Top tips from famous writers

If you are an author of any great fame sooner or later someone is going to ask you for writing tips. It’s the law.
Does this happen in other professions? Do top plumbers get asked for plumbing tips which then appear in plumbing blogs? I’ve led too sheltered an existence to know for sure but I certainly hope those blogs exist, and in my heart I believe they do. Plumbing tips would probably be a lot more use than writing tips anyway. Advice for writers tends to be subjective whereas, if your toilet is overflowing and you need to stop it – that’s very much objective.

Writing tips on the other hand, are all about your point of view, what works for one of us, even if that person is among the best of us, might not work for the rest. Still it helps I think to listen to what other writers have to say.
Here’s just a few top tips from top authors – enjoy.

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” — Jonathan Franzen

I think this one is particularly important in the age of the author as self-marketer. The urge to prevaricate was always overwhelming, now there are a whole new raft of electronic distractions. You could be tweeting a devastating witticism which has just occurred to you, or retweeting one from someone funnier. You could be engaging in a futile argument on Facebook which leads to someone being compared with Hitler. You could be writing a blog rather than getting on with your next novel. (Ahem)

“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

Luckily the people who are most important to me don’t give a fig about my writing. They consider it a weird hobby, like say carp fishing, but without the waders. So I can sneak off and scribble without them minding, which is a bonus all round.

“Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” — Will Self

I do. I carry it in my man-bag. I scribble in it at work, on the bus, at a café table, anywhere I get the urge. Sometimes I can lose something in the depths of a notebook in much the same way I might lose it in my fading memory. But I would say a lot of bits and pieces I have recorded in there over time have made it into my published work.

“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

This is a good one to bear in mind if you have readers at draft stage. Beta readers is the fancy term isn’t it? When I’m more or less satisfied with a later draft of my work I might give it to a couple of friends to read and take on board what they say. It does strike me as true that one of the most useful things they do is say ‘that doesn’t work’ without necessarily knowing how to fix it. That’s my job.

So there we have it – a few quotes from famous authors which work for me. What’s your favourite advice on writing? Let us know in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Top tips from famous writers”

  1. Ha, interesting tips, Chris! I’ll obviously never be a top writer, though. I always have an internet connection, I never write in a note book and I have to write wherever I can – and that’s nearly always with people and noise around me 🙂

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