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  • Writer's pictureJenna Moreci

The Best Writing Advice from Successful Authors

HelloOoOo everybody!


Today I'm tackling a topic that was requested by one of my patrons over on Patreon, Thomas Gore. Thomas wanted to know the best pieces of writing advice that I have personally received from successful authors. I think this is a great topic, I love this suggestion, but there's one teeny-tiny problem. I'm mostly self-taught. Yes, I have received a significant amount of help along the way, and I am so grateful to everyone for their assistance. But most of my learning has been through extensive research, and a lot of the successful authors who have helped me have done so via their books.


So, I had an idea. Why don't we approach this topic in a different way? I asked a bunch of fellow writers to share some of the best writing advice they've received from successful authors. Some of this advice may have come from their reading or research, some may have come from mentors, and some may have come from successful authors they love, adore, and know personally. The point is, that we've all received a fair bit of advice, and we're sharing what has changed the game for us and our writing journeys. Listen, we've been doing things differently all month. Might as well continue the trend. You're about to see a whole lot of writers share a ton of wisdom from wildly different points of view.


Now I am breaking down the best advice that fellow writers and I have received from successful authors. Please note, that this advice can be about writing, marketing, the business side—whatever. We may have received this advice verbally, we may have read it in a book somewhere, or we may have read it online. It's all over the place! The point is the advice came in loud and clear and we sucked it up for all its worth. And we’ll remember it forever because it was so damn good. Let me know if any of this advice resonates with you in the comments below.



If you haven’t already, don’t forget to also subscribe to my YouTube channel for more writing tips, sarcasm, and of course, more of Princess Butters!


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Samantha Kassé

Hi, my name is Samantha Kassé, I am a fantasy writer. I also offer professional manuscript critiques and sensitivity evaluations. One of the best pieces of writing advice that I have stumbled upon is from Nora Roberts where she says, “You can fix anything but a blank page.” I think sometimes writers will get far too caught up in the idea of their story. So they will be on Pinterest looking up face claims. They will spend time world-building, for eons and eons. They will tweak and re-tweak their plots. Dissect their characters. And yet, they're hesitant to sit in front of the computer and put the words on the page.


I think this hesitation comes from a fear that what they envision in their mind will not translate to the page. But as Nora has told us, you cannot fix a blank page. So get those words down. You can always hire somebody to do a critique of your manuscript…hire me! If you are writing a marginalized character or community, you can always hire somebody to do a sensitivity evaluation…hire me!


But get those words down on the page, and then concern yourself with perfecting them later.


You can fix anything but a blank page. - Nora Roberts

Iona Wayland

Hi, my name is Iona Wayland. I'm a dark fantasy author of my debut dark fantasy novel, Ashes. I'm also a podcaster of Creepycore and Folklore. It's a podcast about creatures, encounters, old tales, and myths. So if you're interested in that you can check out my work. A successful author whose advice I listened the most to is Octavia Butler. I wish I could have met that beautifully twisted woman. But she says, “First forget inspiration, habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence and practice.”


I think when I first started out, I was under the assumption that like, inspiration would just like, magically help me write everything, and if I were a true writer, I'd be inspired and creative all the time. But Octavia Butler's advice reminds me that inspiration is a non-factor. It's great when it's around, but you're still able to use that work ethic, finish your story, and polish your story whether inspiration’s around or not. And that way you have more agency over your own creative path. Even if I don't wanna work on it at the time, or I'm feeling kind of low creatively. It doesn't mean that what I write is bad or that I'm unable to come up with a story or continue working on it because that habit is already built up. It also lends credence to the thought that if you keep persisting, that persistence will kind of translate into this work ethic that will always be there, that you can always tap into. And that's way more dependable than any kind of muse that may never show their face.


First, forget inspiration, habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence and practice. - Octavia Butler

Cassidy Wells

Hi friends, my name is Cassidy Wells. I am a writer of mostly speculative fiction and African American literature. I received my Master of Fine Arts and Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and I’m pursuing my PhD in creative fiction. I personally want to use that to teach others, so don't feel as if you need a degree in order to be a writer. I'm going to give three of the best pieces of writing advice that I have ever heard. One of the first things that has been an anchor to me in my writing journey comes from Shannon Hale, where she talks about writing the first draft. I am a person who gets so stuck in the first draft, that I literally can't even move on. So here is what she says. “I am writing a first draft and reminding myself that I am simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” This resonates with me so much because so much of being a writer, you want your work to be perfect the first go round. And it's not going to be. If you go in with the intention that your draft is going to be exactly how you see it in your head by the end of the first draft, you’re going to fail. If you keep trying to go back and revise and revise until it's perfect before you even get to the end, you will fail. You are not going to know what you have in front of you, and what you need to fix unless you go completely to the end. Don't think everything is going to be great, rosy, and dandy by the first draft. It is going to be this ugly pile of mess. This little pile of sand, that you have to slowly build through revisions, in order to build and build upon it so that it is this beautiful sand castle, the one that you imagined in your head.


I am writing a first draft and reminding myself that I am simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles. - Shannon Hale

This brings me to my second point of the best writing advice I've ever received. This advice comes from Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. He is a friend of mine and my professor. And so I just want to share a piece of what he has taught me that has been really pivotal for me, just to give myself grace in the process of writing. He says “Because your medium is language, and language is not innately sensual, language is in fact much more used often in a non-sensual way. The medium that we are using is unforgiving, whenever we look for it in our minds.” So when we are looking for our stories in our minds, it is going to be this jumbled mess. And we have to use language–words–as a medium, to get the story from our heads onto the page. And it's one of the hardest forms of art that is around.


Because your medium is language, and language is not innately sensual, language is in fact much more used often in a non-sensual way. The medium that we are using is unforgiving, whenever we look for it in our minds. - Robert Olen Butler

You think of someone like a painter. They have things like brush strokes, these different sizes of their painterly tools, and they use different paints, they use different styles. They have all these different things that they are able to get what they see in their head onto the page. The same for a singer. They might have a song in their head, but they use different things to convey the emotion of the song. The sway of their voice, the tilt of their voice, the way that they're able to raise or lower their voice in a way to convey emotion. As writers, we have to use words. We use these blocks of letters that by itself is not conveying anything. We have to structure them in a way so that they can convey a specific message, convey specific meaning and emotions, that by itself is doing nothing. Be gracious with yourselves. This is one of the hardest mediums of art there is. Your story's not going to look how you see it in your head the first one, two, or three times.


And that goes to the third piece of writing advice that I received from a successful author. And this comes from Tochi Onyebuchi. He is the Hugo Award-winning and several other award-winning speculative fiction writer. He was also my professor at my MFA and has really just become such a pivotal person who has really changed my outlook on writing as a black woman, writing speculative fiction. He says, “Think of writing in terms of painters. Young painters often figure out and find their voice by capturing the brushstrokes of their forbearers, even if they're in a different style. How certain painters deal with shadow, how others articulate the contours of apples in their still lifes, and how they organize bodies in a battle scene. Even if what they want to paint is a pond scene or a bunch of people having tea. You can still be informed by the shadow work and bodywork you study in previous paintings.” Use the work of other successful authors, read their work, and use the things that they have done that have been shown successful, but in a way that is useful to you and your story. Don't try to copy, imitate, and mimic others' writing in a way, just because you think that's how you will be successful. You can use the things that have come from your predecessors in ways that will make it easier for you to convey your story. They have left us with techniques. Write in a way that we're using the ideas of our predecessors, but in a way that brings something new and refreshing, that can only come from you.


Think of writing in terms of painters. Young painters often figure out and find their voice by capturing the brushstrokes of their forbearers, even if they're in a different style. How certain painters deal with shadow, how others articulate the contours of apples in their still lifes, and how they organize bodies in a battle scene. Even if what they want to paint is a pond scene or a bunch of people having tea. You can still be informed by the shadow work and bodywork you study in previous paintings. - Tochi Onyebuchi

That's all I have for you guys. Thank you so much to Jenna, for allowing me to talk to you guys. If you have any questions, message Jenna, or message me, and we'll be happy to help you.


Lizabeth Phoenix

Hi, I'm Lizabeth Phoenix, I'm an independently published author, Game of Thrones, and Uncharted fan. My short story, The Devourer’s Oath is out now, and I'm currently working on my debut novel, a new adult dystopian fantasy. Is it still a debut if it's not your first publication? A while back, my writing consultant introduced me to Game of Thrones and my perspective on storytelling just exploded. One of the best pieces of advice I think George R. R. Martin has ever given is that “Every single thing you write should have consequences.” Every character choice, every piece of dialogue, and even the setting and the surrounding world-building should all affect the outcome somehow. This includes how their past and their backstory would naturally influence their current and future decisions.


For example, in Game of Thrones the TV show, Daenerys flies North to pick up Jon from beyond the wall, but she loses Viserion to the Night King in the process. You are down a dragon, right off the bat. Jon chooses duty over love, and while he saves the Seven Kingdoms from a tyrant (sorry Dany), he's exiled to the North because of his treason. This concept of consequences is something I want to work into my stories however I can. Even if it's two books down the line or an entire series, my character's choices affect their trajectory, and the trajectory of those around them.


This advice constantly reminds me to have passion for my work, to craft it with care, and to really focus on the details and continuity of my stories. So I always try to remember that everything I write has to have consequences. It all affects how my stories end, or how new ones begin.


Everything has consequences. - George R. R. Martin

Matt Hollon

Hi, my name is Matt Hollon, and I'm the author of the dark fantasy pirate short story, The White Harvester, featured in Sacha Black’s The Rebel Diaries anthology. I've received a lot of writing advice over the course of my career. But if I had to pick one piece, it would be what I heard from Jenna Moreci, and that is how important it is to make other writer friends. It sounds pretty simple. Like obviously you wanna make friends. But I don't think people grasp how important that is. Writing is an industry, just like anything else. And just like any other industry, networking matters. If I didn't have my writer friends, I would have never heard about The Rebel Diaries anthology. And more than likely The White Harvester would still just be chilling on my laptop, instead of being published out in the world.


Beyond just opening doors for you, from a personal standpoint, I am so grateful for my writer friends because they understand what it's like to be a writer. They understand the trials that come with agonizing over punctuation, and word choice, and making sure a scene flows properly, in a way that non-writers just won't get. And writing is so hard, and it's so lonely sometimes, that having those people in your corner that understand it, that have been there. They help lift me up. And it's going to be so important for you to have those people in your corner because you're going to doubt yourself, you’re going to question whether you're good enough to do this. And you need those people to tell you that you are. Writing is so challenging. It's such a lonely thing to try to do. And you're not going to be able to do it alone. You need help.


Make other writer friends. - Jenna Moreci

Katlyn Duncan

Hello, my name is Katlyn Duncan, and I wanted to thank you so much, Jenna, for allowing me to share some writing advice. I am an award-winning young adult fiction author. I also write psychological thrillers, and nonfiction for authors, and I'm a ghostwriter. And I have to say the biggest piece of advice that really propelled me on this journey, is from E.L. James. So E.L. James is the author of the 50 Shades series trilogy. And as much as some people don't like her, I think she's truly a boss babe, and she has gone through so much and has become quite a successful author. So I was at a book signing for her books, and I said to her, “Oh, hi, I'd like to be a writer too.” She looked up at me and she was like, “Just do it.” And I'm like, “What?” She was like, “Don't talk about it. Just do it. If you want to be an author, be an author.” And I know that advice can be a little, seem a little harsh for some people, but it was exactly the motivation that I needed to get my writing career going. So her “Just do it!” stayed in my head for a while, until I was finally published in 2013. And I've been publishing every year since.


Don't talk about it. Just do it. If you want to be an author, be an author. - E.L. James

Helen Scheuerer

Hey guys, my name is Helen Scheuerer. I am the bestselling author of young adult fantasy as well as fantasy romance. I'm also the author of How to Write a Successful Series which is nonfiction advice for authors. Jenna asked me to come on to share some of the best writing advice that I've received. And that was quite a hard one to come up with because I've actually received a lot more bad advice than I have good advice. But one thing that really stuck with me was from Zoe York, who wrote the Romance Your Brand nonfiction series. She in this book talks about the concept of series 2.0. Which is basically writing your first series, and then when it comes to your second series, taking everything that worked really well with that series, and making it bigger and better in the second. And sort of doing that process again and again, until you come up with a really incredible product.


And that is something that has stuck with me over the years. I'm currently on my third fiction series, and it's something that I think about quite often, because obviously as you get further and further into your career, you wanna be thinking about how you can improve, but you also wanna be taking with you the best parts of what you've done well in the past. And so that's something that has always stuck with me. So, Zoe York's Romance Your Brand, and her concept of series 2.0 has really changed the way that I think about my writing and my career.


Write your first series, and then when it comes to your second series, take everything that worked really well with that series, and make it bigger and better in the second. - Zoe York

Jenna Moreci

My name is Jenna Moreci. As you already know, I am an international number-one bestselling author of both dark fantasy romance as well as writing craft books. The best piece of writing advice I've received came from Toni Morrison. She delivered this advice to me personally. That's a lie. But wouldn't it be cool if it was true?


One of Toni Morrison's most well-known quotes about writing is, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” This resonated with me in a huge way due to its simplicity and power. It seems so obvious, write the book that you want to read. But that can be really hard for a lot of writers. We often feel pressure due to outside perspectives. What if what we want to read isn't highbrow? What if people make fun of us, or judge us?


But the longer you're in this industry, you start to realize that that shit’s gonna happen no matter what. People are going to judge you no matter what you write. So you might as well dive into your passion project. If you're writing the book you want to read, there's a very good chance you're going to be extremely invested in this project, which is going to make navigating the bumps in the road a whole lot easier. And there are a lot of bumps. Morrison’s advice has been ingrained in my brain, and it has completely changed my perspective on writing in the best way. And I honestly think it's one of the reasons that I was able to turn my writing into a career.


If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. - Toni Morrison

So that's all I've got for you today!

Author Jenna Moreci.

A huge thank you to all the wonderful writers who contributed to this video. If you are interested in checking any of them out, and you totally should be, I have their information in the description of the YouTube video above. And thank you to Thomas for requesting this video. If you'd like the chance to have a video dedicated to you, or if you want access to tons of other awards, check me out on Patreon. We've got an exclusive writing group, you get early access to all of my videos, and tons of other goodies. I have it linked here.



 

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