Deb Eleanor Calls in the Troops!

The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor BrownOne of the best parts of social media is all the connections I’ve made with other writers and authors. So to that end, I thought instead of giving you my own advice (which is worth slightly less than two cents in today’s currency), I thought I’d ask some of my favorite writers what their advice is.


One-Sentence (and sometimes more!) Writing Advice


“Aspiring writers don’t aspire — they write.” –J.C. Hutchins, 7th Son: Descent

“Done is better than fun.” Erin Blakemore, The Heroine’s Bookshelf

“My favorite advice comes from Margaret Mitchell, who encouraged all writers to ‘put your work up for two months and then when you take it out again the errors will fairly leap out at you till you wonder why you ever thought it was good.’” Ellen F. Brown, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey.

“Tell a good story, and tell it well.” —Therese Fowler, Exposure

“Hold all writing advice lightly; every writer has to chart her own course by her own star.” —Kyran Pittman, Planting Dandelions

“Journal when you can: memories, snippets of dialogue you’ve overheard, cool character or street names. Someday you will be happy to have these details in your pocket.” —Siobhan Fallon, You Know When the Men Are Gone

“Write every day.  Find a time that works for you, and stick to it.  Defend its sanctity with your life.  There will be good days and there will be bad days, but if you show up every day and put in the time then sooner or later you’ll end up with a story.” –Alex George, A Good American

“Set up two monitors on your computer–write on one screen, display your notes/outlines/inspiration images on the other.  You’ll be surprised what a difference that can make.” —Holly Tucker, Blood Work

“No matter where you are in your career, no one else will ever have as much passion and enthusiasm for your writing as you do–you are your own best advocate.” —Erin Dionne, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet

“Read, read, read!” —Kelly O’Connor McNees, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

“Because there will always be times you get stymied by plunges in confidence, blank screens and the refrigerator, always  surround yourself with three books that are either about writing and how to do it or that are written in a style you appreciate and want to emulate.” –Rachel Machacek, The Science of Single

“Above all, a well-imagined story is organized around extraordinary human behaviors and unexpected and startling events, which help illuminate the commonplace and the ordinary.” (Channeling Tim O’Brien, in “Telling Tails” in The Atlantic) Meg Waite Clayton, The Four Ms. Bradwells

“Don’t fret about getting all the details into first draft; a manuscript is like a cake, let it bake and cool, then go back and decorate!” —Beth Hoffman, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“It takes a while for the kitchen faucet in my third-floor apartment to actually produce hot water, and I’ve found that to be a great metaphor about the need to write every day—the water won’t heat up unless you let it run a while.” —Wendy McClure, The Wilder Life

“Let your characters talk to you. If you are stuck, ask him or her, ‘So what is it that you’re really upset about?’ And then let him or her speak.” —Caroline Leavitt, Pictures of You

“Write the novel that’s bursting to come out of you, in a voice that is gloriously yours. And believe in that voice.” Melissa Senate, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

“Writers write.” —Molly Harper, How to Flirt With a Naked Werewolf

“Keep one last sentence in your head at the end of the day so that you know the first thing you will write tomorrow.” —Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches

“Treat writing like exercise – you need to do it religiously to get results!” —Sarah Pekkanen, Skipping a Beat

Thanks to all the authors who contributed today! If any of them are new to you, click the link in their book’s title to get to know them.

And now, your turn! Writers, what are the writing words you live by? Non-writers, what’s the best one-sentence advice you’ve ever gotten?

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39 thoughts on “Deb Eleanor Calls in the Troops!

    • That’s really interesting – I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, and I especially like the ones that have an arc and a story. Like, say, All I Can Handle!

  1. Oh, great collection of advice!

    I always quote Diana Gabaldon’s Three Rules on Becoming a Writer: 1. Read. 2. Write. 3. (most important) Don’t stop!

    Like a lot of good advice, it’s simple but not always easy. 🙂

  2. Wonderful advice! My favorite piece of advice is “Real writers can’t not write” – a creative writing prof told me that long ago.

  3. I love this one 🙂 – Keep one last sentence in your head at the end of the day so that you know the first thing you will write tomorrow

    • Isn’t that great? I like the feeling of having *finished* something at the end of the day, but there’s something to the idea. I’m going to have to try it!

        • Ha! I am hoping that “in your head” can also be interpreted as “on a scrap of paper”, because I’d likely forget it, too!

  4. These are excellent! Perfectly sized for me to share with my elementary-aged writing students. I especially enjoy the ones that say “read!”

    • Definitely a good one – one of my favorites is from Jodi Picoult, who said, “You can edit garbage, but you can’t edit a blank page.” It’s worth just getting it out there!

  5. “Bash it out now. Tart it up later.” From the immortal rocker Nick Lowe, but works for nonmusical prose, too (and then follow up with the Jodi Picoult advice). Bashing bashing bashing.

  6. Wow–what great company there is here. Writing is like getting dressed, I supposed, we all have to put our pants on one leg at a time. No matter how experienced or new…writing is an adventure, a challenge, a privilege.

    • Except every time you write something new, you have to figure out how to put your pants on again. Thank goodness getting dressed isn’t that difficult, or I’d never get out of my yoga pants.

      Oh, wait, I never get out of my yoga pants anyway.

  7. I love this list, hearing simple advice is just so inspiring. Thank you Eleanor for sharing your friends with us!!

    • All thanks go to them – hands-down the best part of this process has been meeting all these wonderful folks…like you!

    • They’re a good bunch, definitely! I’m so lucky to count them (and you!) as writer-friends!

  8. I mentioned on Twitter how much I loved this post but forgot to come over here to say so to the non-Twitterers (is that a word?). Writers of any sort can find some great advice here.

    • That’s a great one. Writers (myself included) can get really focused on the market. But if you don’t love, say, vampire fiction, writing it just because it’s trendy will just depress you.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing these! One of my favorite quotes – I have it on my bulletin board next to my desk – is by Stephen King – “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

    Working hard, every day. 🙂

  10. Great post! thanks! I’m reminded of what I keep hearing, in various forms from different writers, agents, etc… the difference between a published writer and an unpublished one —- one didn’t give up.

    • That’s a great one! It can certainly be a discouraging business, but the elusive ‘yes’ does happen!

    • Ha! I should have known our resident foodie would love that one. Seriously, I think she’s exactly right, and it pretty much echoes my standard line, “You can edit garbage, but you can’t edit a blank page.” (TM Jodi Picoult)

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