Writing Advice from Read Up Greenville

As a career writer and aspiring fiction author, I really enjoy the writing advice that successful authors offer at conferences. It’s equal parts discouraging reality (12 years to publish??) and encouraging normality (they’re real humans like me!).

I don’t want to recreate all of the keynotes/panels, but I jotted down a few interesting points.

Jay Asher

It takes years for the ideas to come together. Several authors have mentioned this concept–basically, the idea for a story starts many, many years before they’re finally able to write it. In some ways, that gives me hope, but it’s also a touch discouraging to think that my best ideas might take 10 years to develop.

Get critiques for different things. Jay had several critiques of 13 Reasons Why, including ones for big picture, pacing, grammar, and an ego boost (his mom, of course!).

A book shouldn’t be someone’s first time feeling understood.

Not exactly writing advice, but he showed us some of the fan letters he received, including ones claiming that 13 Reasons Why was the first they felt like someone understood them. While that’s a sad observation to make, it also emphasizes how powerful a story is when it reflects real feelings.

Bad Blood panel–Ryan Graudin, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Tiffany Schmidt, Carrie Ryan

I’d never met or read any of these ladies, but they were all delightful and I’ve added their books to my TBR list. They write darker stories–not horror, precisely, but generally gorier, scarier stuff.

Setting is another character. (R.G.)

Setting can be feeling, not sight. (C.R.) In other words, your readers don’t have to be able to exactly picture the scenery, but they should have a good idea what it feels like.

More quipping and murder! (JLB)

There are four entry points to a book: character, plot, world, language. Different readers like different things, but great books have all four. (Not sure who said it, but probably Carrie.) This one is especially important, I think.

Side note: which entry point appeals to you most? I appreciate all of them separately and I’m not sure which is my favorite. World is probably least important. Possibly character is most important, but I feel strongly about having all of them.

Magic: the Gathering–Maggie Stiefvater (!!!), Cassie Beasley, Ryan Graudin

Loads of funny stuff comes from Maggie, but I’ve tried to focus on the writing advice. 😀

Let the story drive, then look to see what themes are there. (C.B.)

The more scared you are of the story, the more powerful it is. (R.G.)

Sell the love. (M.S.) This was in response to a question about how to make readers like something that people look down on (like Southern towns). Maggie basically said that if you love the thing and sell that love, the readers will love it too.

Trying to find the story in the seed [of an idea] is often a magic of itself. (R.G.)

OTP: Relationships Beyond Romance–Jessica Brody, Susane Colasanti, Stephanie Perkins, Will Walton

All of the panels were amazing, but this one was good for my soul. These panelists were funny and compassionate and so wise. It felt like a small club of encouraging big siblings. ❤

Note: that’s possibly why I didn’t write down many quotes. I was enjoying the panel too much to document.

Soulmate doesn’t mean perfection. Mine can’t load the dishwasher! (S.C.)

The 1st work is almost always biographical. (S.C.) All of the authors shared elements of their life stories and relationships that appear in their books. Susane followed up this statement with the idea that you (often) have to get your own story out of way before you can tackle other ideas.

Kisses have to be earned. (J.B.) Not necessarily in real life! But in fiction, the characters need to earn the kiss–if they’re immediately kissing or get there without struggle, the moment loses power.


I cannot reiterate enough how amazing all of the authors were. Even if I didn’t quote someone here, I definitely enjoyed hearing each person! They all had great advice and really amazing stories.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve gotten?





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