Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James

Sunday, October 2, 2011

36 Writing Tips from Successful Authors

Filed under: Author Tips — Larry James @ 7:00 am

Sometimes people who request author coaching ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. I get a multitude of questions. Perhaps in the following tips you will find some inspiration that will help.

If you are truly serious about being an author, my own tip would be to have the discipline to write something – anything – everyday! Make it a daily routine and do it with passion! Tip #29 echos this idea!

hintstipsYou can begin to improve any type of writing you do with these solid tips from successful writers themselves. It’s a collection of tips that every writer should print and read often to help keep you on track.

General Writing Tips

1. Ernest Hemingway. Use short sentences and short first paragraphs. These rules were two of four given to Hemingway in his early days as a reporter–and words he lived by.

2. Mark Twain. Substitute “damn” every time you want to use the word “very.” Twain’s thought was that your editor would delete the “damn,” and leave the writing as it should be. The short version: eliminate using the word “very.”

3. Oscar Wilde. Be unpredictable. Wilde suggested that “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

4. Anton Chekhov. Show, don’t tell. This advice comes out of most every writing class taught. Chekhov said it most clearly when he said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

5. EB White. Just write. The author of Charlotte’s Web, one of the most beloved of children’s books, said that “I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”

6. Samuel Johnson. Keep your writing interesting. “The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”

7. Ray Bradbury. Learn to take criticism well and discount empty praise, or as Bradbury put it, “to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”

8. Toni Morrison. Remember that writing is always about communication. “Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it.”

9. George Orwell. Orwell offered twelve solid tips on creating strong writing, including an active voice rather than a passive one and eliminating longer words when shorter ones will work just as well.

10. F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”

11. Anais Nin. “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”

12. Truman Capote. Editing is as important as the writing. “I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”

13. Maurice Sendak. Keep revising. “I never spent less than two years on the text of one of my picture books, even though each of them is approximately 380 words long. Only when the text is finished … do I begin the pictures.”

Tips for Beginning Writers

If you are thinking about a career in writing or are just starting to write seriously, then use these tips for great suggestions.

14. Stephen King. “Read a lot and write a lot.” Reading and understanding different styles is integral to finding your own style.

15. Margaret Mahy. Be persistent. This popular New Zealand author suggests that being persistent will pay off when facing adversity while writing or trying to get your writing published.

16. John Grisham. Keep your day job. Grisham suggests finding your career outside of writing. Experience life, suffering, and love to be able to write effectively.

17. John Steinbeck. “I’ve always tried out material on my dogs first.” Make sure that above all, you are happy with your work…and see if the dogs stay awake.

18. Flannery O’Connor. Sometimes you need to stir the emotions to be heard. “I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.”

19. Isaac Asimov. Use humor effectively.” Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments.”

20. Lillian Hellman. Trust your instincts. “If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.”

21. Doris Lessing. “I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.”

22. Jessamyn West. “Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely necessary.”

23. William Faulkner. “A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”

24. Margaret Atwood. Don’t be afraid of failure. “A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.”

25. Richard Bach. Never stop trying. “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

26. Isabel Allende. Follow your passion, despite the obstacles. “I couldn’t write a novel sitting in a car but I could write short stories. The advantage to this is because with a short story you write fragments. In a couple of weeks you have a story and then you do some more. If you really want to do something you do it in the most awkward circumstances, of course.”

27. Carl Zimmer. Do as much research as possible away from the Internet — with living people, in real places.

28. David Shenk. Make it great, no matter how long it takes. There’s no such thing as too many drafts. There’s no such thing as too much time spent. As you well know, a great book can last forever. A great book can change a person’s life. A mediocre book is just commerce.

29. Cory Doctorow. Write every day. Anything you do every day gets easier. If you’re insanely busy, make the amount that you write every day small (100 words? 250 words?) but do it every day. Write even when the mood isn’t right.

30. Seth Mnookin. Assume your book is going to completely tank commercially. That’ll help you remember that you’re not writing this for the purpose of writing a best-seller (at least I assume you’re not), but because it’s something that you care passionately about and excites you intellectually and because you hope to be able to share your thoughts and observations and conclusions with a group of people you respect and want to discourse with. Everything else is gravy. At the end of the day, what’s important is producing something you believe in…not producing something that’ll catch people’s eyes at B&N.

31. Maryn McKenna. Be good to your spouse/partner and protect time for them. They’re in this with you, but unlike you, they didn’t choose it.

32. Natalie Goldberg. “I hear people say they’re going to write. I ask, when? They give me vague statements. Indefinite plans get dubious results. When we’re concrete about our writing time, it alleviates that thin constant feeling of anxiety that writers have – we’re barbecuing hot dogs, riding a bike, sailing out in the bay, shopping for shoes, even helping a sick friend, but somewhere nervously at the periphery of our perception we know we belong somewhere else – at our desk!”

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Larry James at work!

33. Walt Whitman. The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.

34. Joan Didion. My writing is a process of rewriting, of going back and changing and filling in. In the rewriting process you discover what’s going on, and you go back and bring it up to that point. Sometimes you’ll just push through, indicate a scene or a character, leave a space, then go back later and fill it in.

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

36. Larry James. Take your eye off the big picture of the completed book. You write a book “one page at a time.” Now begin!

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Authors & Speakers Network Blog

Copyright © 2011 – Larry James. Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com

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2 Comments »

  1. […] BONUS Article: 36 Writing Tips from Successful Authors […]

    Pingback by Scribble, Scribble… Write, Write! « Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James — Friday, November 11, 2011 @ 9:03 am | Reply

  2. Tony Hillerman – Edit, then edit again and re-edit. (advice from my journalism professor)

    Great to see that photo of Larry in this post.

    Comment by Marketing Sociologist Richard Kelleher — Sunday, October 2, 2011 @ 10:31 pm | Reply


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