Words of Wisdom for Writers

Words of Wisdom for Writers

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.” http://www.avonromance.com/impulse 
  • “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 https://katiemccoach.com/blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.

About Katie McCoach

KATIE McCOACH is a developmental book editor at KM Editorial, LLC working with authors to help them create their best story! Be sure to follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.

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5 Responses to Words of Wisdom for Writers

  1. Michele September 6, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    The first book really serves to inform the writer that they have a gift. The first work helps the author develop confidence and a sense of victory long before the first copy is sold. Pushing past your own fears and self doubt is 90% of the battle. Convincing thine own self is really the first work though it may never come to print.

    Every person has a story. Tell it with passion, and stay committed to your truth. Continue to grow and tell more stories. For the true author, telling the story brings the relief of a burden. Selling the story is a secondary benefit. Never allow the input of others, criticism and negative comments to speak louder than the first work. Once convinced of your gift, stay convinced and write on…

    • katiemccoach September 7, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

      Thanks for visiting, Michele, and adding your own words of wisdom. This is great! Best of luck in your writing 🙂

  2. Job September 4, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    I learned a lot reading this post, or at least wrote down enough to take away with me. I especially connected to the career section, and the part that says, “writers learn by writing.” I think I need to be reminded of that. Craft books are great, but I believe you can’t truly learn until there is trial and error – however long that may take. If you can, what would you say was your biggest take-away from the conference? A lesson or quote that rings in your head over and over.

    • katiemccoach September 7, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

      I agree – when I heard “writers learn by writing” I found myself nodding my head and wanting to also smack myself. It’s easy to forget that is our best tool.

      Honestly, the one thing that continues to stick out to me is along the same lines of “writers learn by writing” – it’s when Susan Elizabeth Phillips said, “RWA is fun, but it’s not the work of writing.” I truly had an amazing time at the event, but I was inspired by the fact that all of these writers were SO dedicated to writing. None of them were going to stop or give up at least in this lifetime. We can go to conferences and events to learn new things and meet people, but in the end the only way we will be writers is by writing. Going to an event doesn’t make you a writer.

      Can you tell this is wherein my struggles lie? 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, Job!

      • Job September 10, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

        Thanks for answering Katie! I think it’s where many people’s struggles lie!!! But you’re writing and sharing interesting content so that has got to be worth something 🙂

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