Learning from the Pros: 5 Best-Selling Authors Give Writing Advice

Writing

Every writer has their weapon of choice, be it the latest Macbook model or a vintage typewriter. Writing is never an easy endeavour, even for famous authors – and luckily they have a few words to say about it.

There is so much of this world that revolves around the pesky little thing that is words. It’s a fairly simple concept to understand, but with a million ways of execution that can often leave just about anyone easily overwhelmed. We use it every single day, liberally and sparsely, to get ideas and thoughts across a broad line of communication.   

As an aspiring writer, one of the first things you can do is learn the lay of the land. It’s just as important to get a feel of the area you’re working on, feeling inspired about the creative process as you do so. 

It’s never easy to just dive in and click away with your keyboard, sometimes being in the right headspace and internalising the driving force of why you write is the best tool you can have – more than a philosopher’s vocabulary or board-certified command of the language. 

Writing is a craft that requires practice. Thousands of people write for more reasons than can be counted, and while there is no ‘right’ way of writing, there is always room for improvement. If you’re a writer, there can be no other persuading force to be inspired by than another writer who knows the ins and outs of the craft and came out of it successfully. 

Whether you’ve got ambitions of landing on the bestseller’s chart or simply want to improve on what you’re already working on, a little insight and advice from those authors who have learned the hard way never hurt.

1.  Stephen King, author of IT

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” — Stephen King

Adverbs are defined as words that describe verbs, some of them can even be used to uplift your writing style when used correctly. Be careful of going overboard with it, because overuse of adverbs that can potentially dense up your writing can kill any potential it might have. 

In the process of describing what you’re writing about, you can easily lose track of what you’re actually trying to write about. So, abide by Stephen King and trim them adverbs down, either while writing or in a second draft.

2. Franz Kafka, author of Metamorphosis

“I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.” — Franz Kafka

While most of the literary work we’ve been graced by the Metamorphosis author leans towards philosophical, this titular advice simply means: develop your own style. No two writers are the same, even if they went through the motions of familiarising themselves with syntax and grammar and sentence construction. 

There will always be an innate fibre to everyone’s writing that you can use as leverage to establish your uniqueness. In an era when every second person is a ‘writer’, it’s very easy to get lost. So it is important to find your own style, and even more important to not imitate someone else’s. You want to leave your readers a little something to remember you by, something unique.

3. Annabel Pitcher, author of Silence is Goldfish

“Free yourself of perfection… [there’s a] critical voice in your head [that] starts to tell you that it’s not good enough or that no one’s going to like it…. it’s about turning that voice off in your head and just allowing yourself to write.“ — Annabel Pitcher

For many aspiring writers, more often than not they can feel themselves caged in a belief system founded on perfection. But always remember: comparison is the thief of joy. In hindsight, it’s fairly easy to go over someone’s writing and be transpired by the way they transform words and breathe life into it; only to look at your own and frown at its staleness. 

But there is no perfect writing, the same way there rarely ever is anything inherently perfect: there is you and your unique spin on words, and that should be worth remembering as enough to keep you writing. 

4. George Orwell, author of 1Q84

“Never use a long word where a short one will do.” — George Orwell

For anyone just getting the hang of writing, it can be deceptively easy to lose yourself in the liberal use of flowery words. Using fancy words might make your work look sophisticated, but more often than not it just confuses readers. 

You never want to put them in a position where they have their noses buried in the third act conflict, and then reach for a dictionary because you couldn’t satiate the need to use ‘oppugnant’. If an author known for webbing complicated plots together elegantly such as George Orwell tells you it’s not cool, then it’s not cool.

5. Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard, and you put one word after another until it’s done. It is that easy, and that hard.” — Neil Gaiman

The last piece of advice that you need to keep in mind is you just have to keep writing. It sounds easier than it sounds, of course; but profound in its resonance if you choose to live by it. Whether you have writer’s block or you’ve been struck by inspiration, all you have to do is write. 

You need to push the words together, crowding them until the space they occupy feels clustered and lumped and altogether claustrophobic: and then you write. You bleed them out into paper, document, the world; until they can finally breathe again, and then you will have written something. 

Conclusion

There’s no easy way to go about it: writing is difficult. It’s like putting one foot in front of the other, only to collapse on your feet and feel like the entire world is reigning down terror on your shoulders. It’s a different kind of vulnerability to put yourself out there under the guise of words, but it can be an equally exhilarating feeling knowing that got up again, with your two left feet, and marched on. 

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