Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What's the Best Writing Advice You've Ever Received?

I have shelves and shelves of an ever-growing collection of writing books, with no end in sight. Some I've read, most I haven't, but I think of them all as an investment and most of them have come in handy for the classes I'm teaching this fall.

Yet on the other hand, it's silly because out of all of these books that I own, I remember the best writing advice I've ever received. My freshman English teacher constantly reminded us to "Say the most in the least amount of words", always striving for brevity and clarity. Those words have always stuck with me, and I find myself saying the same thing to my students (for some, it hasn't sunken in yet). I have no patience for the old "Write what you know" philosophy, because if writers just stuck to that, we'd be out of ideas in a few minutes. Out of all of the tips I've received over the years, that short piece of advice has always stood out above the rest.

What's the best writing advice you've ever received?


  1. The best writing advice I ever got was when a well-known and well-respected author was a guest speaker at a seminar I attended. Her name is Rosemary Aubert and she is the author of the Ellis Portal mystery series (6 books so far).

    She said "know the genre", which may seem obvious, but the words hit home.

    She said to read the genre, find out who is publishing what within your genre, think about what's NOT there and see if you can fill the gap, look at what is there and consider why this book or that book was printed. Think about what works within the genre, what you like or not, and so on.

    So, I dug into the genre and I think the advice paid off. My first book will be published next month!

    Cheers, Jill

  2. That's such a great question. My journalism teacher in high school told me that everyone has a story, which has always stuck with me because it makes me look deeper into subjects when I'm writing articles.

    In general though, the best advice I got was that you have to just write, without fear of how bad it'll be, because you can always revise and clean up later. But you can't clean up something if it's not written in the first place.