Veronica Roth is the author of the wildly popular Divergent series (among other works). It may seem to you like she churns out bestsellers with a blindfold on while typing with one arm behind her back, but the truth is, she once produced mediocre work and felt the sting of critics more times than she can count.
She offers some excellent advice in four parts, highlighted here in this Goodreads post, and item number one is also my favorite piece of writer advice to pass along when someone asks:
Stage One: Word Vomit. (Sorry for the graphic image there.) Just write. Do not reread what you’ve just written, even if you don’t remember it and you want to check it for the sake of consistency. Don’t do it! You will be tempted to edit, and editing before you finish the draft is the enemy of writing progress.
This piece of advice is what I consider “The Golden Rule” for writing, as it appears in every “Ask an author for writing advice” post in some form or another. Write it. Just write. Repetition and habit and practice make you better. But none of that happens if you spend your time scribbling random scenes and daydreaming in your head about the book you’d like to write someday. You have to do the work.
She gives us a little more insight on her blog and it’s comforting to hear that she’s struggled her way into better writing, just like the rest of us. It’s easy to think that great novels spring from the foreheads of these authors fully-formed, but it doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work that way for any of us.