3-Word Writing Advice From Writers And Editors

by Tori Telfer

Sometimes you need to read an entire craft book to figure out this whole writing game, but other times, all you need to know can be condensed into a simple phrase. Kill your darlings. Write what you know. In fact, much of the world’s most iconic writing advice takes place in five beats or fewer. Make it new. Show up. Follow your bliss. (Wait, scratch that last one, it's the green juice talking.)

I strolled around the infamous AWP 2015 Minneapolis Book Fair, where literary publications from The Paris Review to the tiniest of independent presses were represented, and asked writers and editors what they'd say to a curious writer looking for guidance — with the caveat that it had to be three words. No more, no less. I noticed a few themes: consistency, bravery, focus, and that strange and self-deprecating sense of humor unique to the writing class.

It’s not easy condensing everything you want to say to your fellow wordsmiths into three words written on a dry-erase board, but hey, that’s what writers do.

1. Tia Clark, University of Indiana MFA candidate in fiction

2. Mary Sasso, Sr. Marketing Manager at Harper Perennial

3. Caitlin Woolley, editor-in-chief of Permafrost

4. Desiree Johnson, Columbia College Chicago MFA candidate in fiction

5. Courtney Zellars, Columbia College Chicago MFA candidate in fiction

6. Melissa Faliveno, Associate Editor, Poets & Writers

7. Miriam Cook, Marketing Assistant, Ploughshares

8. Laura Secord, Sierra Nevada College MFA candidate in poetry

9. Kristen Rowley, Humanities Acquisitions Editor, University of Nebraska Press

10. Dawn Renee Aines, poet

11. Brenda Bell Brown, writer, performer and visual artist

12. Allie Batts, Managing Editor, Zoetic Press

13. Lisa Mangini, Founding Editor, Paper Nautilus

14. Sophie Rosenblum, Web Editor, NANO Fiction

15. Kayla Candrilli, Associate Editor, NANO Fiction

16. Amanda Faraone, Development Coordinator, One Story

17. Robin Behn, Poetry Editor, Hunger Mountain (and Director of the University of Alabama's MFA program)

18. Francesca DeMusz, Membership and Development Associate, Council of Literary Magazines and Presses

19. Amalia Kruszel, Program Manager, Americans for the Arts Action Fund

20. Madeline Hester, Classifieds, New York Review of Books

Images: Tori Telfer