Ask An Author: What’s the Best Writing Advice You’ve Ever Received?

by Brian Rock

Jamie Michalak:

“Just write the damn book.” –my dad

Am I allowed to say that one? Whenever I get stuck, procrastinate, or make excuses, I hear my dad’s advice. It’s especially helpful when writing a first draft of a longer work. Turn off your inner critic, get the words down, and revise later.

Jamie is a former editor and author of over a dozen children’s books including THE COZIEST PLACE, SO YOU WANT TO CATCH BIGFOOT, and The JOE & SPARKY series.

Stephanie McPherson:

Listen to your characters. Don’t try to manipulate them but let them guide you. Your story should be character driven. Another piece of advice I’ve found helpful is that it’s fine to have a road map for where the story will take you, but don’t be afraid to take detours along the way or even change your destination. And then there’s the most indispensable advice of all – Keep writing, no matter what.

Stephanie is the author of over two dozen nonfiction books for children, including


Anika Denise:

My writer friend Betsy Devaney recently told me to think of myself as a mama bird and my stories as fledglings. Protect them and keep them safe in the nest when they’re recently hatched. Don’t share them with others until they’re ready to fly. Meaning keep your work close while you finish a first draft and then put it out there for feedback. Or maybe it means, no one wants to see you feed your story regurgitated worms. Either way—it’s great advice.

Anika is the author of BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA’S,


Kenn Nesbitt:

Before I got my first book published, I was lamenting to Jack Prelutsky about how difficult it was to find a publisher. His comment to me was, “Cream rises.” In other words, if you write exceptionally well, your work will eventually find it’s way to the top of the pile on the editor’s desk, so always write as well as you possibly can.

Kenn is the former National Children’s Poet Laureate: author of BELIEVE IT OR NOT, MY BROTHER HAS A MONSTER! THE BIGGEST BURP EVER, and THE ARMPIT OF DOOM

Erica Orloff:

Be honest. At the time I received that advice, I was offended. But once I had some distance, I realized the piece in question could have been more “raw” and “true.” As recently as two years ago, agent Janet Reid told me something along the lines of “if you’re not going to be completely honest when writing narrative nonfiction/memoir, don’t bother.” It was not in relation to my work, but was intended as a compliment on an essay I wrote. But I still hold the words dear–I try to dig REALLY deep. Open a vein. Truth comes out.

Erica is the author of the MAGIC KEEPERS trilogy.

Hazel Buys

Listen to good advice and never give up.

Hazel is the author of OLAF’S DOOR.

Lana Krumwiede:

The first book that I wrote was a picture book retelling of the itsy bitsy spider. I wrote it for a writing class I was taking, and everyone seemed to like it. But when I submitted it to editors, I got a few nibbles, but no takers. I had done everything the teacher had suggested, so what was I doing wrong? I even showed it to a seasoned picture book author, and he gave me the best writing advice in the history of ever: “Don’t worry about why it’s not selling. Just write something else.”

That was not what I wanted to hear, but I did it anyway. I wrote a lot of other things, some of which were published and many were not. Eventually, YEARS later, that original picture book was published as Just Itzy.

Lana is the author of JUST ITZY and THE PSI CHRONICLES trilogy.

Brian Rock:

Start where you are. Don’t worry about what you don’t have (publishers, agents, literary connections, writing classes, gold-plated keyboard, etc.) just focus on the here and now and begin. This applies to genres and styles as well. If your research tells you that vampire-romance (whatever that is!) books are hot right now, but you prefer writing humor, write humor. That’s “where you are.” Don’t force your writing to match current trends. Trends change. And of course this advice can be condensed even further to just, “Start.”



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