Best Writing Advice From Famous Writers

atkins-bookshelf-literature“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration,” observed novelist Stephen King, “the rest of us get up and go to work.” Writing, like anything else, can be difficult work but it begins by actively avoiding distractions, facing the blank screen, rolling up your sleeves, and actually doing the work. It’s not surprising that many successful writers suggest working on a computer that is not connected to the internet (hopefully you can write a few hours before withdrawal symptoms manifest themselves). Here are some famous writers sharing some sensible advice on writing.

Italo Calvino: “To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being… what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.”

Harper Lee: “Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself… It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.”

Orson Scott: “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”

Anne Lamott: I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts.”

William Faulkner: “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

Zadie Smith: “Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.”

Charles Dickens: “I have nothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess that no one can ever believe this narrative in the reading, more than I have believed it in the writing.”

Jonathan Franzen: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

Stephen King: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Joyce Carol Oates: “Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!”

Neil Gaiman: “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.”

Helen Simpson: “The nearest I have to a rule is a post-it on the wall in front of my desk [with a quote from French novelist Gustave Flaubert:] ‘Faire et se taire.’ which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’”

Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

William Shakespeare: “And as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothings a local habitation and a name.”





Read related posts: The First Typewritten Book
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
Why Did James Joyce Burn His Manuscript?

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