Everybody has a story to tell — the issue lies with how we should tell it.
Indeed, writing is no easy feat. It can be difficult to structure an interesting and coherent plot and story, while also telling it in an engaging manner. It can truly take up lots of time and energy.
And perhaps that is why writing advice from seasoned authors is so much more valuable! These are veteran writers who have been through the thick of things and emerged victorious. It is no wonder that many young writers continue to clamor for their writing advice and tips.
What techniques did they employ to help them write their masterpieces? What advice can they give to someone like you as you embark on your very own writing journey?
8 writing tips from famous writers
1. Write everything, even if you might not use it — Cormac McCarthy
American writer Cormac McCarthy writes everything he can, even expository explorations into his characters' psyche that would most likely be left out of the end product.
If you spend too much time only following your plans or only trying to write content that will go into your final draft, you may be missing out on any hidden gems that your creativity will produce. Who knows, you may end up coming up with a great but unexpected idea for your story or characters.
Furthermore, such "ramblings" may even help you get a better understanding of your plot or your characters. So don't impose limits on yourself and what you can write.
2. You have to read to write — William Faulkner
“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 is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”
This is a fairly common piece of writing advice, not just among famous authors.
To become a good writer, you have to read widely. Reading the good and the classics is a learning journey -- you get to see what makes a story a good one, and take away useful learning points from it.
On the flipside, reading the bad helps you to learn what not to do, which makes it equally as valuable.
3. Set a realistic weekly goal — Lisa Dordal
“My own sense is that it’s not the amount of time that we spend writing but the quality of that time."
We all have different preferences, work schedules and productivity peaks. However, if the classic advice of "write every day" simply isn't working for you, perhaps you may want to heed poet Lisa Dordal's advice.
Between her writing and her teaching, Dordal claims that writing everyday will overwhelm her, eventually causing her to get nothing done. Instead, setting a weekly goal will help her to become more productive.
This tip may be useful for those who have to juggle their full-time jobs or studies with their passion for writing!
4. Write in the quiet — Neil Gaiman
Social media, TV shows, emails and notifications... it's so easy to get distracted and sidetracked while you're trying to write.
So if you really want to hunker down and write productively, it's important to embrace and write in the quiet. Like Neil Gaiman, who rents a cabin with no internet or cell service, borrows houses from his friends, or gets a cheap hotel room for a while just to get writing done.
Of course, there is no need to go to such an extent. Simply turn off your notifications, stop multi-tasking and perhaps even turn off your Internet connection so that you can write in peace!
5. Write backwards — John Irving
Did you know that there is no need to write your book in the order that it is supposed to be read? When writing, you don't have to start with chapter 1 and end with the last chapter.
Author John Irving shares that he plots out his novel, creates titles before books and writes the endings first.
If you tend to struggle with writing the endings of your stories and with pacing, it may be worth giving this tip a try!
6. Sympathize with all your characters, even your villains — Haven Kimmel
We've long gone past the days of purely heroic protagonists and purely evil villains. These days, writing complex characters that lie on a spectrum of morality is what engages readers.
And that is why it's important to learn to sympathize with all your characters, even your villains. That is how you can make them feel more human, more relatable to your readers.
For Haven Kimmel, she had to learn to sympathize and understand hurtful people in her past in order to write her memoir. It was this process that helped her learn that no one is entirely good or entirely evil.
7. Keep a running document of ideas — Eoin Colfer
Alas, our brains are constantly on overdrive, and it's not surprising to come up with ideas for a new project even while we're still working on our current one.
That is why you may want to keep a notebook or document to jot down any ideas that come to mind, no matter how likely you are to follow up on these ideas.
This is a method that author Eoin Colfer uses. He keeps an Word document open at all times so that he can write down any sporadic thoughts or ideas and hopes that his subconscious can knit them together. And it works sometimes, according to him!
Consider using JotterPad, a novel writing software, to not only write your stories, but to also jot down any ideas that come to mind!
With JotterPad, you can save your work on a cloud service — OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox — so that you can access these ideas easily!
Furthermore, JotterPad is a cross-platform writing software, which means that you can write and read your list of ideas on whatever device you prefer.
8. Take a "Blue Sky Session" if you get stuck — B.J. Novak
Whenever a "blue sky session" is called in a writer's room, any writer in the room is free to toss out ideas — any idea. If you're stuck on your current project, it may be prudent to take a break, step away and go through a blue sky session of your own.
The Office writer B.J. Novak tends to take a week or more to have his own "blue sky period", as he calls it, to throw out as many "what if" questions as he can about the plot and the characters.
So, the next time you're going through a writing rut, you may want to give this method a try!
We hope that this collection of writing tips from famous authors has been useful to you!