Writing Advice From The Experts

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment. - Hart Crane

Some of the best advice for writers in the 21st century comes from those who have seen their successes and offer advice from their own experience. Let’s draw from that brain trust.

On Writing Well

Show don't tell. - Henry James

Don't say the old lady screamed -- bring her on and let her scream. - Mark Twain

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

First drafts are for learning what your novel or story is about. - Bernard Malamud

Usually, when people get to the end of a chapter, they close the book and go to sleep. I deliberately write a book so when the reader gets to the end of the chapter, he or she must turn one more page. When people tell me I've kept them up all night, I feel like I've succeeded. - Sidney Sheldon

Don't mistake a good setup for a satisfying conclusion -- many beginning writers end their stories when the real story is just ready to begin. - Stanley Schmidt

On Inspiration

Nighttime is really the best time to work. All the ideas are there to be yours because everyone else is asleep. - Catherine O'Hara

I know writers who write only when inspiration comes. How would Isaac Stern play if he played the violin only when he felt like it? He would be lousy. - Madeleine L'Engle

If you wait for inspiration, you're not a writer, but a waiter. - Anonymous

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. - Jack London

The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from. - Gene Fowler

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. - William Faulkner

The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. - Agatha Christie

So this is always the key: you have to write the book you love, the book that's alive in your heart. That's the one you have to write. - Lurleen McDaniel

The most valuable of talents is never using two words when one will do. - Thomas Jefferson

There are many books that provide tips and guidance for publishing success. This series of articles takes you directly to a trusted source of wisdom – established authors. The hope is the experiences they have encountered will assist you in your writing objectives.

On Editing

There is but one art, to omit! - Robert Louis Stevenson

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. - William Strunk, Jr., from The Elements of Style

My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip. - Elmore Leonard

The great art of writing is knowing when to stop. - Josh Billings

As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out. -- Mark Twain

When rewriting, move quickly. It's a little like cutting your own hair. - Robert Stone

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light. - Joseph Pulitzer

On Writer’s Block

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it an hour when it isn't expecting it. - H. G. Wells

On Motivation

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly

The most original thing a writer can do is write like himself. It is also the most difficult task. - Robertson Davies

If you wish to be a writer, write. - Epictetus

Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential. - Jessamyn West

You write about the thing that sank its teeth into you and wouldn't let go. - Paul West

On Humility

Young writers should be encouraged to write, and discouraged from thinking they are writers. - Wallace Stegner

You must be prepared to work always without applause. - Ernest Hemingway

Much of the wisdom available from established authors may be surprising in it’s honesty and straightforward nature. The reason this is likely true is the authors in question have had enough success that there is no need to candy coat the truths they have discovered in their experience. This is the final article in this series.

On Learning the Art of Writing

I learned to write by listening to people talk. I still feel that the best of my writing comes from having heard rather than having read. - Gayl Jones

You have to protect your writing time. You have to protect it to the death. - William Goldman

By writing much, one learns to write well. - Robert Southey

To produce a mighty work, you must choose a mighty theme. - Herman Melville

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. - Robert Frost

A writer's job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as memories. - John Irving

Plot springs from character.... I've always sort of believed that these people inside me -- these characters -- know who they are and what they're about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don't type. - Anne Lamott

In your writing, be strong, defiant, forbearing. Have a point to make and write to it. Dare to say what you want most to say, and say it as plainly as you can. Whether or not you write well, write bravely. - Bill Stout

Whenever you write, whatever you write, never make the mistake of assuming the audience is any less intelligent than you are. - Rod Serling

If the stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. - Barry Lopez

Write about it by day, and dream about it by night. - E. B. White

Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others. - Marianne Moore

On Humor

When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand. - Raymond Chandler

The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it. - Mark Twain

On Naming Your Work

A good title should be like a good metaphor. It should intrigue without being too baffling or too obvious. - Walker Percy

The title to a work of writing is like a house's front porch.... It should invite you to come on in. - Angela Giles Klocke

I hope you catch the sense that successful authors draw from the real stuff of life, keep things simple and well told. If you look closely, these authors keep a sense of humor about them and remain personable. These are admirable lessons to consider in your writing journey.