The write advice


Well-known writers are always being asked, “What advice would you give to new writers?”

This question must fill writers with dread. For one thing, it is quite a responsibility to give advice that someone may actually act on. For another, it is even more of a responsibility give such advice publicly. For yet another, advice is a strange beast that can reveal more than is intended about the giver of the advice.

Every week, in the “There are no rules” section of Writer’s Digest editor blogs, the author trails through the magazine’s archives, searching for writing advice from famous authors. The most recent list includes Harper Lee, John Steinbeck and James Thurber.

The article contains several contributions from famous and less famous writers, and is worth a read. Also, it’s fun to try to connect each piece of advice to the author’s personality (or persona).

Harper Lee’s contribution seems typical of the notoriously media-shy and no-nonsense author of To Kill a Mockingbird: “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career, that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide”.

John Steinbeck and Carl Sandburg both take a subversive approach to giving advice:

“Beware of advice – even this” (Sandburg)

“Sorry – if I had any advice to give I’d take it myself” (Steinbeck)

My favourite is the single word provided by Robert Fuoss: “Write”.

If you have any favourite pieces of writing advice, from well-known or less-well-known writers, I’d love to hear them – just reply below!

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Posted on May 14, 2012, in Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. ” The important matter is to find your own style, your own subjects, your own rhythm, so every element in your nature can contribute to the work of making a writer of you. ” D. Brande ( Find your own Style) thank you Orla for the link to the Digest’s Editor blog 🙂

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  2. When someone asked Ernest Hemingway how to write a novel, his response was “First you defrost the refrigerator.”
    (mentioned here: http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2011/10/stop-procrastinatingnow.html )
    Or as it is said here (http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/223003/how-will-i-know-when-procrastinate/warren-bell ) you probably won’t find a good source for this quote, but everybody quotes it…

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    • Very good Thomas! Nice to be reminded that even writers of Hemingway’s stature suffered from the evil of procrastination. Thanks for reading!

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  3. Be prepared to work between midnight and 8AM – hours of your choosing of course! But you will end up doing most of your writing then…

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    • That is probably largely true for writers who have to work other jobs (i.e. most writers). There is no substitute for the peace, quiet and focus you can achieve sitting alone at the computer at 5 AM. Pity it’s so damn hard to get up at that hour!

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  4. ‘Get in, get out, don’t linger, go on.’ Ray Carver on the short story.

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    • Good one Nuala. I still have to remind myself not to linger at the end of a story. Thanks for reading and looking forward to your new book next month.

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