1. Work on one novel at a time until finished, while also writing the occasional poem, short story, article, and weekly blog post.

2. Start on your next novel only when you feel you’re done with your last novel, and take a break from the new novel only to revise that last novel according to editorial advice or flash of inspiration, then get back to the new novel as soon as you can.

3. Write in ecstasy, edit with intent.

4. Work according to the best program of your own devising, built honestly and sincerely around the realities of your individual life, which can and should—even must—include writing.

5. Write something . . . anything . . . but write!

6. Clean up yesterday’s writing then write the next section, which you’ll clean up tomorrow before adding tomorrow’s new text. Do no further revision until the rough draft is done.

7. Keep human! Interact with other humans everyday, in whatever way you can, and from time to time, take a full week off.

8. Rejoice in the act of writing itself.

9. Give yourself a break and realize that sometimes you have to set aside the project at hand, but you can, and will, come back to it as soon as possible.

10. Write the book you care the most about—the story that speaks to you, that won’t let you sleep at night, that won’t go away.


—Philip Athans

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. Craig says:

    Thanks Phil for putting this together… 11 weeks, 11 posts, and I enjoyed every one of them! You struck a perfect blend of classic ideal advice with modern reality.

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  3. T.L. Branson says:

    Hmmm…Interesting take in editing there in Rule #6. I’ve read more than once not to go back and edit, and you seem to echo that wisdom as well. But I hadn’t considered editing only what I wrote the previous day.

    This seems like it would serve two purposes. 1) Save time when you’re doing your big edit at the end and 2) refresh your brain on where you were going so that everything you write today is on track.

    I’ll give it a go. Thanks!

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