Writing tips from Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Jack Kerouac and other famous writers
Writing dystopian fictions like Margaret Atwood, or non-fiction best sellers like Zadie Smith is no walk in the park. Good writing takes time and a lot of patience. And creativity. Loads of creativity.
Inspired by J.K. Rowling’s advice for writers, we gathered more precious writing tips from other famous writers such as Henry Miller, Jonathan Franzen and Pixar:
Writing tips from Zadie Smith
- When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
- When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
- Don’t romanticise your “vocation“.You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
Writing tips from Margaret Atwood
- Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.
- Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What fascinates A will bore the pants off B.
- You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.
Writing tips from Henry Miller
- Work on one thing at a time until finished.
- Work according to program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
- When you can’t create you can work.
Writing tips from David Ogilvy
- Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well.
- Write the way you talk. Naturally.
- Check your quotations.
Writing tips from George Orwell
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it’s possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Writing tips from Jack Kerouac
- Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
- Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
- Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it
Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling
- You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
- What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
- When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
Writing tips from George R.R. Martin
- READ! Everything. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy, SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, erotica, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones — what not to do).
- WRITE every day, even if it is only a page or two. The more you write, the better you’ll get. But don’t write in my universe, or Tolkien’s, or the Marvel universe, or the Star Trek universe, or any other borrowed background. Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings. Using someone else’s world is the lazy way out. If you don’t exercise those “literary muscles,” you’ll never develop them.
- BEGIN WITH SHORT STORIES. Short stories help you learn your craft. They are a good place for you to make the mistakes that every beginning writer is going to make. And they are still the best way for a young writer to break in, since the magazines are always hungry for short SF and fantasy stories. Once you’ve been selling short stories for five years or so, you’ll have built up a name for yourself, and editors will start asking you about that first novel.
Some words of wisdom from famous writers that can be used as an inspirational guide. I’d suggest you print a copy to put on your desk or refrigerator door. Somewhere you can easily see them. It will surely give you a bit of creative boost as you will constantly be reminded to get creative and never stop writing! Even if you’re not in the mood.
What a better day than today to start working on your dream and become a published author?!
“Whatever you do, though… good luck. You’ll need it.”- George R.R. Martin.