8 Pieces of Advice for Writers

In every interview, I’m asked, “What’s your top piece of advice for writers?”

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing, so I’ve put together a list of 8 pieces of advice I have for “new writers” (interpret the word “new” as you will.)

advice for new writers 2

1. Go to a Writer’s Conference

There is almost no better way to grow in your writing skill level and challenge yourself. If you’re going to be an author, you need to get ready to challenge yourself. Conferences do this for you. They challenge you to really own your work (aka: don’t be shy about writing.) They challenge you to interact with fellow writers and professionals. Most of all, they challenge you to step up  your writing to new levels. Conference workshops provide hands-on instruction from professionals that will reshape your writing in a way no writer craft book can.

Start with a small conference that’s local — search online. Or look at some of the more popular ones like the Mt. Hermon Writing Conference, the ACFW Conference, or (if you write speculative fiction) the Realm Makers Conference.

2. Find a writing buddy at your skill level

Community 2Where do you find said buddy? Why at a writers conference, of course! 😉 We all need a friend with whom to share the struggles of writing, deadlines, publication, rejections, and dry imaginations. My writing buddy, Angie Brashear (Read her book! Visit her website! Swamp her Facebook with smiley emoticons!), has seen me through thick and thin — freaking out over book covers, panicking about rough drafts, doubting my writing skills. She’s the first person I think of when I need to chat about something writing-related.

It’s good to have a friend with the same passions as you. Be intentional about this. The friendships will bring even more value to your writing passion than the critiques or advice.

3. Get your manuscript professionally edited.

It’s never going to be easy giving it to a person to tear apart, but it’s a necessity. Your writing buddy can provide critiques but it’s a whole different ball game to take your manuscript to a professional editor (unless your writing buddy is a professional editor. But you don’t want to blur the line anyway. Get another set of eyes. 😉 )

There are a lot of freelance editors out there. There are a lot of different types of edits out there. Educate yourself, then hand over your baby and buy a bar of chocolate in advance to prepare yourself for coping with the red pen.

Just like anything, you grow through constructive criticism. I know none of us have rhino skin and I don’t expect you to grow it. I just ask you to take a brave step, be vulnerable…and grow.

4. Write the first two books in your series.

If you’re writing a series, try to write the second book before contracting the first! Some agents out there are going to tear their hair out if they see me giving you this advice because they don’t want you to put forth wasted effort if the series is a flop. Neither do I. BUT, if the series isn’t a flop, then you’ll find yourself scrambling to make book two work when you no longer have power to change book one. (Take this from someone who knows.)

Even if you don’t completely finish book two, start it. Get an idea of where you’re going with it. Outline, if you have to. This will strengthen the first book and prepare you later on for that multi-book contract. 😉

5. Read writing craft books.

You’re a writer, right? Which means you like words. Which probably means you like to read (that’s kind of a must in this industry.) So read books about writing. Hone your craft through your favorite method of learning — reading!top-writing-craft-book-gerke

I’m a freelance editor and, on about 9 out of 10 manuscripts, I end up educating the author about either point-of-view, showing vs. telling, character introduction, passive voice, reader engagement, etc. I don’t mind, because I understand that there is a lot to learn and that’s one benefit of getting a professional edit.

BUT, most books will cover these craft cornerstones in a much more thorough and less painful way than an editor’s red pen. Here are some of my favorite craft books:

6. Write every day

I’m telling this to myself as well as to you. I don’t write every day, but I try to write every day — well, at least every work day. And it grows my habits and my writing skill by leaps and bounds. So, though I haven’t mastered it yet, I pass the advice along to you.

Write on your manuscript, write in your journal, write a blog post, write fan fiction, write a letter to your mom (you know you should). Just…write! Even if it’s scratching out a description of the sky on a spare napkin, do it. It will grow your writing skill and voice.

7. Read your genre

When I first started writing, I asked a fellow author what their first piece of advice would be for me. She said, “Read! Read! Read! Never stop reading.”

I thought, Well, duh. And then…my writing career picked up and I struggle to read a book a month. So I schedule reading days, I set reading goals, I put together a lovely shelf of books every January with the hopes of actually getting to them all.advice-for-writers-read

8. Start a newsletter

Now, don’t freak out (like I did) when you first hear this advice. I know what’s going through your head. “But I don’t have anything to say!” or “I don’t even have a book yet!” or “I don’t blog!” or “No one wants to get newsletters!

You’re wrong.

People care about you and your writing. Even if you’re just starting out writing, set up a newsletter. I use Mailchimp and highly recommend it. It’s free, they have great tutorials, and you can make your newsletter as simple or as complicated as you want.

Newsletters don’t need to go out all the time. Start with two or four a year as simple “updates.” I  send out my newsletter only once a month (sometimes less!) Share what you’re writing, how it’s going, what has inspired you, what you’re learning, etc. Start by asking family members and friends (and critique partners!) if they’d like to sign up.

The golden nugget to newsletters is that, people sign up because they want to know what’s going on in your life! They want to hear from you. Then, when you do have a book, and a publishing contract (or indie plan), then you have people to announce it to who have been following your journey. Otherwise, you end up shouting to an empty room. Newsletters are the very beginning of marketing (the dreaded word!) and the absolute best form of marketing you could do. It’s never too early to start growing your list.

 

This is all the advice I have for you for now…and I’m only a couple years into my writing career! I’m still a newbie. Imagine what advice I’ll have after five years of writing! Ten years of writing! (Eep!)

 

Which piece of advice is your favorite?

What questions do you have regarding the start of a writing career?

 



About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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28 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips! Not sure I can pick a favorite, but I can say that writing buddies and writing every day have made the biggest impact on my writing life thus far. Having a someone to talk to about writing is so motivating, happifying, and soul enriching! It makes all the difference in the world to be able to brain dump on a buddy when you’re on a tough scene or stuck on some logistical thing in the plot. And the momentum of writing something–anything–daily, as well as personal satisfaction–is well worth the effort of getting up a little earlier each day.

  2. This is great advice Nadine! Thanks so much sharing your thoughts! I know I’m looking forward to implementing this advice in my own writing life! 😉

    I do have a question though. At the moment I can’t afford a writing conference or travel. Would a local writer’s group be okay instead? I’m planning to attend at least ONE conference next year, but I know this year is out of the question.

    • I think a local writer’s group would be a great start. You can’t expect to tackle all the tips in one year. 😉 I think it’s great that you’re planning to attend at least one conference next year! As long as it’s on your radar and you view it as a serious step toward committed writing, you’re on the right track. 🙂

  3. Nadine,

    Thanks for the tips. Most of them are familiar and I’ve implemented some, but it never, NEVER hurts to be reminded. Because…

    I see some that have fallen off the radar since my last reminder!

    The advice I’m most likely to give to new writers is simple.

    Quit if you can.

    If someone thinks they want to be a writer, but they can quit, then it’s better to find something they really want to do (and can’t give up). After all, there are activities that pay better, are easier to do, and are more fun. Brutal honesty, here.

    But if someone tries to quit writing and can’t, then they’re already a writer. Best to just start writing.

    After that, I agree with your list!

    I’m looking forward to your response to CraftyBookSheeps, since I’m in the same position.

    If local writers’ groups don’t fill the gap, what about the online resources some writer’s conferences make available?

    • Intriguing advice! I’ve never really thought about writing that way: if I could quit, then maybe I should. Certainly a concept to chew on! 🙂

      An online resource that I’ve found very helpful is the Bestsellers Society: A Conference in a Box, though I don’t know how much longer it plans to be active. The content is all still there, though, so it might be worth it to pop in for a month and watch the videos. Also, may conferences will have the CDs for purchase. Those CDs will have all the different sessions recorded and that’s still a nice way to get the content, though it’s missing the interactive side of things.

  4. Ahhh, thank you about the tip of writing your second book as well as your first before you start pitching/submitting. That may be something I have to do…I’ll have to think about it. Granted, I’ve written my book 2 before, but the extensive revisions of book 1 over the years mean that book 2 will be tremendously changed. Since it’s all a revision at this point, it’s hard to say what I should do on that one. Definitely food for thought!

  5. Aw, ditto. DITTO! I’m actually not sure how I’d survive the wide world of writing without you, dear friend!

  6. Thank you so much for this! My favorite is #2 Find a writing buddy at your skill level

  7. Thanks for the tips! My homeschooling mommy writers will love the ideas. 🙂

  8. Best advice: get a buddy! This works for everything. I’m a big advocate of peer coaching.

  9. What a great post, Nadine!! I’m intrigued by your “shelf of books” you put together every January… Do you decide at the beginning of the year what books you hope to read that year? Do you find yourself adding and subtracting a lot throughout the year? I love the idea – but I’m not sure I could be disciplined enough to follow through.

    • Thank you, Marion!
      I usually decide at the beginning of the year because it inspires me. But I’m learning that I deviate quite drastically throughout the year. For example, this year I’ve read almost 20 books, and about 3 of those came from my planned shelf, LOL. I always add, never subtract. 😉
      But as long as I’m reading, that’s what matters!

      • Marion Erickson

        I can so relate. In the past I always put together an elaborate summer reading list – and finally realized that I never actually paid much attention to it beyond the first week or so.

  10. Great advice Nadine! I need to work harder at numbers 5 & 8. And can’t wait to do number 1 this August!

  11. Great advice! I heard about the importance of newsletters, and already have mine started, but it is a slow process getting the sign up list to grow. At least I started early. 🙂

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  14. Serious advice. 🙂 Nice. Thanks! *scrambles to incorporate them*

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