In Rome, where I live, I’m lucky enough to belong to an amazing writing group. We meet every two weeks to read our work and receive critiques. At a recent meeting, we were fortunate to have as our guest Jessica Maria Tuccelli, debut author of Glow, a family saga  set between Washington, D.C. and the Appalachian mountains of Georgia. The story is told through multiple voices and focuses on race relations in America and the struggle for civil rights.

Aside from being charming and funny, Jessica offered up so much good advice for those of us gathered at our writing group meeting, that I thought I’d share some of the more general tips:

Be wary of  writing by consensus- Since I’m in two writing groups – my Rome writing group and a virtual writing group – I can really relate to this. A writer gets so many suggestions, and so many of them are wonderful and add to your story. But, as Jessica points out, there comes a point when you risk diluting your characters and your story line if you try to make them all things to all readers. Weigh all suggestions, but don’t be afraid to go with your gut reaction and ignore advice if you think it’s taking you too far from your intended voice.

Learn the business- This goes without saying. Today an aspiring author must learn everything about literary agents, the querying phase, how to market himself or herself. Be as professional as you can when beginning the querying phase and – this should go without saying – follow submission instructions to a T.

Devise a one-sentence pitch – Hmm, this is advice I didn’t want to hear. I’m working on whittling down to a short query, but one sentence? Jessica said authors are often asked to sum up their book in one sentence and it’s best to have something prepared as you near the pitching stage.

Don’t give up – Okay, you’ve heard this again and again, but it never hurts to hear it one more time. Jessica also queried widely and her work was discovered in the slush pile and taken on by an agent who believed in her. You will experience rejection – lots of it, and some of it not very nice – but it’s important to keep plugging on until you find that agent who believes in your work.

We were lucky to have Jessica Tuccelli at our writing group. I look forward to reading her book, and I’m certain I will be returning often to her advice once I start my pitching phase.