There are many places where you can find helpful writing tips and advice on the business of writing. One of my favourites is Writers' News, and others are on the links page. Instead of repeating them, here's what I wish I'd known when I started out.


  • Celebrate your first publication, but don't be surprised if rejection follows.
  • Friends and relatives are often unimpressed and unwilling to read your work.
  • Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the boring bits, such as reformatting your work for different publications. Check their guidelines. The advent of computers was meant to make life easier, what it actually means is that you can find yourself with the soul-destroying job of having to take out indents or m-dashes for one publication only to have to put them all back in again for the next.
  • Ask any two experts and they're likely to give you a different opinion. That doesn't mean that you should ignore conflicting advice, or not bother with critiques. At the very least they encourage you to look at your work from a different perspective.
  • Think of your cover letter as a job application. Be polite and keep to the point.
  • If you have what you believe is a good idea, but you're struggling to write it, perhaps you're using the wrong form. Maybe instead of a short story, it would work better as a play or a poem.
  • Don't throw anything away. When you look at something you've written after a while there's usually a phrase or character etc. that you like and can be used elsewhere, or that gives you an idea for another work. If nothing else, it will show you how much you've improved.
  • Thinking isn't time wasted.  Garrison Keiller said: "... the writing life requires freedom to waste time, to putter and daydream and browse through books with no goal in mind."
  • Don't think that a work is ever finished.
  • There is more than one road to success.


For more tips, see my blog.

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