Saturday 15 June 2013

Noteworthy Writing Advice.

Writing advice from famous authors is something I take to heart.

Illustration by Samantha Kickingbird

     I love quotes by famous writers. Probably because there is such basic truths in their advice: when the writer can't find a way out of their writer's block, dealing with--or not--the criticism of others, following your heart and sticking by your mission as a writer, and getting past your own self-doubt.

    Here are some famous author's quotes most worthy of the advice:

 "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time--or the tools--to write. Simple as that." --Stephen King

 "Don't take anyone's writing advice too seriously." --Lev Grossman

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

"I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide." --Harper Lee

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"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

"True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision." --Edith Wharton

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." --Sylvia Plath

I think that most writers find these truths the hard way--through practice, rejection, and the hair-pulling-out techniques that devoted writers go through.

The quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery rings the biggest truth for me. When the writer can kill their own words, cut scenes, get to the core of the story, then perfection is achieved in that writing.

If you read, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, you will well see what concise writing is to a great book. The Little Prince is one of my favorite books ever, and it is perfection.

When I was in journalism school, most of my assignments were targeted to cutting words. I had to write a short story, of say 1500 words, send it in for grading ,then (for the final mark of that assignment) cut it back to 1000 words without loosing the essence of the story.

Killing of your own words is a tough business at first. But through practice, and some mourning, it becomes easier. And the outcome is a story worth the telling.

Then there's Lev Grossman's advice "Don't take anyone's writing advice too seriously." This is a mighty important message for writers. Don't let other people's criticism hold you back from telling the story you need to tell--what some will love, others may not. Hence, the thick hide comes in handy.

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Illustration by Samantha Kickingbird


  1. Isn't this the second post you've done involving quotes? Anyway, I love them. Wanted to do a post on them myself, but could not find what I wanted -- quotes by famous authors and then, suddenly (like right this minute), I remember I won a Bartlett's Quotations. Duh!

    I love these kinds of posts, but rarely are they given added value with commentary such as yours. How brave, how interesting.

    Self-doubt haunts me and I would kill to have someone "lover" what I write. I find I do a lot of proofreading. (he he)
    I love a good friendship!

  2. Well, I love what you write, and I think you have a distinctive writing voice---just needs to be put into a story.

    Self-doubt is something all writers have. Even after numerous revisions and edits. But there is a time when you just know you couldn't do any better and the book is done---doing the best you can is all you can do.

    I did do another post on 'writer's quotes'. I love famous writer's quotes and whenever I find some, I file them in my super-duper filing system to be used later.

  3. Hah, hah! I get it. I wrote 'lover' instead of 'love'.