Listening to Experience

No two writers are alike, and what works for one, may not necessarily work for another. On the other hand, every successful author was once a writer, just starting out. We’ve all been there. Some of us are still there. So, why not learn from those that have moved on and achieved a degree of success? With this in mind, I have composed a list of the top twenty writer’s tips for all to learn from. Some, I have found through Internet research, while others were given me personally, while doing author profiles for my Southern Colorado Literature Examiner column. Often, these author quotes may seem to be saying the same thing as other authors have said before them. I figured that if I was hearing it again and again, from more than one successful author, then maybe it is worth taking special note of, so I have included them all, even if the advice is similar to what others have said.

My Top Twenty Writer Tips

• “Write what you love, and love to write. Honestly, I can think of nothing more important and more true.” Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief (“Q&A: Susan Orlean”, Editor Unleashed)
• “read widely in your chosen genre, to see what kind of writing and stories are being published.” Beth Groundwater, author of the Claire Hanover Gift Basket Designer Mystery series (“Beth Groundwater – Success is no Mystery”, Southern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• Never give up – “after being rejected by 89 agents before the 90th one signed me on, I advise every writer who is looking for an agent to query at least 100 before giving up, especially if you’re getting feedback and full-manuscript requests” (“Beth Groundwater – Success is no Mystery”, Southern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “Read a lot first — I read 100 novels my last year in law school and 200 more over the next couple of years after that. I wasn’t educated and didn’t know what had been done.” Kent Nelson, author of The Touching that Lasts and numerous others (“Kent Nelson – A True Southern Colorado Author”, Southern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “If there’s a formula for writing a “successful novel” I don’t know it. If you’re serious about it, you write the best book you’re capable of, for your own reasons, according to your own lights. I think it’s as impossible as that.” Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong (“Kent Haruf: Colorado Author Touches the Heart”, Southern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “Write what you know…I think once you write in and or about something
you’re truly passionate about, the work will show it.” Cicily Janus, author of The New Face of Jazz (“Cicily Janus Helping Fellow Writers Along the Way”, Southern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “I wasn’t the best writer I knew when I was a teenager. I knew many, many
writers who were much, much better than I was. But most of them stopped
writing somewhere along the way. So part of what you can do to be a
writer is just keep writing.” Jessy Randall, author of The Wondora Unit (“The Literary World of Jessy Randall”, Southern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “The best piece of writing advice I ever got was to write the sort of story you always wanted to read.” Todd Mitchell, author of young adult novel and finalist for the Colorado Book Award, The Traitor King (his website)
• “Don’t give up, if you truly believe and love this work, then work harder. Go back and re-edit your manuscript a third time. Make it stronger. Take a chance and go deeper with the emotions.” Romance author Lorhainne Eckhart (“Interviewing Romance Author Lorhainne Eckhart”, Talk About My Favorite Authors: Our Opinions About the Authors We Love to Read, Jordan, Phoebe, 8/25/2009)
• Start with a promise and then make sure to follow through and deliver to your readers. Jessica Page Morrell, veteran writing coach and author (“Start with a Promise”, Editor Unleashed)
• Learn to write excellent query letters, as this is where you sell your work and yourself. Sue Midlock, writer and illustrator (Personal communication)
• “Make sure that by the time you have one novel published, you have the next half-written,” she said. “Always be a moving target.” Author, Iris Murdough, quoted by author Amanda Craig, “Starting A New Novel – or being a moving target”(Aug. 6, 2009, Amanda’s Blog)
• “Two things are important to remember:
#1 Once the book is published, it no longer belongs to us. It belongs to each individual reader.
#2 The book is not the writer who wrote it. Your book is not you. You are not the book.” Colorado Springs romance author, Barbara O’Neal (“Preparing for Publication Anxiety”, Writer Unboxed)
• “Read, read, read. And write, write, write. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Subscribe to the magazines you want to be published in. Don’t give up.” Annie Dawid, author of AND DARKNESS WAS UNDER HIS FEET: STORIES OF A FAMILY (“Westcliffe author Annie Dawid is always on the goSouthern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “Invest in your profession. Take classes, attend workshops, join a supportive critique group, participate in professional writers’ organizations and as early as you possibly can, go to workshops and conferences (SCBWI, Chautauqua, and Highlights Founders Workshops). Look into correspondence courses such as those offered by The Institute of Children’s Literature. And, if you are serious about becoming a top quality children’s writer, consider finding the $20,000 to enroll in a low residency MFA program in writing children’s Literature.” Young adult author of the Santa Fe Trail Trilogy, Mary Peace Finley (“Award winning children’s author Mary Peace Finley brings history alive for young readersSouthern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “Join writers’ organizations, get in a critique groups, enter writing contests, write every day, finish projects, then submit them to agents and publishers. Submit a lot, and stick with it through the rejections (I once got twelve in one day). While submitting one project, work on another. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep Writing.” Mystery author, Robert Spiller (“Author Robert Spiller writes what he knowsSouthern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “Discover your writing life style. Do you work best with a strict routine, writing on a set schedule? Does your writing respond best when the muses call or when the mood is right? There’s no right way to approach writing. Find what works for you, and when you do, honor your commitment with the space, equipment and undisturbed focus it deserves.” Young adult author of the Santa Fe Trilogy, Mary Peace Finley (E-mail interview, September 1, 2009)
• “ if you don’t love it, you won’t persist through the hard bits and you won’t dig deeper to fund the truth of your characters and the logic of your plot.” Fantasy author, Carol Berg (“Epic fantasy author, Carol Berg lives a writer’s fantasy of success”, Southern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “Subscribe to Writer’s Digest. Read writers who specialize in helping other writers get started, like James Scott Bell and Randy Ingermanson. Go to a writer’s conference–or two or three. The more you learn, the more it’ll help you. But the best is to read what you love and then write better than those you’re reading. Tough orders, but what it takes these days to get published…” Christian Fiction author, Lisa Tawn Bergren. (“Heavenly inspiration keeps author Lisa Tawn Bergren running at a fast pace”, Southern Colorado Literature Examiner)
• “Don’t look to people like me for guidance. Publishing exists in a starkly different world than it did twenty years ago. The strategies that were successful for me would probably doom a hopeful writer today. What endures? Good stories, intriguing characters, quality writing. What is required beyond that? Determination, tenacity, and a thick skin.”, bestselling mystery/thriller series author, Stephen White (“Bestselling series success was an unexpected surprise for Colorado author, Stephen White”, Southern Colorado Literature Examiner)

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