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Friday, April 26, 2013

Writing Advice You Should ALWAYS Follow

by Edie Melson

Several weeks ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about Writing Advice You Should NEVER Follow. Today I want to share writing advice you should always follow. Now, like ninety-nine percent of publishing rules, take these with a grain of salt. Writing is rarely a one-size-fits-all proposition.

1. Keep a regular schedule. Notice a said REGULAR schedule, not normal (and I didn’t say write every day). Your schedule may be writing on the bus everyday to work, or from midnight to 2 a.m. or even only on the weekend. Whatever works best for you, stick with it. Small bites are the best way to devour a huge task.

2. Don’t stop learning. Even if this weren’t an industry that’s ever changing, you’d still need to keep honing your skills. I don’t care who you are, or how long you’ve been writing, you never arrive.

3. Plug into a supportive team. You’ve often heard that writing is a solitary pursuit. Yes…and no. The act of putting words on paper is rarely a team sport. But producing publishable work is not. It takes a good support system to help you cover all the bases.

4. Build your platform BEFORE you get published. Yep, you read that right. So many writers put off building their social media networks until they sign with an agent or a publisher. I’m telling you that’s too late. Start building now and you’ll find yourself more attractive to editors and agents.

5. Don’t let the voices in your head derail your progress. As a whole, we writers are an insecure bunch. And most of our insecurity starts in our minds. We convince ourselves to fail before we even get started good. Who am I fooling, I can’t write. That editor/agent didn’t mean it when he said to send him a proposal. I don’t know why I bother, none of this is any good. Any of these sound familiar?

6. Learn the rules so you know how to break them effectively. Part of developing as a writer is knowing when to break the rules. It’s hard to do if you don’t know them to begin with. For example, you’ll hear the advice to get rid of repeated words. In most cases that’ good advice, but there are instances when you’ll want to repeat a word for emphasis.

7. Don’t EVER talk bad about anyone in the industry. Publishing is a small family, and people move around a lot. An agent at this company today, may be at a different company next year. The person sitting next to you at a conference, could be your editor. You get the idea.

8. Take critique, but don’t let it silence your voice. It’s important to develop a tough skin in this business. That means learning from tough critiques. BUT and this is vital, remember that a critique is just someone’s opinion. If you incorporate every critique into your WIP you’ll lose that distinctive thing called voice. This means sometimes throwing out advice from people you trust, and breaking some rules.

9. Write what you love. It's tempting to try to follow what's popular, but it rarely works out well. Life's short, spend it doing something you love.

10. Don’t quit. I’ve been around this business a long time. I’ve learned that while talent is good, perseverance will get you a whole lot farther. You’re going to have bad days, bad weeks, even bad months, but that’s still no reason to quit.

I’ve given you my best advice. Now I’d like to hear from you. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Edie Melson is the author of four books, a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the social media columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and social media mentor for My Book Therapy. Connect with her through Twitter,  Facebook, and her popular blog for writers,


  1. This is great advice, Edie. One other point I often share with students in my writing workshops is not to stop too soon. By this I mean don't be so eager to submit your completed novel that you send it out before some time has passed and you have gone back to revise it with fresh eyes. Writing a novel is a grueling process and many writers are so relieved to type "The End" that off it goes before it is as polished as it should be. Authors should also be certain that the rest of the book is as polished as those first three chapters that have been critiqued and work-shopped and revised to death. Every page and chapter should shine just as brightly as the beginning. Otherwise you risk disappointing an editor who was excited by the opening but who finds the rest of the work not up to the same standard. I suggest putting away a finished manuscript for at least a couple of months while you begin another project. Then go back to it and you will see its flaws much more clearly.

  2. I used to tell my high school writing students to remember than nothing is written in stone except the 10 commandments. (In other words, critique and revision are your friends.)

  3. Congratulations, Edie, on your two-book contract with Thomas Nelson! I've posted your articles on The Writer's Plot Facebook page.

    The best writing advice I've ever received was to keep 10 different things in the mail at all times. If you do this, you'll sell at least one thing, but probably more. I've tried this and it really does work. Obviously you probably won't have 10 book manuscripts, but 10 things could include queries, proposals, short stories, articles, contest entries, etc. Try it and see if it doesn't work. I found the trick is to keep 10 things in the mail. Once you start selling, you have to write faster to keep up.



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