advice for writers

When I attended the Romance Writers of America conference in July this year I gained tons of valuable insight from successful authors, editors, and more.

I collected these tidbits of advice and words of wisdom for writers and I wanted to share them with you here. Some of this may be obvious, or insightful, or they just might serve as a reminder.


  • Don’t make decisions [about your writing] based on fear or pressure. Write the same book you’ve always written. – Jayne Ann Krentz & Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • “RWA is so much fun – but it’s not the real work of writing.” -Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • “Now you must be a writer and an entrepreneur. You must be a business person.” – Sylvia Day on being an author in today’s world.
  • “You are the only one who can sell your book (whether traditionally or self published).” -Jayne Ann Krentz
  • Q: What books on craft do you recommend? A: shakes head “Writers learn by writing.” – Jayne Ann Krentz & Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • “You want [readers] to love or hate you…you just don’t want’ them to forget you.” – Jayne Ann Krentz on getting bad reviews.
  • “You have a voice. Learn to protect it.” -Jayne Ann Krentz on keeping your distinct writing voice.


  • Writing dialogue tips: Ellipses (…) are used when someone trails off. The emdash (-) is used when interrupted.
  • Make sure your characters are speaking to each other [in your book], and not the reader. -Julia Quinn during dialogue workshop


  • Don’t write a protagonist that is TSTL (too stupid to live).
  • “To new writers I always say throw out the first chapter(s) [of your MS.] It’s front loaded with backstory.”-Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • “Shit happens while two idiots fall in love.” –Sarah MacClean on high concept and conflict.
  • Conflict is everything in a story: “If your hero is a firefighter, your heroine better be an arsonist.” – Linda Howard
  • Readers won’t just accept whatever you give them just because you write it. Motivation is key.
  • Make sure your characters have GMC. What is that? Goal, motivation, conflict.
  • “No one said you have to start writing at chapter one.” – Jayne Ann Krentz


  • “The perfect pitch should include the hook, plot, and conflict.”


  • From Avon Impluse Romance: “We will see both agented and unagented manuscripts.” 
  • “As editors, our goals is to take your vision and bring it out to the public/readers.” -Avon impulse


What tidbits from above apply to you? Are there other great words of wisdom you find helpful in your own writing career?


KATIE MCCOACH is a freelance developmental book editor at KM Editorial working with authors of all levels to help them create their best story possible. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing visit her blog at and be sure to also follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.