Once upon a time, writing and getting published was a privilege of a few. And the world of literature was the magic land of the chosen. Now, in the era of online publishing, blogs, and social media, getting people to read your work is rather a question of marketing and not of unique talent and skill. Yet, sometimes you come across pieces that simply captivate you to your core. Every word feels like a bite of a juicy peach that is ripe to perfection. Everyone who considers themselves a writer or aspires to become one wants their written word to be just as ripe and juicy. Here are the 10 best writing tips I’ve ever come across by reading, watching masterclasses, etc. Let’s get those juices flowing.
Joyce Carol Oates: Your darkness has an audience
This one comes from Joyce Carol Oates’ masterclass, where she said that the terrible things that happened to you also happened to many other people. Most people suffer in relative silence and isolation, and that isolated darkness makes them feel truly alone. They need a spokesperson. They want to know they’re not the only one who experiences all that pain and grief. Putting your darkness on a page can make many worlds brighter.
Dan Brown: Protect the process, and the results will take care of themselves
Sit your ass in that chair and do the best that you can. Make sure to be consistent and dedicated, and you will get better.
St. Vincent: The more you do, the more you can do
St. Vincent is a songwriter, but this piece of advice is just as valuable to other types of writers as well. Practice gets you acquainted with the details and subtleties of the craft. If you write 100 short stories, at least one of them will turn out decent.
Stephen King: Kill your darlings
Oldie but a goodie. “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” If you absolutely love a paragraph, a character, or a metaphor, but it doesn’t fit in the overall piece – cut it. Kill your darlings, and your piece will be better off without them.
Jodi Picoult: You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page
Quantity. So many writers highlight the importance of quantity. Write consistently. Write well. Write shit. Just keep writing. It will become easier. You will get better.
Ernest Hemingway: the first draft of anything is shit
This comes from the writer who also said, “Write drunk, edit sober”. Editing is just as important as writing. While revisiting the same piece a million times is in no way fun, it is crucial. And if you have the funds, hire a professional. You’ll get an extra set of eyes and also some serious style and grammar assistance.
William Faulkner: Read to write
This piece of advice comes from the lips of many great writers: great writers are great readers. Faulkner said, “Read, read, read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”
Kurt Vonnegut: Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for
This is all about keeping the reader engaged and involved and making them feel the importance of everything that goes on in the story. So raise the stakes, make them feel like your characters are as real as the people they meet on the street.
Pablo Picasso: Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working
This isn’t a writing tip per se, but it is one of the greatest pieces of advice for anyone who’s creative. Don’t wait to be inspired. Start doing the work, and the muses will knock on your door in the process.
Ray Bradbury: Don’t think too hard
“The intellect is a great danger to creativity . . . because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth – who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads: “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter – you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.” – from a 1974 interview with James Day
And here I would like to recommend a book. A book that truly gives your pen (typewriter/keyboard) wings. “Zen in the art of writing” by Ray Bradbury. Give it a try and let it change your life.
My personal writing advice? Get involved. Dive headfirst into your story. Let your plots and your characters break your heart and put it back together. Let them become as real as your own life. Give them your time, your energy, and your love. Bathe in language, discover new words, constantly expand your vocabulary to give your stories and other pieces the justice they deserve. Don‘t think of yourself as an aspiring writer – think of yourself as a writer because that is what you are. Be bold in your passion. Be bold on paper. Be bold.