10 Writing Tips from Famous Authors
Writing is easy when you are a famous author – just sit down at the keyboard and the words just pour from your fingertips, right?
Not exactly. Famous authors struggle with writer’s block, disdain for editing and aversion to publishing too. Famous authors are popular because they have mad skills when it comes to choosing the words, of course, but they are successful because they have found ways to overcome writer’s block and other word flow problems.
While most of the famous authors were born before the invention of the computer, modern content writers face the same challenges that perplexed writers of yore. In fact, today’s content writers must be better at overcoming writers block because the internet requires tighter deadlines than old-fashioned ink-and-paper publications.
Even so, famous authors of the past and the present provide valuable advice when it comes to writing. Here are a few quotes and writing tips from some of the world’s most prolific and popular writers.
10 Writing Tips from Famous Authors
1. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Trade the typewriter for the modern keyboard and Hemingway’s advice still holds true today – writing requires that you sit down and give your life’s blood to the work.
2. “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham
Like all creative ventures, writing is a highly individual process in which everyone does it in a slightly different way. One of the most important things any author can do, though, is to create three rules for writing that works for him or her and follow those rules to the letter.
3. “When you can’t create you can work.” ~ Henry Miller
In his book Henry Miller on Writing, the famous writer and painter offers his list of “commandments” of a daily routine. They include:
- Work on one thing at a time until finished.
- Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
- Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
- Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
- When you can’t create you can work.
- Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
- Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
- Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
- Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
- Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
- Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
4. “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” ~Stephen King
Edit ruthlessly, even when it means slashing your most cherished and clever lines. If you cannot bring yourself to raise the editorial knife, try housing your deleted lines in a folder named “Darling Orphanage” for adoption into another loving article or story.
5. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~Mark Twain
Edit your work for words like “very,” “that” and “also.” Many word processors, such as Microsoft Word, allow you to do a search and replace. Use your thesaurus to find different words for “very,” such as extremely and incredibly. Strike out the word “that” every time you can remove it without changing the meaning of the sentence – you might be surprised at how often you use the word “that” unnecessarily. Replace the oft-written “also” with “too” and “in addition to.”
6. “To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write.” ~Gertrude Stein
Successful writers write every day. In fact, every author should pen another 300 words after reading this article.
7. “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” ~ E.B. White
Don’t waste time trying to create the perfect work environment. Instead, learn to work in nearly any situation.
In an interview with The Paris Review, the author of Charlotte’s Web said he never listened to music while writing, but he did work from the family’s living room that served as the core of activity in the house. He said there was a lot of traffic in the room, but the space was bright and cheerful so he chose it as a writing space, “despite the carnival that is going on all around.”
8. “It’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it…You have to let people see what you wrote.” ~ Tina Fey
Be brave – push your work down the waterslide and let it sink or swim on its own merit. Besides, letting a completed work swim free lets you turn your attention to that cute little minnow of a story swimming around in the back of your mind.
9. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ~ Jack London
Mr. London may have found inspiration by chasing down a Chinese proverb that says, “Man who waits for roast duck to fly into his mouth must wait a very, very long time.”
10. “If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” ~ William Zinsser
Of course writing is hard, William! If it were easy to make a living banging out words on a keyboard, everyone would do it. But writing is one of the most rewarding things people do too. The satisfaction of producing quality content, the benefit of receiving payment and the thrill of connecting with readers is so worth the hours spent researching, writing, editing and publishing.
We hope these tips help you become a more famous author and content creator. Who knows, authors of the future may someday quote your writing tips as inspirations to others!
Lynn H has been a professional writer, providing exceptional content online and offline, for nearly 20 years. In that time, she has penned thousands of articles for doctors, universities, researchers, small businesses, nursing organizations, sole proprietors and more. She writes everything from blogs to white papers; her specialty is putting complex scientific concepts in simple terms. She specializes in medical writing, creating informative and engaging content for professionals in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, medical manufacturing, chiropractics, optometry, emergency care, plastic surgery and others.