Best-of-the-best in tips from the world’s most famous authors.
I generally enjoy reading a few tips and quotes from famous authors during my last minutes of daily homework, they give me something to think about before I start my actual writing for the day. Whether it be through some random StumbleUpon search or my go-to list of favorite tips and quotes I saved on my laptop, taking a few seconds after my non-creative-thinking hours to get in the writing mood is a nice touch I added to my daily routine. I found a great list, titled Words of Wisdom: 101 Tips from the World’s Most Famous Authors, and here is my shortened list of favorite tips from each category:
“These valuable bits of information provide guidance on strengthening your writing skills, becoming a better fiction writer or poet, learning to tap into your creativity, advice on education and school, and even a few suggestions on success and living a meaningful life.”
General Writing Tips
1. Mark Twain – “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” So, in the end, eliminate using the word “very.”
2. Oscar Wilde – Be unpredictable. Wilde suggests “consistency is the hallmark of the unimaginative.”
3. Anton Chekhov – Something every writing class teaches: show, don’t tell. Chekhov said it most clearly when he said, “don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
4. E.B. White – Just write. White said “I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”
5. Samuel Johnson – Keep your writing interesting. “The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
6. George Orwell – Orwell offered twelve solid tips on creating strong writing, including an active voice rather than a passive one and eliminating longer words when shorter ones will work just as well.
7. F. Scott Fitzgerald – “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”
Tips for Beginning Writers
1. Stephen King – “Read a lot and write a lot.” Reading and understanding different styles is integral to finding your own style.
2. John Grisham – Keep your day job. Grisham suggests finding your career outside of writing. Experience life, suffering, and love to be able to write effectively. In other words, embrace the struggle to write about the struggle.
3. Flannery O’Connor – Sometimes you will need to be controversial if you want to be heard. “I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.”
4. Doris Lessing – “I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.”
5. Richard Bach – Never quit. “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
1. Kurt Vonnegut – Vonnegut offers eight rules for writing a short story, including “every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water” and “every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.”
2. Roald Dahl – “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
3. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Write about what you know. “If a man writes a book, let him set down only what he knows. I have guesses enough of my own.”
4. Robert Louis Stevenson – “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.”
5. Vladimir Nabokov – “Caress the detail, the divine detail.” The careful construction of details can make all the difference in your writing.
6. E.L. Doctorow – “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
1. Robert Frost – “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” Poetry offers many levels for readers.
2. Salman Rushdie – “A poet’s work is to name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.”
3. Paul Valery – Keep revising. “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”
4. Plato – Don’t just rely on the beauty of the words: make a statement. “Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history.”
5. Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Remember the importance of each word. “I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in the best order.”
Tips for Creativity
1. Annie Dillard – “Writing sentences is difficult whatever their subject. It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.”
2. William Wordsworth – Write with passion. Wordsworth advocated, “fill your paper with with the breathings of your heart.”
3. James Patterson – “I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.”
4. John Cheever – Looking inwards provides great material for writing. “The need to write comes from the need to make sense of one’s life and discover one’s usefulness.”
5. Jack London – “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Sometimes you need to actively seek your sources of inspiration.
School and Education Tips
1. Ralph Waldo Emerson – Recognize what students can give to teachers as well as what teachers can impart. “Of course you will insist on modesty in the children, and respect to their teachers, but if the boy stops you in your speech, cries out that you are wrong and sets you right, hug him!”
2. Barbara Kingsolver – “Libraries are the one American institution you shouldn’t rip off.” So go check out some books, people.
3. John Dewey – “Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not a preparation for life but is life itself.”
4. B.F. Skinner – Appreciate knowledge and the rest will come. “We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.”
5. Robert Frost – Learn to separate emotion from knowledge. “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”
Tips on Lifelong Learning
1. Aristotle – Learn to analyze what you are being told. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
2. W.B. Yeats – Discover what lights your fire. “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”
3. Friedrich Nietzche – Learn the basics. “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance, one cannot fly into flying.”
4. Willa Cather – Embrace every opportunity to learn. “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
5. Confucius – Education should be much more than memorizing facts. “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”
Tips on Success
1. Isak Dinesen – “When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.”
2. Malcolm S. Forbes – “Failure is success if we learn from it.”
3. Helen Keller – Find the joy in small accomplishments. “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
4. Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” Believe in yourself.
5. Paulo Coelho – “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”
6. Tennessee Williams – Let success happen in its own time. “Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it… Success is shy – it won’t come out while you’re watching.”
Tips on Living
1. Benjamin Franklin – “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Either way, books are the answer to living well.
2. J.K. Rowling – “If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
3. Maya Angelou – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
4. Arthur Miller – “Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.”
5. Charles M. Schulz – “Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” Try to use all gears, life is more interesting that way.
6. John Burroughs – Realize what is important to you. “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”
Great people, great authors, will always be able to teach and inspire us, don’t forget that. You’re never your best self because you can always keep growing, always keep getting better. Who inspires you? What tips do you seek? Tell me about ’em below.
– Nahuel F.A.