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20 Tips on Writing from Famous Authors

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There is an abundance of writing advice available to authors these days, but sometimes the classics are best. Some of the most famous authors of the past and today have doled out writing tips that can apply to any writer’s life. From Ernest Hemingway to Kurt Vonnegut, some of our favorite authors let the world in on their writing secrets.

  1.  “Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living” –Gustave Flaubert
  2. “As you grow up, always tell the truth, do no harm to others, and don’t think you are the most important being on earth. Rich or poor, you then can look anyone in the eye and say, “I’m probably no better than you, but I’m certainly your equal.” –Harper Lee
  3.  “The first draft of everything is shit.” –Ernest Hemingway
  4.  “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” –Neil Gaiman
  5.  “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time – or the tools – to write. Simple as that.” –Stephen King
  6.  “Be daring, take on anything. Don’t labor over little cameo works in which every word is to be perfect. Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, but only content will stay in his mind.” –Joyce Carol Oates
  7.  “Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” –Zadie Smith
  8.  “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page a day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.” –John Steinbeck
  9.  “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
  10.  “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” –Robert Frost
  11.  “Wait, wait, wait, wait. Don’t try to write through it, to force it. Many do, but that won’t work. Just wait, it will come.” –Toni Morrison
  12.  “Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.” –Ray Bradbury
  13.  “You never have to change anything you go up in the middle of the night to write.” –Saul Bellow
  14. “Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” –Kurt Vonnegut
  15. “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” –William Faulkner
  16.  “You either have to write or you shouldn’t be writing. That’s all.” ― Joss Whedon
  17.  “Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about Man, write about a man.” ― E.B. White
  18.  “Advice to young writers? Always the same advice: learn to trust our own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad – including your own bad.” ― Doris Lessing
  19.  “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” ― Maya Angelou
  20.  “Whenever I’m asked what advice I have for young writers, I always say that the first thing is to read, and to read a lot. The second thing is to write. And the third thing, which I think is absolutely vital, is to tell stories and listen closely to the stories you’re being told.” ― John Green


Any of these tips can be valuable to your writing style and process. They must have worked for these famous authors!


Are there any quotes about writing that you really enjoy? Share your favorites with us!

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