Writing

My Favorite Writing Advice, from Authors You Know

Some of you may not know that today is, in fact, a very important day: It’s the start of National Novel Writing Month! Or NaNoWriMo to all of us “Wrimos” out here. I haven’t participated in years, but I used to religiously and this year I am going to take a crack at it again.

I have always loved to write. Ever since I was a kid, that was the dream job, the dream activity, the dream thing to be doing during class when I was supposed to be learning something else…you get it. Writing, as an art form, has always captured me, and this year I’d like to focus a little more on that magic again.

For any of you other writers out there, “Wrimos” or not, these tips are for you. x


Read, Before You Write

“Read, read, read. Read everything: trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentic and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” ― William Faulkner, author of The Sound and the Fury.

“If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ― Stephen King, author of The Shining.

Listen to the Stories People Care About

“Whenever I’m asked what advice I have for young writers, I always say that the first thing is to read, and to read a lot. The second thing is to write. And the third thing, which I think is absolutely vital, is to tell stories and listen closely to the stories you’re being told.” ― John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars.

Take a Map With You

“I don’t outline, because I don’t want to have to follow a plan. But I do need SOME sense of direction, so I use what I call my skeleton. It’s my first scene, climactic scene, last scene and first line. I don’t start until I have them in place. Often they will change over the course of a first draft, but it gets me there.” ― Sarah Dessen, author of The Truth About Forever.

Make Time for Your Writing

“Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” ― Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth.

Just Write, No Tricks

“Let go of the idea that you can somehow outsmart a first draft. Because I have never met anybody who can.” ― Leigh Bardugo, author of Six of Crows.

“You can fix anything but a blank page.” ― Nora Roberts, author of more than 200 bestselling novels. (also, omfg wow.)

“Write fast, edit slow. Get your first draft out quickly. Don’t look back, don’t correct anything, just keep going. Even if it’s a terrible mess in the end, it’s done! And that’s the hardest part. You then have all the time in the world to make it better.” ― Lauren Gibaldi, author of The Night We Said Yes.

Write What’s True to You

“You know that old piece of advice: ‘Write what you know’? It doesn’t mean write about a young person who likes to write. It doesn’t mean write about your school, or your neighborhood, or your community. It means: write what you know is emotionally true. You can write about Mars. You can write about werewolves. You can write about medieval knights. You just have to understand the emotional truths of your story.” ― E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars.

Don’t Write “Alone”

“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.” ― James Patterson, author of Along Came a Spider.

“Once my characters start talking, then I know that I really know who they are. My favorite way to see if dialogue is authentic is to read it out loud and act out the characters. Luckily I’m alone at my desk (most of the time). If I’m writing in a café, I have to be very subtle and sort of mutter to myself.” ― Carolyn Mackler, author of Infinite in Between.

Enjoy the Process

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” ― Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Take Advice, but Trust Yourself

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ― Neil Gaiman, co-author of Good Omens.

Learn to Let go

“It’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it…You have to let people see what you wrote.” ― Tina Fey, author of Bossypants.

Ignore All of These Tips

“Be skeptical of writing tips. There is no one right way to write a book. No one has ever had your voice before or had your story to tell, so find what works for you. Put one word after another, one scene after another; meet your word count or ignore a word count all together. Let your characters spark off each other or make them ignite (perhaps by following an outline or just adding dragons?). Give yourself permission to suck, but keep writing. The worst book you ever write will be better than the best book you never write. There really is no other magic than this: write the book you want to exist, the book that burns you up inside and that no one but you can write. Write one word at a time until you get the end. Then revise the hell out of it.” ― Alex London, author of Proxy


Happy reading and writing, all!

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Let’s be Wrimo buddies!

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