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  • Writer's pictureJ. R. Erickson

Advice from Writers for Writers

As a writer, I am not only curious about other (more successful) writers; I am also fascinated by their process. How many words do they commit to writing each day? What genre do they find easiest to tackle? Published writers are a wealth of, often untapped, information that is not only valuable, but also extremely inspiring for beginner writers. Read these tips and tales from other writers in the world who have made their writing dreams come true and take their words along on your own journey.

John Steinbeck on a writing class at Stanford: “The basic rule given us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from the writer to the reader, and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, there were no rules. A story could be about anything and could use any means and any technique at all – so long as it was effective. As a subhead to this rule, it seemed to be necessary for the writer to know what he wanted to say, in short, what he was talking about. As an exercise we were to try reducing the meat of our story to one sentence, for only then could we know it well enough to enlarge it to three- or six- or ten-thousand words.”

Kurt Vonnegut on How to Write With Style: “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.”

Joyce Carol Oates in an interview on Readers Read: “Beginning writers should follow the lines of their own natural interests, look and listen hard, note the astonishing variety of personalities and voices in our culture. And of course they should read widely, and they should write every day. Like learning to play a musical instrument, learning to write has much to do with practice.”

Stephen King – Excerpt from his book “On Writing.” : “I believe the first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months…Any longer and — for me, at least — the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel, like a dispatch from the Romanian Department of Public Affairs, or something broadcast on high-band shortwave during a period of severe sunspot activity.”

NY Times interview with Charlaine Harris:Do you have any advice for young mystery writers or fantasy writers? For any writers at all, read everything you can and then put your butt in the chair and write. That’s all there is to it.”

Lee Child in an interview on Booktopia: What advice do you give aspiring writers? “Ignore all advice. There’s room for only one mind on your side of the transaction, and it needs to be yours and yours alone.”

Tana French in an interview with Book Browse:Q: What advice would you give to a first novelist?

A: Read good things. I think writing a book is almost like running a marathon: you need the best nourishment you can get. The more you expose yourself to first-rate writing, the more you develop your instincts, and the more you’ll push yourself towards that high standard. When I’m writing, I read the best stuff I can find. It doesn’t matter what genre it is – thriller, literary fiction, chick lit, anything – as long as it’s first-rate.”

Interview with Chris Cleave by Kasey Carpenter:KC: About your writing process, any kind of ritual, schedule, etc…?CC: I can do it anywhere. I don’t ever stop thinking about the stories really, and wherever I am there is part of my mind turning it over. I don’t need to be in a particular place, or have a candle lit or what have you, I don’t need anything really. I need to be left alone a bit, I need to sort of deal with all of the everyday demands of life and get them out of the way, and then I can write. I get up really early, I write from five a.m. and by lunchtime I’m more or less done. In the afternoon I’m giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s in terms of life, work obligations, family, etc…”

Writers News Weekly – Interview with Matthew Pearl: “Q: As a writing instructor/author, what advice do you have for aspiring writers?

“I think the best thing someone who wants to write can do is to REwrite. Too many writers want a project done as soon as they start writing, but the reality is every project has to be given room to evolve over time.””

Sue Grafton in an Interview on Writer’s Digest: “What advice do you have for newer writers?

My big gripe about newer writers is they’re not willing to put the time in. Somebody’ll write one book and they’re asking me who my agent and my editor are, and I’m thinking, Don’t you worry, sweetheart, you’re not any good yet. Give yourself time to get better. Writing is really hard to master. You learn by failing over and over, but a lot of people don’t care for that, thanks. I always wish new writers the greatest good fortune. It’s a helluva journey—I’ll tell you that.”

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