Friday, March 6, 2009

10 Pieces of Writing Advice

Nora Roberts: Write first what you would read for pleasure. If it doesn’t entertain you, it’s unlikely it’ll entertain anyone.

John Saul: My advice for aspiring writers is to write, write some more and when you’re done, write some more. Just don’t keep beating on the same dead horse, rewriting the same story until all the life has gone out of it. Don’t be afraid to throw away projects that are not working and start new ones. Make sure your story idea can be communicated in one easy (non-run-on) sentence. When you are done with a project contact legitimate agents any way you can. Many bona fide writers conferences offer an unpublished and unknown author a chance to pitch their ideas and their writings to agents and editors.

Anita Shreve: Don’t quit -- ever.

Sonya Sones: Start writing right now! The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Read great writers. And read about how to write. There are some excellent books out there on how to write, including one by my teacher called "Poem-making." And if you can find some other kids who are serious about writing, form a critique group -- get together on a regular basis to read, discuss each others work and share constructive criticism. That’s what I’ve done for years and it’s really helped.

Suzanne Fisher Staples: Learn to recognize and act on your gifts. Even if it seems to be something small -- like the precise word you’re looking for -- be grateful and value it. Work hard at what you love.

Amy Tan: Know why you want to write, why it’s necessary. No one can tell you what those reasons are. But if you want to write only to be published then you will likely get discouraged and quit before that happens. An ambition for fame is not enough. The reason you write should be substantial enough that you would continue to write no matter what. I would also advise young writers to continue reading prolifically. Know the difference between good writing and bad. Be willing to revise. Go to readings by other writers and stay inspired. Don’t ask them how much money they got as an advance. Ask them what they value in writing.

Joanna Trollope: Patience, persistence and train your powers of observation. You can’t be too old to be a writer, but you can definitely be too young!

Alan Watt: Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.

Simone Zelitch: Read. It’s as simple as that. The more you read, the more you will have a sense of the books you like. Then, write them. Make friends with other writers and serious readers, and ask them what they read. Then read it. Let yourself be influenced, and let yourself grow out of each influence. One good way to develop your own style is to keep a journal. I’ve been keeping one for 25 years. By looking at my style there, I could often tell what I was reading, but slowly I began to write in a way that was completely my own and that, without a doubt, sharpened my public writing -- my fiction. If you keep reading and writing and make contact with other writers, you will have both a vocation and an audience. Publication is another story; it’s a crap-shoot. Persistence pays off, but don’t sweat it too much. A writer is not someone who publishes; she’s someone who writes. Keep writing.

Donald E. Westlake: Sorry; I have no space left for advice. Just do it.

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