Goodreads Blog

Advice from Writers about Writing and Publishing

Posted by Cynthia on July 9, 2018
Writer’s block is no joke, and the path to publishing is a long and sometimes bumpy road. Take comfort in knowing that many bestselling writers were once in your shoes and can share their wisdom based on their experience for your benefit.

Jane Yolen, author of The Devil's Arithmetic

“I always listen to critiques, but never take them in whole. Early on I learned to read the readers. Everyone reads a different story than you put down. They read it with their own baggage in tow. Even good readers, even the greatest, even editors, especially critics. So take what you need from their advice, twist it to your own needs, move on. In the end, it's the story that will tell you what to do but you have to listen.”

Susan Ee, author of Angelfall

“Try to get into the habit of writing every day. Freewrite to exercise your story muscles (write whatever comes to mind without filtering and without judging). Take creative writing workshops and get feedback from other writers in your classes.

Read a lot of books that interest you. Write the stories that interest you regardless of what kind of stories your teacher or classmates prefer. If they love literary slice-of-life vignettes but you love epic adventures, write epic adventures. You’ll find your true audience later.”

Joseph Delaney, author of Revenge of the Witch

“Keep a notebook and write down all your ideas (don't edit your ideas but record everything), read widely, observe the world around you, persevere, develop a thick skin and make sure you write as much as you can.”

Tami Hoag, author of Ashes to Ashes

“Write something you love, and learn as much about the business side of being a writer as you can before you try to publish. It's not enough to write a good book. You need to know where it will fit in the marketplace, what publishers you should target, and so on. If you want to be a professional you have to learn about the profession. And lastly: be resilient, adaptable, and determined. This is a tough business.”

Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

“My advice would be to be smart about how you're targeting the people you are querying and to do your research ahead of time. There are strict rules about a query letter. Read up on them, seek out agents who represent the work you write (looking up the agents of writers you are similar to is a good start), and be confident about your work.”

Shayla Black, author of Wicked Ties

“This may sound simple, but you should approach writing a love story (or any story, really) from the heart. Get to know your characters and their conflicts well, figure out what’s keeping them apart, how they need to grow as individuals and as a couple to live happily ever after, then discern what events must transpire for them to start the process of changing and melding together. If you know them well enough to answer those questions and you’re listening to them as you write, making those transitions that slowly reveal the emotional growth in the story will be as natural as breathing.”

Paul Tremblay, author of Head Full of Ghosts

“I think write-you-know is a bad, awful advice. It should be write-to-know or write-to-want-to-know. Anything you write is going to have pieces of you in there, regardless. You don't have to work at that. You (the general you) will never grow as a writer if you're not willing to take on story ideas or characters who different from you and your experience. The best fiction comes from that challenge. Most of the stuff I write is me trying to learn about the people in the situations I put them in. I want to know what they will do, what decisions they will make and why. Starting from a place of empathy (not sympathy); I want to understand.”

What's the best advice you received about writing and publishing? Share it with your fellow authors in the comments below!

Next: The Business of Being a Writer: Turning Attention Into Sales

You might also like: Marketing Advice from Young Adult Author Jenni James

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Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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message 1: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Appleby-Dean The best writing advice I ever got was to accept that you have to write a bad book before you can write a good one. Look at your first attempt as a learning experience rather than a career-defining masterpiece.


message 2: by Ralph (new)

Ralph Griffith Ralph GriffithI have been out of federal prison a year and a half, and not a moment to write. As an Indie author and publisher I have got to personally learn how to market, format, edit, advertise and conduct PR, with no time to do what I love. I can't afford to hire a publicist, marketing guru, and translators........I do it all and feel like I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Well, anyway I've never shared that--might as well be a first time.


message 3: by David (new)

David Hodges Writing is the most soul-destroying/fantastically rewarding experience, but is like gambling and any other form of addiction - you cannot stop. The worst thing is having a blank screen in front of you and not a single original thought in your head. We've always been there, but as one fellow author said to me, 'If you can't stand a joke, you shouldn't have joined.' Keep at it - it is the Bread of Life!


message 4: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Osborne Benjamin wrote: "The best writing advice I ever got was to accept that you have to write a bad book before you can write a good one. Look at your first attempt as a learning experience rather than a career-defining..."

My sentiments exactly!


message 5: by N. (new)

N. Keith I finally had to follow one of my philosophies, 'Never neglect the gift within.' So I wrote my first book about my dad, who always thought I had writing skills. So I suggest that a first-time author to write about something you know very well first. I'm now working on my second book which will be fiction/mystery, now that I have the bug.


message 6: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Osborne N. wrote: "I finally had to follow one of my philosophies, 'Never neglect the gift within.' So I wrote my first book about my dad, who always thought I had writing skills. So I suggest that a first-time autho..."

So true, N. Good luck with your second book! :-)


message 7: by Denise (new)

Denise Keustermans Ik verwacht mijn nieuw boek MELDA medio Maart in het Nederlands. Het schrijven ervan, geeft me energie en kracht en maakt voor mij het leven de moeite waard. Mijn moeder was mijn steun en sterkte. Haar verhaal waar veel pit, anecdotes en conflicten in zitten brengt tegelijk een boodschap van hoop en liefde.


message 8: by Julian (new)

Julian Lee The best advice I received in writing was that you might never be #1 bestseller, but at least you can improve someone's day with your book. Happy reading!


message 9: by N. (new)

N. Keith Julian wrote: "The best advice I received in writing was that you might never be #1 bestseller, but at least you can improve someone's day with your book. Happy reading!"

Thanks Julian for that comment. I've been disappointed that I've sold only about 30 of my books. But each one that has read it has enjoyed it immensely and shared great reviews about it. So it makes me happier knowing I improved someone's day by them reading it. Thanks for that uplift.


message 10: by Julian (new)

Julian Lee N. wrote: "Julian wrote: "The best advice I received in writing was that you might never be #1 bestseller, but at least you can improve someone's day with your book. Happy reading!"

Thanks Julian for that co..."


I have only sold 2 copies, because 14 copies were free during giveaways. So you did better than me. Good for you!


message 11: by N. (new)

N. Keith My book has been out for about 18 months. So that's just less than 2 a month. They were all sold on Amazon. I too have given away about 10. But all my reviews have been 5 stars. My goal is to turn it into a movie. My last one was sold last July.


message 12: by Julian (new)

Julian Lee N. wrote: "My book has been out for about 18 months. So that's just less than 2 a month. They were all sold on Amazon. I too have given away about 10. But all my reviews have been 5 stars. My goal is to turn ..."

Mine has only been out for 4 months


message 13: by N. (new)

N. Keith My best results was posting it on my facebook. Got more results when my son posted it on his facebook. Have you tried that, having friends on facebook helping you out?


message 14: by Julian (new)

Julian Lee N. wrote: "My best results was posting it on my facebook. Got more results when my son posted it on his facebook. Have you tried that, having friends on facebook helping you out?"
No, I don't have facebook. My mom does and I got a few people to read it that way


message 15: by Jessica (last edited Feb 10, 2019 11:23PM) (new)

Jessica Brown Authorship is not easy. It is not just about just putting chunks of text lines from some resources but requires much more just than doing that. One must have solid grasp over the topic or subject, he is going to create. As I render students with
nursing paper help,
I know how difficult some times it becomes to write while you go publishing without ever properly researching and examining.


message 16: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Osborne Julian wrote: "The best advice I received in writing was that you might never be #1 bestseller, but at least you can improve someone's day with your book. Happy reading!"
The best writing advice I got was, keep writing, don't stop after the first book! In addition, read, especially in the genre you're writing in. It's so easy to get carried away with how many sales we get/or don't get with our first book, but I think it's important to use our first book as a litmus test, to test out our writing skills so to speak. Our first book is not going to be our best work – it’s our first attempt at creating a book and putting it out there for the world to read! The more we write the better we get at it and that's what we should strive for as authors. I know that it's tough starting up as a self-published author, and that's why I'll continue to support my fellow self-published/ indie authors! Keep up the great work and keep creating! :-)


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael Zuniga My first book took about a year and a half to write. It was never published, and does not deserve to be published. It was total rubbish! But I don't feel that that year and a half was wasted. It was a learning experience. Now, I have a book published, far better than my first. Just keep writing, and never give up the dream.


message 18: by David (new)

David Hodges I agree very much with Michael. I started writing in my late teens, then because of my job and the restrictions this imposed on me, I had to put my manuscripts in a drawer for over 30 years. When I retired from my job, I returned to writing with a lot more life's experience, got a publishing contract with my first book, then got another and another. I now have 11 books published and am working on my twelfth - ten crime novels and one auto-biography. It took many, many hours hard soul-destroying work to succeed and a single-minded determination as well. So, my advice is to keep at it and have faith that one day you will get there! There are no 'free lunches' in the writing game, just hard work, and a dedication to the craft that can sometimes be almost too much to endure - and the learning never ends!
David Hodges


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