Monday, March 11, 2013

Valuable Writing Advice

by Narelle Atkins

When I first started writing I joined a couple of romance writing groups. Back in the days before blogs and social media, writing email groups were one of the only sources of current information for writers. I learned about the best writing craft books from my writing groups. I received invaluable feedback on my writing from contests held by my writing groups.

Over the years I’ve gleaned a lot of valuable writing advice from writer friends I’ve met through my writing groups. In fact, this blog came into existence when a group of us from ‘ACFW Beyond the Borders’ decided to set up a blog to promote international Christian fiction.

One piece of writing advice that stands out in my memory is 'finish your first book, put it aside, and start writing the next one.' Writers often don’t sell their first book, and may write quite a few books before they make that seemingly elusive first sale.

I was cautioned to not get stuck on revising my first manuscript. The theory behind this is you learn the craft of writing by writing more books. If you ‘rest’ the first manuscript while writing the second manuscript, you’ll return to the first manuscript from a more objective position and will be more likely to see the flaws in your story.

Another benefit of having more than one completed manuscript is you have something else to pitch to editors and agents if they pass on your first book. Or, if the editor loves your first book, you’ll have more books ready for them to consider contracting in a multi-book deal.

I was blessed to sell the first manuscript I ever wrote to Harlequin’s Heartsong Presents line last year. After I accepted the offer of publication, my editor asked the big question: ‘Have you written anything else?’

Book 2 was written and I had ideas for Book 3 in my series set in Sydney, Australia. I also mentioned to my editor that I’d written a runaway bride story, Book 1 in a series set in a fictitious small town near the Snowy Mountains, Australia.

I wrote a number of book proposals, and I was blessed to be offered a 6-book contract last month. My runaway bride story, Running to Love, will be my first release in February 2014.

I’m thankful to all those wise writers who encouraged me to write multiple manuscripts. What piece of writing advice has been invaluable for your writing journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She recently sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her first book, Falling for the Farmer, will be a February 2014 release. 

She has published Bible Studies on Smashwords and blogs regularly at 

Narelle is a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA) 

To learn more about Narelle, please visit her website.


  1. You are an example of the best advice, Narelle. Let the ms rest a while before sending it out, and get on with writing something else.
    The other piece of advice I'd offer, is don't let all the "good advice" rob you of the joy of writing. What works brilliantly for some or many authors, may not work for you. Don't be afraid to discover your own process and honour it.

  2. Thanks, Alice :) New writers can feel overwhelmed by all the writing advice available, especially online. My writing process continues to evolve as I write more books and learn more about the craft of writing.

  3. The "let go of your first manuscript" is definitely one of the best pieces of writing advice I've ever received.

    The other is to not let your pursuit of following the "rules" kill your writing voice. I've read a few manuscripts that while technically very strong in terms of following the writing "rules" but are just missing that something that makes you want to turn the pages. Then I've read others where the author's voice is so strong that you get swept up in the story and forget all about the "rules".

    1. Kara, yes, I love reading books that switch off my internal editor because the story is brilliant :) These are the writers who know the rules well enough to break them in a way that works for their stories.

  4. It's great to see perseverance reaping its rewards, Narelle. I'm glad to hear we should set books aside for awhile as that's what I have been doing. Then I can hardly believe all the corrections I need to make.

    I've been erasing all my adverbs lately, but isn't it tricky trying to get the same effect?

    I've had two books published and four more are in a queue. Just need to find the right publisher for them. Thanks for the encouragement to keep hanging in there.

    God bless & thanks for all your work here on our ICFWs blog!

    1. Rita, I'm writing my first drafts six months ahead of the due dates so I have time to 'rest' my stories :) I'm sure there are authors who write their books straight through without a break because that's their unique writing process. I hope you find a home for your books very soon :)

  5. Thanks Narelle. Your six-book contract has given all of us living outside the USA a huge boost! I love the sound of the runaway bride story. Bags the chance to review it. :-)

    I run a group for South African Christian writers, and the one thing I hear all the time is "One day . . . " They just don't "have the time" right now.

    So my best piece of advice is, if you want to write - WRITE. Don't wait until you have time, because trust me. You never will have. Even a few hundred words a day can produce a full-length book in a year.

    Even if you write short articles, the more you write, the more you improve. And the more you get published, the better your platform will be when that potential best-seller is ready to hit the editors.

  6. Shirl, I'll definitely send you a copy and I'm touring my runaway bride book with ACRBA in March 2014 :)

    Yes, I totally agree that if we waited until we had more time or inspiration strikes, we'd never get anything written!

  7. A 6 book deal, Narelle!!! WOW! Congratulations again on that!