What is the single most valuable -- or important -- piece of advice you received from:
1. a writer
2. a bookseller
3. a reader
4. a reviewer
5. an editor
6. an agent

when you first started your journey as a
1. writer
2. published writer?

I can't wait to read these!

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From a writer, Joe Lansdale, in urging me to write a female protagonist: You won't get anywhere if you don't take risks. From Ken Kesey in an interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Don't write what you know, because what you know is boring. Write what you don't know.
From an agent: New writers cannot possibly imagine how much revising it takes to sell a book.
From a bookseller: A writer's best marketing plan is to suck up to booksellers.

BTW, I really like the quote from Stephen King about making the second draft 10% shorter than the first. I'd never heard anyone say that, but it's what I've been doing.
Love these, Mark.

I really like the bookseller's advice. It made me smile.

I was watching an interview with Kurt Vonnegut last night (old Charlie Rose) and the author was talking about writing what interests one rather than doing what you're supposed to.

Another really wonderful thing: Charlie Rose asked him what he was working on (V. was 76 at the time). KV said, "Nothing." Rose couldn't believe it and kept pushing. Finally KV said, "I stopped writing because I'm done. I don't have anything more to say."

Astounding that a writer realized that. Of course, that was VERY Vonnegut. I'm missing him already.
I don't know if someone told me this or I simply pulled it out of my, uh, ass:

"Always trust your gut."

It's very seldom wrong.
The challenge is to be able to hear your gut above all the internal and external shoulds.
I collect advice from authors and artists and the best advice is the tidbit I need at the moment. Here's a sample from my collection:

"My task…is to make you hear, to make you feel—and, above all, to make you see. That is all, and it is everything." — Joseph Conrad

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." — Henry David Thoreau

"If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn't matter a damn how you write." — W. Somerset Maugham

"What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around." — George Orwell

“The plot is the line on which I hang the wash, and the wash is what I care about.” – Robert B. Parker

"Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it." — William Faulkner

"To write well, express yourself like common people, but think like a wise man. Or, think as wise men do, but speak as the common people do. " – Aristotle

"One can’t think without images: If you wish to be a philosopher, write novels." — Albert Camus

"My theory was that readers just thought that they cared about nothing but the action; that really although they didn't know it, they cared very little about the action. The thing they really cared about, and that I cared about, was the creation of emotion through dialogue and description." – Raymond Chandler

"The human brain is the laziest apparatus in the world. If you start to revise before you’ve reached the end, you’re likely to begin dawdling with the revisions and putting off the difficult task of writing. Unless I find I’ve made some drastic mistake in characterization or basic structure, I never go back until I’ve written the last page." — Pearl S. Buck

"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." —James Joyce

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip." — Elmore Leonard

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink." — George Orwell

"To project yourself into a consciousness of a person essentially your opposite requires the audacity of great genius; and even men of genius are cautious in approaching the problem." –Henry James

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." — E. L. Doctorow

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." — Pablo Picasso

"Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels." — Francisco de Goya

"Anybody can have ideas—the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph." — Mark Twain

"I only mark that the sign of a masterly writer is his power to break his mould callously." — Virginia Woolf

"To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world." — Salman Rushdie

"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." — H.G. Wells
oh, Eric,
Thank you so much for these. I think they're all gems.

I really wish I could print out this entire discussion and keep every single one of the comments. It's wonderful what people in this community have to share.
Really good list, Maria. I especially like:
"Read your story aloud. You'll pick up on all sorts of clunkiness that you may not otherwise notice."
I'm always listening inside my head when I read. I find a lot of things that set off my reading radar that way. It isn't just about finding clunkiness, it's also about finding that good sound. Readers resonate to a rhythm and flow even if they don't know they're doing it. Fall into the rhythm and flow that suits your story's mood and use it to help shape the words. Readers will react to it like a good screen score.

Here's my suggestion. This may be a commonplace among trained writers, but I've never heard it:
Don't use the same sentence length and structure over and over. It puts readers to sleep. Vary, vary, vary, and it will help keep your story alive.
Joy,
Sometimes the most obvious suggestion can be ignored. Thank you for this one. Your point about varying length and structure is valuable because I believe, like you, that reading creates a kind of music of its own. If everything is the same, we'll get bored.
Eric, can I collect your list of quotes and pass it out to others?
I just entered my first blog on my Crimespace page, Joy, with the complete set of quotes, broken out into a handful of categories. Help yourself ...
I'm going to do the same. thanks for your generosity in sharing them.
Pari,

You must still be mining ideas for your talk. . .

And I, like a dog who can't pass by a chicken bone, keep falling for your questions.

The best thing a writer ever told me was to have persistence.

Booksellers have only kissed up to me, but one said, "Park yourself by the door" and that turned out to be good advice.

An agent once told me that "platform" was going to be the name of the game in the future.

A reader (my husband) said: "When you showed me your story I was afraid it was going to be awful, but it's pretty good. He probably should have never encouraged me and may regret it today.

I make friends of my editors so we always have like minds. (That's my advice.)

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