For every writing rule, you can find one author who says the secret to success is following the rule and another writer who succeeds by ignoring that rule.
For example, Elizabeth George’s mysteries are noted for their complex characterization and plotting. She may spend more time outlining her novels than she does drafting them. Raymond Chandler, one of the fathers of modern crime fiction, took the opposite approach: For him, the best way to create a surprise ending was for the solution to be a surprise to the author too.
The writing process is highly individual. What works for one writer may be completely unproductive for another.
No matter who you imitate, you won’t find a magic formula to make manuscripts flow painlessly from your head. However, you may find strategies that you can adapt to fit your own writing process.
- 25 Famous Thinkers and Their Inspiring Daily Rituals
- Robert Boice on Habits of the Most Productive Writers (from Write More, Stress Less)
- Timeless Advice on Writing, a collection of articles from BrainPicker
- Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life (Brain Pickings review)
A Miscellany of Writing Quotations
- It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way. ~ Ernest Hemingway
- “The hard part of writing isn’t the writing; it’s the thinking. You can solve most of your writing problems if you stop after every sentence and ask: What does the reader need to know next?”~ William Zinsser, from “Writing English as a Second Language,” A talk to the incoming international students at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, August 11, 2009: http://theamericanscholar.org/writing-english-as-a-second-language/
- The best style is the style you don’t notice.
- Resist the temptation to try to use dazzling style to conceal weakness of substance.
- Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.
- 1. Find a subject you care about. 2. Do not ramble, though. 3. Keep it simple. 4. Have the guts to cut. 5. Sound like yourself. 6. Say what you mean to say. 7. Pity the readers.
- I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.
- There is then creative reading as well as creative writing.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what one is saying.
- We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
- You have to allow yourself the liberty of writing poorly….You have to put down less than marvelous material just to keep going to whatever you think the end is going to be—which may be something else altogether by the time you get there.
~Larry Gelbart, M*A*S*H writer