Tuesday 23 August 2016

Best (and Worst) Advice for Writers

By Iola Goulton

Yesterday I gave you a whistlestop tour of the highlights of the 2016 Romance Writers of New Zealand conference, which I attended last weekend. The final session at the conference was an open panel featuring our international guests:
  • Keri Arthur (author)
  • Rachel Bailey (author)
  • Jaye Ford (author)
  • Heather Graham (author)
  • Joanne Grant (editor)
  • Michael Hauge (writing guru)
  • Courtney Miller-Callihan (agent)
  • Sarah Younger (agent)

 One of the questions was both amusing and interesting in the range of responses it provoked:

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever heard? 

And the worst?

I thought I’d share the answers with you today (along with my comments, in italics).

Best Writing Advice

Don’t work with a jerk. (Self-explanatory, really)
Just keep writing.
Finish your book. (I can assure you this is different to just keeping on writing. I have no trouble writing. Finishing … that’s another story).
Join Romance Writers of America. (Or Australia. Or New Zealand. Or American Christian Fiction Writers or Omega Writers or New Zealand Christian Writers. But connect with other writers and learn from those who have gone ahead.)
Follow the rules and learn from those who’ve gone before you. 
It’s not brain surgery. No one is going to die. It’s fun. (Yes, this is was an author.)
Follow your heart and stick with your gut instincts.(In relation to what you write. The book of your heart will almost certainly be a better book than the book you write to try and follow the Amish Zombie trend.)

The Worst Advice

The interesting thing about the worst advice was how often it was directly related to the best advice! (Or vice versa.)

Take this job to pay the rent. (Easier said than done. Especially when the rent has been replaced by a mortgage and children.)

Write what you think will get published. (Don’t, because you might hate it, but also because publishing moves slowly and you might be too late to catch the trend anyway).

You’ll never sell a novel set in Melbourne in the US. (Oh, yes, she did. In fact, she sold a whole series.)

Always be honest. (People might say they want an honest opinion, but they might not mean it.)

Follow the rules. (You don’t have to follow the rules, because they don’t always apply. But the old guideline still holds true: you have to know the rules before you can know test whether or not they apply.)

You don’t want to be typecast as a romance writer. (Why not?)

Chase trends. (No. Don’t. Really.)

Anyway, I hope that gives you a laugh! What's the best writing advice you've ever heard? Or the worst?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at to download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)


  1. Fun post Iola. Best advice - hard to pick but, 'once you've finished writing your first novel, start writing the next one while.' And worst advice, 'Don't do NaNo, it's not for real writers.'

    1. Both excellent examples, Jeanette. Thanks for contributing!

  2. I've been so blessed over many years to have received good hints and advice. Hard to choose the "best" one but "Write the kind of book YOU enjoy reading the most yourself" is still at the top of my list.

    1. Thanks, Mary. That is good advice :)

    2. Thanks, Mary. That is good advice :)


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