Wisdom of the Veteran Writer

writersSo much of what I have learned in publishing and about the craft of writing I have learned from other writers; from their blogs, their Twitter and Facebook links, and their generosity. It seems like the natural order of things is to pass on what you know to those less experienced or new to the profession. Today I have gathered quotes from just a few of the many who have imparted their wisdom to me.

“If writing flows in your veins like your life’s blood, then let the laundry pile up, let the lawn grow, let the house fester with dust, and write. If like so many, life has thrown down gauntlets of hardship, then put them in your work, allow whatever emotion you may be suffering to add depth to your characters and their own pain and hardships…AND WRITE. —Donna Russo Morin, author of THE KING’S AGENT website here

“Don’t be defensive about criticism. Listen to it carefully, and know that it’s generally given to help you make your work stronger.” –Susanne Dunlap, author of The Académie  website here

“I was a short story writer and editor at Ploughshares, before I published my novel, Cascade. I think the reason why I found an agent and publisher so quickly was because I had learned to be patient with my material. If there are parts of your manuscript that make you wince, that you hope an editor won’t notice, be sure that those are precisely what they will notice. As much as editors are looking for wonderful books, they are also looking for reasons to say no. Don’t make it easy for them.”—Maryanne O’Hara, author of CASCADE website here

“Don’t become a writer unless you are absolutely COMPELLED to do so.”—Anne Barnhill, author of AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN website here

“Yes, it’s great to be a bestseller and that is certainly an admirable goal, but the truth is 99% of authors won’t even have a chance at the golden ring if they don’t stay alive long enough to write the book the publisher is going to get behind and anoint.

There are the occasional meteoric rises to success. Every year of the 10,000+ novelists who get published, there will be five debuts who make the list because they were anointed and the system worked.

Those five aren’t worth analyzing. They are the lottery winners—the five with just the right book and just the right agent at just the right time to just the right publisher who has just the right line up with just the right foresight to make it happen.

The list of authors to pay attention to and learn from is the other 99% on the bestseller list who got there after 5,7,10  or 18 books. Jodi Picoult became a bestseller with her 8th, Janet Evanovich with her 18th. Carol O’Connell, who is one of my favorite writers, made it with her 10th.

It’s a rare author who gets anointed right off the bat.

Your goal can’t be to make yourself a bestseller but to write better and better books because that’s the only thing in your control.” –M.J. Rose, bestselling author of SEDUCTION and THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES website here

As for my own advice: Be who you are and don’t apologize for it. There is room in this industry for all genres, all kinds of writers, many different stories, and, in fact, it’s richer for it.


Author: Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around RomanceUniversity.org as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

13 Replies to “Wisdom of the Veteran Writer”

  1. Wow. I had no idea about Jodi Picoult and Janet Evanovich. That really puts so much into perspective.

    Like you, I’ve also learned so much about publishing through social media; when I first discovered Twitter and author/agent blogs, it felt like this huge window just opened up to let me peek in. I’m so grateful to all the industry people who’ve been generous enough with their knowledge to help and encourage a newbie like me!

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