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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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