For seasoned writers who have already made a name for themselves in the profession, being asked the question: “What advice can you give to aspiring writers?” is already common. While cliché, this query never gets old because it’s always relevant. A writer can only survive the dog eat dog industry of publishing by consistently learning from the experts. In fact, you’ll find it amusing how even the tips from authors of timeless classics remain applicable even to this day.
Here’s what the best people to ever put ink on paper have to say that any aspiring writer can learn a thing or two from:
“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
– Elmer Leonard
The prolific American writer who authored more than 40 novels, with many making the big screen and one adapted as a TV series, believes that any prose should have a natural flow of words. A writer should avoid allowing personal writing style to disrupt the rhythm and narrative of the story. Instead, the text should exude what would best bring a scene or a character’s voice to life. Simply put, words must not get in the way of what the writer is trying to let the readers feel and understand.
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light in broken glass.”
– Anton Chekov
Celebrated poet and playwright Anton Chekov, in a letter to his brother who is an aspiring writer himself, advised that plain storytelling can be made better by adding details. A writer is more effective if he/she lets readers feel and discover what is being described through vivid imagery instead of flat statements.
“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”
– John Steinbeck
Just like Chekov, the author of the classic novel Of Mice and Men gave out this significant piece of advice while corresponding with a friend experiencing writing jitters. Good writing can’t be rushed. In fact, the initial draft of Steinbeck’s other popular work, The Grapes of Wrath, took 6 months to complete.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
The novelist famous for a countless number of his works becoming movie adaptations is suggesting what every writer finds hard to do – commit a manuscript murder. It may be a character, an original joke, a catchphrase, or a setting. If it’s no longer relevant in the story, it has to go even if the writer has been fond of it.
“I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to stop until I’m finished.”
– James Patterson
James Patterson is known for his fast-paced storytelling divided in short chapters that make readers crave for more, anticipating what will happen in the story with every turn of the page. The author behind the fictional character Alex Cross offers a very simple approach to writing. If a writer wants to create a splash in the industry, he/she should be able to publish books that will engage readers all throughout.
Writers should never stop improving in their profession. Hopefully, these inspiring tips from famous authors who’ve once been neophytes themselves will serve as perennial reminders that getting better is always possible.