Frank Herbert

Writing Advice from a Legend-Honoring Frank Herbert-Our Dear Friend and Judge  (1920-1986)

The very last article that Frank Herbert wrote before his passing in February of 1986 was writing advice to contestants of this very contest. His article appeared in “Writers of the Future Volume II.” We wanted to share this essay with you:

by Frank Herbert

The single most important piece of advice I ever got was to concentrate on story. What is “story”? It’s the quality that keeps the reader following the narrative. A good story makes interesting things happen to a character with whom the reader can identify. And it keeps them happening, so that the character progresses and grows in stature.

A writer’s job is to do whatever is necessary  to make the reader want to read the next line. That’s what you’re suppose to be thinking about when you’re writing a story. Don’t think about money, don’t think about success; concentrate on the story—don’t waste your energy on anything else. That all takes care of itself, if you’ve done your job as a writer. If you haven’t done that, nothing helps.

I first heard this from literary agent Lurton Blassingame, a highly respected expert on successful storytellers and storytelling. He’s a man who’s been watching writers’ careers and building writers’ careers for decades. And I have heard essentially the same thing from many other successful figures in writing; some of the top writers in the world have said it. It is the best advice I can give  beginners.

I’d also like to say something about older hands helping newcomers. Like many other established writers, I teach students on frequent occasions and lecture to many other audiences anxious for advice on writing. I’m very happy to be able to lend my help to the Writers of the Future program. From time to time, though, people have come up to me and asked why I want to “create competition” by helping newcomers.

Talking about “competition” in that way is nonsense! The more good writers there are, the more good readers there will be. We’ll all benefit—writers and readers alike!

So the other piece of advice I have for newcomers is: “Remember how you learned, and when your turn comes, teach.”

9 replies

    Dear Drs. , I be just like literature with proud of The Great Nobel Price. But I know truth the one that I can not through face Drs. had been borned the first already. Just still the fire burn up for My own to proud of with The Universe, maybe? If I always hard study and hard work like to The Smallest Tung Mung Co.,ltd belongs Chinese Men. Although, they be not education just worker for theirs own from the normal clothings belongs ADIDAS GROUP through the rent sewing with the little cash get from ADIDAS GROUP. But Tung Mung Co.,ltd Chinese Men be just so pleasure because they can proud of theirs own talent to The Universe. Maybe, to the day, The Universe Royals will be accept theirs own talent although be THEY ARE CHINESE. I be them like same The Idol to set up My own dreams proud of with The Universe catch The Great Nobel Price although I am Vietnamese with My own literature style not photo who one but belongs My own because I be more talent follow My own style, just so! Dear Dr.


    ” Dear Drs. , hard do excersie can, can? Next future The No. 1 The Earth, can, can? If I be so stupid consit more just lazy, can, can? Hard do excersie can, can, dear Drs. ? Then talent will be that just so, hard do excersie can, can, dear Drs. ? “

  3. Paul Nieto
    Paul Nieto says:

    That is a very generous thing to do! I can relate to this being a member of a writing group. We critique and grow, learning by critiquing each other, and being critiqued. I can only hope to be as good or well know as much as to help teach classes some day!

    • John Goodwin
      John Goodwin says:

      That’s great Paul. Are you familiar with our online Forum? Or the free Writers of the Future Online Workshop? Or Writers & Illustrators of the Future Podcast? You can find all of them on home page along the left side.

  4. Scott M. Sands
    Scott M. Sands says:

    Working hard to concentrate on ‘story’. I know that when I’m reading a book, that’s what keeps me interested.
    When I started writing, I didn’t realize that many people would take this approach: helping and encouraging fellow writers. It’s refreshing every time I hear it mentioned that we’re not each other’s competition.
    We benefit each other.

  5. David Bastardo
    David Bastardo says:

    A true and honest advice from one of sci-fi’s greatest writers. I try my best and stay as devoted to the story as possible.


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