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Jeff Nania on Early Writing Advice

Jeff Nania is the author of the Northern Lakes Mystery Series. You can find out more about him here, see his books here, and read his last post here.

I really don’t think I am the best choice to tell anyone how to write a book or even how to get started. There are lots of well-written blogs and articles that describe various writing processes in detail. They should be very helpful to anyone trying to write anything. But people ask me anyway.

Last week I met a young writer and her mom visiting from Wyoming. Her name was Taylor, and she told me how much she wanted to pursue a career in writing.

“So, you like writing,” I said.

“I love writing!” was Taylor’s response. I asked them to pull up of couple chairs at the Village Booksmith. With an abundance of youthful exuberance, Taylor told me about her writing. She also told me that in some regards, writing was a challenge for her—spelling and proper punctuation were issues. These challenges were compounded by the fact that she often wrote longhand. Taylor was concerned that these things would prevent her from being a successful writer.

I asked her if she liked what she wrote.

“Yes,” she said. “Some things more than others.”

“Do other people like what you write?” I asked.

“My mom does of course, but I really think other people do too.”

“Well, here is how I see it. In the end, spelling, punctuation, and all that stuff needs to be straightened out, but I think the most important thing is that you write something you like and that people enjoy reading. Bad writing is bad writing—even if every comma is in place and every word spelled correctly. So good writing comes first, and everything else can be fixed.”

I told her that was the best advice I had. I was honored to sign a book for her. A day after meeting Taylor and her mom, I dove into the bracing water of a northern lake. That particular lake is one of the settings for my Northern Lakes Mystery series. As I slowly swam across the water, I began writing my next book. I hope it ends up being a good story.

Jeff Nania

Award-winning author Jeff Nania draws upon careers in law enforcement, conservation, and a passion for our natural resources in his bestselling Northern Lakes Mystery series. Jeff’s narrative non-fiction writing has appeared in Wisconsin Outdoor News, Double Gun Journal, The Outlook, and other publications. Download a free short story and read more of Jeff's writing at, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Sherrill M Joseph
    Sherrill M Joseph

    Jeff, thanks for your post. It took me back to my teaching days when students were concerned, even afraid, to put anything on paper because they doubted its merit. I used to tell them pretty much what you said: If you like to write and have chosen a topic that resonates with you, that’s what’s important. I have a magnet on my filing cabinet that reads, “First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.”

  2. Margaret Mizushima
    Margaret Mizushima

    You gave good advice to Taylor. And yes, Sherrill, you can’t revise a blank page! Thanks, Jeff!

  3. Avatar

    Having read your writing, Jeff, I believe you practice what you preach. Looking forward to that new lake-inspired novel!

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Jeff — Excellent advice! And I’m looking forward to the next installment in the John Cabrelli Northern Lakes Mystery Series.

  5. Joy Ann Ribar
    Joy Ann Ribar

    Sage advice from a wise adult is important for aspiring young writers to have the courage to write. I fondly remember my own struggling writers in my classroom. Thanks, Jeff.

  6. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Goes along with my motto I’ve had all my life: “Write with joy, and finish with finesse.” First you have a blast writing anything you wish. Later, much later, worry about fixing things. Nice post, Jeff.

  7. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Excellent advice, Jeff! I’ve belonged to too many critique groups who focused on the commas and sentence structure. Where they were usually right, I was always more interested in what they thought of the story first. Like Sherrill says about the blank page. . .

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