The place of writing advice in a writer’s journey is like any other advice. It’s for you to take if it applies to you and if it may benefit you. Advice may also not apply to you at the moment and end up coming back around to you when it does fit. Advice given need not be taken either. It’s often best to only use the advice that resonates with you. One piece of writing advice can contradict another piece of advice… and both pieces can be right but for different people. So, as you read on and continue to receive advice throughout your life and writing journey perhaps try to keep an open mind, store the wisdom, and decide for yourself how best to proceed. We hope you find a bit of wisdom that inspires you within this collection.


Tess Rossi runs down her sci-fi writing checklist in “Crafting the Science in Science Fiction”:

  1. “Keep the big ‘what if’ question (the science element with a twist) that drives the sci-fi story close to mind as you flesh out the story’s world.” 
  2. “Plot the history of your world.” 
  3. “Plan your society/societies.”
  4. “Invent your technology.” 
  5. “Create your characters.”
  6. “Make sure the science causes or solves the problem of the story––or both.” 

Date Published: 2/27/24


Shannon Stockdale-Elftman suggests in “In Defense of Whimsy” that:

  1. “If you feel disconnected from your youthful sense of wonder, try reading something you know you would have loved at age ten.”
  2. “If you are too tired or too jaded to chase after happiness, try finding a touch of whimsy in a book—or other form of media—or in your everyday life.”

Date Published: 2/15/24


In Marleigh Green’s “Interview with Authors Elizabeth Helen,” the authors share their advice that most pre-published authors don’t get the chance to hear:

  1. Elizabeth: “Remind yourself that the world needs your story. If you are motivated and this is your passion, there is a place for what you’re writing. The book of your heart might not be the one that gets you on the map. Keep believing in yourself and why you’re doing this, writing at midnight and daydreaming at work. Keep learning and you can do it.”
  2. Helen: “Something I struggled with in my mid-twenties was being jealous when other authors my age succeed. Instead, I now look at these authors and say ‘this is who I’ll be in two to five years’. Other authors succeeding in our genre shows the industry that people want your stories. Realizing that authors elevate each other and celebrate each other’s success and reframing your mind around that.”

Date Published: 12/01/23


In “Jeffe Kennedy Q&A Part 1” Kennedy guides us with her wisdom on writing discipline:

  1. “When I first began getting serious about writing, I had a career day job, stepkids who lived with us, classes most evenings, and no free time to speak of. I wasn’t getting much writing done, so I finally accepted that the advice to write every day, at the same time every day, might be worth a try. (I resisted this advice for a long time, because it’s really hard to do, especially at first.) I began getting up at 5:00 AM and writing for two hours before I had to get ready for work. Reader, I was not a morning person. Some of the writing from that time is seriously wonky. But I made myself a deal, that as long as I wrote for two hours, I could write whatever came out. The point was to build the habit. And it totally worked. Over time I was able to adjust my schedule to be a little less brutal, but I still wrote for a few hours in the morning before transitioning to my day job. I still write in the mornings, in three to four one-hour sessions, with the goal of writing 3,000 words/day, five days/week. I even coach other authors in setting up this kind of productive creativity.”

Date Published: 4/26/22


Our staff warns you in “PTM Staff Members Get Real About Flash Fiction” of what to avoid in flash fiction:

  1. “Don’t share a scene from a longer work. Don’t give us a taste of the world only to leave us with an unsatisfying cliffhanger. Avoid flowery writing and clichés.” —Jill Zacchia, Social Media Manager
  2. “Don’t include too many characters; don’t cheap out on the ending; be ambitious, but not overambitious; omit needless words; show, don’t tell—avoid the temptation to write in a fairy-tale or fable-like style.” —Alanna Smith, Board Administrator
  3. “Don’t try to write about more than one thing. Pick exactly one thing to focus on—everything else in the story should enhance your focus on that thing.” —Rifka Handelman, Layout Manager
  4. “Don’t forget to tell a complete story: beginning, middle, and end. Don’t include extra words, phrases, or moments that pull from the story and its pacing.” —India Miraglia, Copy Editor
  5. “Avoid soft endings without weight. As well as inconsistencies or incomplete threads.” —Katsumi Sterling, Editor-in-Chief
  6. “Don’t waste words on exposition or worldbuilding at the beginning; include small details throughout the story.” —Tess Rossi, Copy Chief
  7. “Avoid skimping on the ending—it’s often the best part!—by thinking it’s fine to slap on a wrap-up sentence right before you max out on word count. That ending needs to be set up and earned! And avoid failing to write to the prompt, if you’ve been given one.” —Maxine Shen, Features Editor
  8. “Avoid being too gentle on your protagonist. A lot can happen in a few words, and the protagonist should react to whatever happens.” —Ghanima Emmanuelle Sol, Copy Editor
  9. “Make sure it’s clear and concise on what is happening. Because you have so few words, don’t waste time on the little details. So avoid excessive sensory and descriptive detail. Just tell the reader what it is. You don’t have space or time for beating around the bush.” —Camia Rhodes, Feature Writer

Our staff continues to list what we (as your humble editors, writers, and publishers) love to see from flash fiction:

  1. Playful exploration of the prompts we’ve given you. (The theme may be “Monsters,” but there are many kinds of monsters out in the world. Let your imagination run wild!) 
  2. When we’re surprised by the unexpected. Five hundred words isn’t a lot, but it’s more than enough to draw a reader into a situation and then knock their socks off with an unexpected ending, whether it’s happy, sad, or completely out of left field.
  3. When it’s clear writers have a solid understanding of the possibilities within the genre they’re writing in. (A good romance doesn’t have to be all flowers, candy, and smooching furtively under the bleachers. Romance can be cold, dark, unrequited, fleeting, lost and found! Go wide, but please remember to stay within the assignment parameters.) Do some research, learn the hallmarks of genre, then figure out ways to brilliantly subvert them, if you like.
  4. Good copy and line editing. Read the story out loud at least once—catch those extra words, the run-on sentences, the bits that slow down the pace. You could earn back a couple dozen words and wow us with them when you put them elsewhere in the story! 
  5. “Do some research, learn the hallmarks of genre, then figure out ways to brilliantly subvert them, if you like.” —Maxine Shen, Features Editor
  6. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with tried and true tropes when writing genre flash fiction. But stories that stand out tend to be the ones that build interesting or unexpected vignettes around those tropes, have genuine characters, and maybe have a twist ending or bow out on a short-but-sweet gut punch. 
  7. “At the end of the day, content is king. A well-written, well-crafted story will always get our attention, but a story that is well-written, well-crafted, AND shows creativity when making an effort to show us a fresh spin on a seemingly obvious theme? Now that’s what gets our votes.” —Maxine Shen, Features Editor

Date Published: 2/03/22


In Anna Chalmer’s “Interview with Adelle Young,” Young gives us one powerful mode of motivation:

  1. “Whenever you feel like giving up, remember what made you want to write.”

Date Published: 12/17/21


A couple of instructors in “Interviews with EmersonWRITES Instructors” pass down their favorite writing advice that they’ve received:

  1. Sophie Gorjance said hers was: “JUST DO IT!” by Shia LaBeouf, because “Honestly though, the worst thing that will happen if you try is that it turns out bad. And once it’s bad, you can make it good.”
  2. Ghanima Emmanuelle Sol said hers was to: “Write on good days. Write on bad days. Write with a plan. Write blind. Write, write, and write. One word or one million words, simply write!”

Date Published: 11/19/21


In Maxine Shen’s “An Interview with Sally Kilpatrick,” Kilpatrick tells us her biggest piece of advice: 

  1. “Keep writing. If you’re picked up by a traditional publisher then they may pick up your other books—they did for me. If you’re self-publishing, then you’re going to need several books to release strategically. At the end of the day? Keep writing. Always keep writing.”

Date Published: 10/15/21


In Emily Johnson’s “An Interview with Tanaz Bhathena,” Bhathena lets us in on the secret to mastering an amazing plot twist:

  1. If you outline your books, leave a little room for changes and don’t plan every little detail in advance. Allow yourself to be surprised as well during the writing process. If you’re surprised by a twist, chances are the reader will be as well.”

Date Published: 5/17/21


In Maxine Shen’s “An Interview with Sarah Smith,” Smith shares her insight on evaluating writing feedback in revision:

  1. “The most important thing to remember is that as the author, you have final say over your manuscript. Just because someone pointed out all these issues doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to fix all of them. But it’s also important to remember that your work isn’t perfect and is always in need of revision and improvement.”
  2. “If someone is pointing something out to be fixed in your manuscript, there’s usually a good reason for it (it’s usually to make something clearer or more compelling in the story, which are good things). Sit with their comments for a few days and see if you can figure out ways to make that part of the story better.  If it’s more an issue of someone just being mean or offering unhelpful feedback, then definitely ignore it.”
  3. “Also, the longer you write and revise, you definitely get better at determining what feedback is worth listening to and what you should just ignore.”

Date Published: 5/3/21


“An Interview with R.B. Wood,” lists his top tips for incorporating writing workshop comments into your novel:

  1. “I tackle the issues raised by consensus first. If multiple critiques make notes on the same thing, as a writer, I need to take a hard look at what they are saying. Next, I evaluate comments on their merit—did my workshop partner see something I didn’t? Did they miss something that I need to bring out more? Does what they are commenting on improve the flow of the narrative? For Bayou Whispers, I was able to workshop specific scenes throughout my degree program—but I still asked a bunch of beta readers for feedback as well. Ultimately, if you work with the right people, the writing will only improve.”

As a recent graduate of Emerson’s PopFic MFA program, Wood reveals what left a lasting impression on him as a writer from the program:

  1. “The list is rather long for things that I learned. But by far, the best lessons were to try a genre you’ve never read. Try an author from a different culture or background. Experiment. The professors at Emerson loved and encouraged us to try as many new things as possible. And that’s how I found my own voice!”

Wood also reveals the most helpful feedback a critic partner can give someone working on the draft of their novel:

  1. “The most helpful [questions I received] from a crit-partner I received when I was starting out were, ‘Where is your protagonist’s journey? What do they learn?’ I’d written a series of cool scenes, but the growth of the hero was nonexistent. Without strong characters who are on a ‘path of discovery and growth’ there is no reason for the overall story.”

Date Published: 4/26/21


In Maxine Shen’s “An Interview with Jayci Lee,” Lee advises you to:

  1. “Write a paragraph, a sentence at a time, but write. Write with the intent to be published. Don’t tell yourself it’s just a pipe dream and no one’s ever going to read your book. Be completely invested in your goal. Believe it. Just because you’re writing half-time doesn’t mean your dream is any less real. Chase it like you mean it.”

Date Published: 4/05/21


In Katsumi Sterling’s “An Interview with J.L. Schnelle,” Schnelle shares her own writing advice and the best advice she ever received:

  1. “First drafts don’t have to be perfect. Finding out how powerful editing can be would have made a huge difference to me; knowing that it can fix everything from tone to pacing would have really helped my confidence. With other arts you can see the beginning stages, the sketches, or rehearsals, or what have you, but writing tends to be very private until it’s completed. That led me to feel like I would never be a good writer because the work I had wasn’t as polished as everything I had to compare it to. There are so many stories I threw in the trash because I wasn’t aware of how much work went into a finished product, and I regret the stories I lost that way. So I guess that’s another piece of advice; never delete a story, because someday you might miss it.”
  2. “There’s an Alan Moore quote that gets used around my house a lot: ‘If you write, you’re a writer.’ My family says it to me when I get too much in my own head, and start doing more self-hating than writing. It doesn’t sound like the usual ‘write every day!’ advice, but that’s why it works for me. With depression and anxiety and a whole host of physical health issues, I can’t do most of the things that are passed around as conventional writing advice. What I can do, though, is remember that I write, so I am a writer, and that that’s enough. It keeps me from getting caught in a self-defeating cycle where I don’t create at all, and that makes it the most powerful piece of advice I’ve ever heard.”

Date Published: 3/22/21


As a first-time author, Christina opens up about how she overcame her fear of failure in “An Interview with Christina Davis,” as she remarked:

  1. “I had this sense of urgency—like if I did die tomorrow, would I have any regrets? And then the pandemic started, and the answer was yes. I wanted to publish my books before it was too late. I needed to stop being so critical of my writing, be brave, and put it out into the world. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did.”

Date Published: 3/05/21


In “An Interview with April Hunt,” Hunt shares her own writing hacks:

  1. To write on your own time schedule, whenever you are most productive during the day or night (everyone is different).
  2. Keep a notebook on hand at all times “on the off-chance an idea comes” to mind.
  3. Hold yourself to a firm end goal, at least this works for her because she is “used to having a time-sensitive to-do list a mile long.”
  4. “Is one way right and one way wrong? No. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, because what works for one writer may not work for another. It all depends on how our brains and imaginations work.”
  5. Try planning the story out, and once you have “a firm grasp on the fundamentals of the book” you “want to write and its characters” then let your “imagination go wild.”
  6. “Sometimes you have an idea for a chapter or a scene and it’s wicked awesome and so perfect it makes you want to cry…but it doesn’t fit with the world you’ve created. You have to be prepared to cut-copy-and-paste it into another document and walk away until it does fit something you’ve written. It’s easy for me to say, but not easy to do. Even now. I think the most I’ve ever had to cut out of a working book and set aside was about 30,000 words.”

Date Published: 2/26/21


In Katsumi Sterling’s “An Interview with Warren Dotson,” Dotson repeats the most encouraging piece of advice he’s ever been given:

  1. It was a tweet from an account @KA_Doore simply repeating, ‘Somebody needs your book.’ Thinking like this has been the most helpful thing while writing. It becomes a lot easier to write, when instead of thinking about how the world will receive your novel, all you have to worry about is what one person will do with your novel. This tweet has stuck with me throughout the whole process as I keep remembering it’s not about getting the whole world reading the book. I just gotta find that one person who needs to see these characters for themselves.”

Date Published: 2/05/21


In Katsumi Sterling’s “An Interview with Anne Barwell,” Barwell lists her top tips for people looking to write with a co-author:

  1. “Working with a co-author requires a lot of give, take, and compromise, and your ideas and writing style needs to mesh if you’re co-writing a book.” 
  2. “Make sure you get on with the person you’re writing with, as it’s like having a child. You’re going to be working with that person for a very long time. Promo is much easier working with someone rather than fighting against them.” 
  3. “I’d also recommend using a collaborative online process like Trello for the book/series bible as continuity is a must.” 

Date Published: 1/29/21


In Mike Speegle’s “An Interview with Meredith Tate,” Tate advises you to:

  1. Keep going! This industry has so many ups and downs and rejections, all you can do is keep pushing forward, keep improving your craft, keep working at it. Read widely in the genres you want to write—and in other genres, too! Follow agents, authors, and publishing professionals on Twitter—they often post a lot of great industry advice. Find a good group of critique partners and read/critique each other’s work. Always do extensive research before signing any contract. And most of all, just keep writing!”

She also recommends her one writing tool, The Emotion Thesaurus, because “It’s a great resource for writers, and I always keep a copy nearby.”

Date Published: 1/23/21

This collection was gathered by Casey McCarthy and published on 3/24/24.

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