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25 Writing Tips From Professional Writers

A potted plant, open blank notebook, pen, and red mug sit on a wooden table. The red mug with gold handle says 'Go Get 'Em'.
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The act of writing is a solitary one. While we have friends and writers’ circles to support us, their help can mean little when you’re facing a blank page alone. However, that does not mean that aid cannot be found. Authors who have been around the lonely block a few times often have nuggets of wisdom that can let us find our way. We’ve gathered some of our favourites to share with you.

Getting Started

1. Isabel Allende - Show Up

'Show up, show up, show up, and after a while, the muse shows up, too.'

2. Neil Gaiman - Put One Word After Another

'This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard, and you put one word after another until it’s done. it’s that easy, and that hard.'

3. Nora Roberts - Move Past The Blank Page

'You can fix anything but a blank page.'

4. Camilla Bruce - Set Ambitious Goals For Yourself

'Don't be afraid to set ambitious goals—and try not to settle for anything less than those goals on days when motivation is scarce.'

5. Robert L. Richardson - Dive Into Research

'Be guided by carefully developed chronologies. Establish clear causal relationships. Dive deeply into available research sources (National Archives, CIA library, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Archives of the NSA, and others).'

6. Katherine Mansfield – Writing Something Is Better Than Nothing

'Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.'

7. Tessa Wegert - Be Flexible

'The best advice I can offer aspiring authors is to be flexible. Be willing to experiment with new genres. You might find your niche somewhere unexpected.'

9. Zadie Smith – Get Offline

'Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.'

10. John Steinbeck - One Page At A Time

‘Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.’

A person sits on a wooden chair with their feet up on the edge of another. They have a blank notebook on their thighs and a pen in hand. A bike and a road can be seen beyond.
Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash

The Act Of Writing

11. Ernest Hemingway – Stop While The Going Is Good

'Always stop while you are going good and don’t worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way, your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry bout it, you will kill it, and your brain will be tired before you start.'

12. Jodi Picoult - Finish It Before You Mess With It

'When you’re stuck, and sure you’ve written absolute garbage, force yourself to finish and then decide to fix or scrap it - or you will never know if you can.'

13. Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Make People Believe In Your Work

‘In journalism, just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction, one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.’

14. Anton Chekhov - Show, Don’t Tell

'Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.'

15. Michael Moorcock - Break The Rules, Make Your Own

'Ignore all proffered rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.'

16. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai - Write Stories That Move Us

'Let us write stories that move us to the core, because when our pen is trembling, the reader can feel it, too.'

17. Kelly S. Thompson - Trust Your Reader

'I had a university professor encourage me to trust my reader. I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time, but I’ve come to learn how vital it is to allow my reader’s brain to do some of the heavy lifting in my books. I have a tendency to go ‘over the top,’ to keep explaining, even when I’ve already made my point (I want to make sure the reader gets it!). But the effect is watered down metaphors, language, and plot. So, trust your reader, trust your writing, trust that they will understand and that their own interpretation of your meaning can be part of the beauty of the written word.'

18. Edgar Allen Poe - Build Towards A Mood In Short Stories

'A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.'

Multiple notebooks and papers in shades of copper and brown lie on grey and white bedsheets. A handmade white clay mug and spoon sits on one of the notebooks.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Writerly Habits

19. Zadie Smith - Protect Your Writing Space

'Protect the time and space in which you write. keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.'

20. Will Self - Carry A Notebook With You

'Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. the short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper, you can lose an idea for ever.'

21. Afia Atakora - Develop Writer Friendships

'Writer friends are everything! We all know that the act of novel writing is solitary, and sometimes lonesome work, but when you crawl out of your cave it's so important to have friends there waiting who get it, who are ready to read and cheer you on, and who will send you right back into the cave when you need it.'

22. Viet Thanh Nguyen - Love The Writing Process, No Matter What

'I would tell my younger self: Be patient. Get ready to suffer, and if you get lucky, maybe something will work out. But there’s no guarantee. You have to love what you do because if the material things don’t work out in the world of writing, you still have to love the writing process itself, no matter how challenging and even miserable it might be.'

23. Todd Henry - Success Comes In Layers

'Recognize that success comes in layers. There will be moments when you think, 'This is it—the big break!' and you’ll realise that you’ve really only rolled up to a new starting line. You. Must. Be. Committed. To. The. Craft. If you are writing for the ancillary benefits, or to be called a—writer, or just to point to a book with your name on it, then seriously reconsider. There are a ton of easier ways to get your name on something. However, if you are truly committed to the craft, you’ll discover deep passion, meaning, and long-term purpose through going clickety-clack on the keys, and you’ll change a lot of lives in the process. Mostly, your own.'

24. Kate Winkler Dawson - Write In Your Own Voice

'I think aspiring writers try too hard to write like other people, perhaps their idols. You have to find your own voice, create your own clever phrases. Readers can see right through a fraud.'

25. Kimmery Martin - Read In And Out Of Your Genre

'Read! Read in your genre, of course, but also read outside it and try to analyse the voices you find most appealing. This will help you, but it will also spur some teeth-gnashing and garment-rending at your own perceived inadequacies. Or maybe that's just me.'

Feeling inspired? Get out there and smash out that writing project. Learn from others, and your project will soar.

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