Advice That Resonates

It’s back to school time, a time that conjures thoughts of new beginnings and, with any luck, renewed vigor for our writing. To celebrate fresh starts, we thought we’d share with you some of the best writing advice we’ve ever received.


Gail Whitiker:

‘Set the book aside and let it rest for as long as you can.’ I can’t remember who told me that, or if I read it, but it makes a huge difference to the final story. When you’ve been away from the manuscript for a few weeks, the mistakes jump out at you. When you’re working on it day after day, you can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.


Vanessa Grant:

If we’re talking the BEST advice over the long run of a writer’s life – I’d say it’s three little words: WRITE OUT LOUD!

This is #2 in J.R. Ward’s list of writing rules from her book The Black Dagger Brotherhood – An Insider’s Guide, and I interpret it variously as “take out all the stops”, “go for it!”, “don’t get in your own way”, “don’t let that inner critic dry up your words and ideas”. Ward certainly follows her own advice in many of her Black Brotherhood books.

Basically it comes down to Freeing the Writer Within, and Natalie Goldberg gave the best advice I’ve seen on HOW in her book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.

I often fight with my inner critic about writing out loud, and the result is that I get stalled in my writing, and end up doubting my own story ideas and my choices in direction. Ironically, I’ve found that the more I learn about writing and the business of writing, the more I am in danger of getting tangled up with my inner critic.

My version of “Write out Loud” and “Free the Writer Within Me” would be to head off by myself to the West Coast of Vancouver Island where the sound of the ocean surf on the shore washes cares away, take long walks on the edge of the ocean between sessions on my laptop, and forget everything in the world but the story blossoming inside. Don’t correct spelling, don’t fidget over the best words, don’t look back, don’t listen to that pesky inner critic, just tell the story.

Once it’s written, I would head back home, put what I’d written aside for a few days or a couple of weeks. Then I would return to the story with an eye to craft: focusing on tension, suspense, pacing, clarity, powerful characters, and the perfect ending and – and make it the best it can be.


Bonnie Edwards:

I would have to say hearing Nora Roberts in a Chat with Session in Boston in 1989 gave me the understanding that writing is hard work and the best way to succeed was to write every day. She is very inspiring and I’ve done my best to emulate her work ethic. The idea that you can’t revise a blank page resonated with me and that bit of knowledge has kept me going many times.


Laura Tobias:

There are no guarantees. Award-winning children’s author Michael Morpurgo once told me he was often surprised by the reception his books received. Those he expected to do well (because they were timely or particularly well-crafted) didn’t always, while other books he thought might make only a modest impact on publication ended up making a huge splash. “Just write the best book you can and send it into the world and let go of expectations because you will often be surprised,” he said. He was right!

Article written by

By the time she hit Grade Four, Laura Tobias knew she wanted to be a writer. So did the teachers. It was the persistent daydreaming and invisible friends that tipped them off. Since Laura grew up knowing no writers – and consequently didn’t know how to be one – she became a journalist instead. The trouble is, journalists are expected to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But making stuff up is way more fun. So Laura traded one notebook for another and today she writes romance and women’s fiction. She lives on Vancouver Island with a pair of Shetland sheepdogs, her high school sweetheart (Mr. Petrol Head) and her son (Teen Freud). She’s also the award-winning author of 15 books for teens and children writing as Laura Langston: Also find her at and occasionally at

5 Responses

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  1. EC Sheedy
    EC Sheedy at | | Reply

    Now you see, I was supposed to contribute to this, but my brain, currently being buzzed by fuzz bombs went underground. I’ll be okay, I think. Or not. 🙂

    But here’s a piece of advice I have pinned on my office wall that’s worth passing on, I think.

    “It’s a long game. It will look bad on plenty of days, but hang in there, keep showing up and see where you are in ten years.” Lee Child

  2. Laura Tobias
    Laura Tobias at | | Reply

    EC, I seriously think yours – Lee’s – is my new favorite piece of advice. It deserves a piece of my office wall too!

  3. Gail Whitiker
    Gail Whitiker at | | Reply

    That’s a really interesting comment from Lee Child, EC. I wonder where publishing will be in ten years, never mind those of us who are still hanging in there!

  4. Rachel
    Rachel at | | Reply

    Thanks for these treasures – including the late…I mean belated 🙂 EC Sheedy.

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