  18. Just what I am looking for right now. Do I have permission to use this material with proper acknowledgement in my blog?

  19. Two questions. 1. In growing a tribe, can social media like Wattpad help or is it better to set up an author website? 2. Using either of these mediums, is serializing a long short story okay or would readers prefer the whole thing at once? Thanks! Loved the advice these pros gave!!

  20. Jerry, this was excellent, as usual! What a relief to be reminded we are all writers, but we are unique individuals, too. Your mentorship has encouraged me! Thank you!

  21. Here are the notes I made from the great 41 tips on writing: Internal change is the goal of the antagonist. Raise my radar ability by reading other genres.Learn from others online, in person, reading, & at conferences. Make writing fun. Don’t get distracted with publishing more than writing. Enlarge my email tribe. Write a lot to discover my writing voice.Bad writers think they’re great; good writers think they’re terrible.Publish weekly to hone my summary skills.Get critiqued by someone who recognizes good & bad writing. Writing is all about the reader’s need to be entertained, inspired and encouraged. Dream big; execute with persistent small steps. Accept advice/criticism humbly. Experience the 5 senses out of my comfort zone. Develop a turtle shell when critiqued.Let God stir my heart first before I try to stir others with my writing. Best ideas come when writing.

  22. There were so many familiar names in this who’s who, but also some I didn’t recognize. Everyone gave such superb advice, and I had a difficult time picking just a few. Randy Alcorn’s advice stood out to write the book you know God absolutely wants you to, because that’s exactly what I am doing now. And Julie Duffy’s, “The best ideas come when you’re writing.” So true! There is something about moving that pen across paper, or typing on a keyboard that engages the brain. Thanks to all for sharing! :)

  23. What a treat! Thanks, Jerry and Jerry’s team!

    The first five had me windblown. By twenty-one, Chris Fabry, all the inspiration had my brain throbbing.

    Then Angela Hunt. Just like her Masters Class, everything aligned with an “Aha. This is ME.”

    “The experts don’t always know best.

    “You can build a readership of people who like to read in different genres.

    “You have to stop writing sometimes to have a life that will fuel your
    writing. Other avocations can scratch a different creative itch and
    fuel your writing as well.”

    I needed to hear that just now. I needed to hear a lot of these just now. Thanks to each of your kind friends for their encouragement. God bless!

  24. Mauybe it’s semantics, but at least submit only the absolute best work you can do. With the competition so vast and deep, it’s your best chance. Naturally none of us is perfect, but if I know I could have done better, I need to do it. We’ll always need the editor’s eyes too.

  25. It does matter, Deb. Put aside for now all but the one you’re most passionate about and give your all to it till it’s done. Then move on to the next.

  26. There’s a sad commentary on how sensitive teachers and trainers need to be. Why couldn’t your teacher have tried to help, saying, “Warren, let’s try this again, and this time, give me more of [this] or less of [that].”? The point should be improvement, not pass or fail.

  27. I agree, Kevin, but not sure I understand the difference between “career” and “business.” Tell me more.

  28. A quote I found says it best, “10% of your efforts will be in writing your book, the other 90% will be marketing it.”
    It’s a matter of perspective.

    1. “I have a career as a writer.” Think of those that ONLY see themselves as a writer, having a job, I had one friend that that is ALL she wanted to do.
    2. “I write for a living and work for XYZ business.” Thinking more about writing and considers selling on a “side hustle” more of their work.
    3. “I’m a writer and sell my own books as a business owner and I freelance.”

    Once I got over the, “Who me, a WRITER?” part when talking with others, I became more serious about what it entailed. Look up my books on Amazon and you’ll see why I mentioned this issue. Also, I attend “Writers on the Rock” writers conference in CO (http://www.writersontherock.com on Feb 24th) and am fascinated that most don’t think they’re “in business” as a writer.

    Thanks for responding.

  29. I think it would have made a huge difference in my academic career. Thanks for the reply. I enjoy your work and appreciate your mentoring. Have a great weekend.

  30. So many great tips – a lot of them are now in my writing journal.

    The two that resonated the most are from Randy Alcorn and Steven James.

    I’m working on a big project right now that refused to be outlined (I tried for years). A few months ago I chucked the rules and just went with it and started writing the scenes I saw in my head and sticking them where they fell in relation to each other. Much to my surprise and delight, the story is working out organically better than I was capable of outlining it.

  31. 40 pieces of advice! And I’m to pick one? OK. I’m working on learning the craft of writing as well as becoming a ferocious self-editor. I liked the idea that I should write because I love to write and not that I should write to be published That is my ultimate goal but I’m taking this learning journey first. I have my book but now I’m ready to pull out the boring, the passive, and the misplaced point of view. Thank you friends, for all the great tips!

  32. I needed “ You can’t edit a blank page, so WRITE! Also “ Get something online or drafts end up in a drawer.”

  33. I appreciate Randy Ingermanson’s advice to listen to people who: (1) know what good writing is and (2) know how to critique bad writing. I’ve been encouraged by some people to write, and discouraged by others. Those who have discouraged me laughed at me or criticized me, but not given points of improvement. When I am ready, the critique’s through this guild will be very helpful!

    Also, he suggests finding a book that explains how to do right what I am doing wrong. C. S. Lakin tells us to get every good book there is on writing craft. And Ann Handley has written a book about writing. @LarryBernardini suggested, On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Of course, this guild has already taught me so much!

    I am moving from journal writing and preparing Bible studies to non-fiction writing. What are the top 5 books I should read to prepare me for success? Please keep in mind, I have no writing training – only heart training!

    Thank you for these book suggestions, and for the guild!

  34. Thank you, Jerry, for all these insights from successful writers! I was struck by Lisa Cron’s statement: “The story is about an internal change — a change that the protagonist enters the story already needing to make.” I first learned about Character Arc from you, Jerry, and since then I’ve worked to implement that as a guiding principle in developing my protagonist and other main orbital characters. Cron: “Thus the protagonist walks onto the first page with a long standing driving desire — an agenda — that she hasn’t been able to achieve because an equally long standing misbelief (about human nature) stands in her way.” Cron’s statements have encouraged me because I believe I have a good start in this direction. I’m now excited to make sure my “final” edit of my last three chapters will clearly illustrate to my Middle Grade readers that my protagonist is moving toward his needed “change.”

  35. I was fortunate to see Steven James speak once. His ‘write by the seat of your pants’ is a complete contrast to Jerry’s advice to outline and plan, but it was certainly invigorating. Everyone finds their own balance, I suspect.

  36. I’m working on my author site to build a tribe. Is it okay to combine two genres of writing (fiction and devotionals)? This could make writing a tagline difficult.

  37. Great Article! Thanks for taking the time to put all of this together. I think my favorite tip is from Julie Duffy. Don’t wait. Just start Life is way to short to wait to do something you love.

  38. Can two genres (fiction & devotionals) be included on one author website or should there be a separate one for each? However, it seems that might make it difficult to write a tagline.

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