top of page
  • Writer's pictureMegan DiMaria

Famous Authors’ Advice for Writing

I love to search the internet for advice from those who have been successful in their writing career. Today I'm happy to share some wisdom and rules for writing from famous authors.

Madeline L’Engle:

I have advice for people who want to write. I don't care whether they're 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You can't be a writer if you're not a reader. It's the great writers who teach us how to write. The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it's for only half an hour — write, write, write.

George Orwell offers six rules of good writing:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.

  4. Never use the passive when you can use the active.

  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

  6. Break any of these rules rather than say anything outright barbarous.

Maeve Binchy’s advice to writers:

Writing is a bit like going on a diet; you should either tell everyone or tell no one. If you tell everyone then you can never be seen feeding your face in public without appearing weak willed. So that’s a way of reinforcing your decision, and some people find it helpful. It does mean that you’re somehow obliged to lose the ten kilos you had promised aloud, or indeed finish the book. Or you could go the other route, and tell nobody, just hug your secret to yourself. Get thin by stealth, write the book, secretly burst on an unsuspecting world with your new shape or finished manuscript. But whichever way you do it you will need discipline, and some kind of plan.

Kurt Vonnegut's eight rules for writing:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

  5. Start as close to the end as possible.

  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

It's always good to get advice, especially from the pros. Write on, friends!

1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Apr 02

Oooooh! Great information! Making love to the world cracked me up. But really, it's true, right? I've learned to write for MY readers. If there are readers that aren't mine yet, they'll find me. I can't worry about the readers who aren't mine. THAT wastes valuable brain space. :)

bottom of page