First Advice

“Tween Us Gals – I wrote this weekly column 2 1/2 years. It was my beginning.

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was one.

How did this happen?

I overheard a weekly newspaper editor say he needed a fresh new column for his paper. I thought, “I can do that,” and I did. When I saw my first column in print… Well, it was love at first sight.

My first editor was an old newspaper man ready for retirement. He had learned a lot over the years and, well, he was the only person in the publishing business I knew. So, I listened to his advice and felt honored to learn from him.

The first thing he told me: Don’t use the words very, really, or that. So, I marked those words out of my manuscripts before I gave them to him. (Later on, when I wrote for another editor, she went through my manuscript and added a that here and here. But, I’ve never had an editor add really or very.)

That old editor of the local weekly also told me: Never write anything that will hurt anyone.

A friend of his told me I would have to write a million words before I would sell a story. I started writing. I had young children, so I wrote in stolen moments. By the way, a million words is 4,000 double-spaced typed pages with one inch margins. That’s eight reams of paper.

I joined a creative writing class at a local Methodist church. The advice I remember from there was: have faith in your story. If you believe in it, don’t let anyone discourage you. When you receive a critique, only make changes you think will make your story better. It’s your story. Critiques from fellow writers are merely suggestions (edits from an editor, not so much).

Other advice:

Write, write, write. Read, Read, Read.

Write every day.

Learn your craft.

Get rid of the Be words (You have to use some).

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end.

Follow your dream.

When I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher, I didn’t use the words that, really, or very. My story had a beginning, middle, and end. I believed in it although my creative writing teacher said it was unbelievable. I sold LITTLE MISTAKE to Highlights for Children long before I wrote a million words. It was published May, 1973 (about a year after it was accepted), and I’ve been following my dream ever since…


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