Best Writing Advice from 50 Well-Known Authors

Sometimes, if you’re anything like me, you just need a quick little soundbite, a pearl of wisdom, a little sign to keep writing. You suffer from the terrible ailments of procrastination, self-doubt, self-loathing, laziness, and daydreaming. The only way to really get over any of that is to write. It’s not a sexy answer, I know. Oh, how I know! I wish so badly that there was a magic pill, a quick fix, a crystal ball to tell me if I’m ever going to get published. But the only way to get from page 1 to page 220 (somewhere around there is my goal) is to get those fingers dancing. Even after I’ve said all that, if you still need a cattle prod to get you moving (no judgment here) then below are 50 nuggets of advice to help your author dreams come true! Enjoy!

50 Writing Tips to Savor Like a Cherry Life Saver in Your Cheek

(*bonus points if you know I stole that simile from Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You)

1. “Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.” Virginia Woolf

2. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” Robert Frost

3. “If a story is in you, it has to come out.” William Faulkner

4. “Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do—to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.” Stephen King

5. “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” Ray Bradbury

6. “There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.” Albert Einstein

7. “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.” Beverly Cleary

8. “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

9. “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Aristotle

10. “Work like hell. I had 122 rejection slips before I sold a story.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

11. “Your life is already artful—waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.” Toni Morrison

12. “The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is.” August Wilson

13. “You only fail if you stop writing.” Ray Bradbury

14. “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Ernest Hemingway

15. “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” Margaret Atwood

16. “It’s boring but it’s true: Persistence pays off. Read widely. Be ambitious. Stay faithful to the stories in your head.” Paula Hawkins

17. “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished you are always surprised.” John Steinbeck

18. “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” E.B. White

19. “The discipline involved in finishing a piece of creative work is something which you can truly pride yourself.” J.K. Rowling

20. “Some writers enjoy writing, I am told. Not me. I enjoy having written.” George R.R. Martin

21. “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” Anne Tyler

22. “I would never tell myself, you have to write 20 pages today or something. But I do try to show up. Read what I wrote, fix things.” Celeste Ng

23. “Writing’s still the most difficult job I’ve ever had—but it’s worth it.” John Grisham

24. “For every hour I spend writing, I spend three hours thinking about writing.” Malcolm Gladwell

25. “Stop trying to write sentences and start trying to write stories.” James Patterson

26. “I am not at all in a humor for writing; I must write on until I am.” Jane Austen

27. “I get a lot of letters from people. They say, ‘I want to be a writer. What should I do?’ I tell them to stop writing to me and get on with it.” Ruth Rendell

28. “Writing is a socially acceptable form of getting naked in public.” Paulo Coelho

29. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” Octavia E. Butler

30. “There are a million talented writers who are unpublished only because they stop writing when it gets hard.” Gillian Flynn

31. “It’s very simple. If you learn how to write well, to write with depth, cream will rise to the top. You’ll get published. But there’s no secret.” Dennis Lehane

32. “The actual writing time is a lot shorter than the thinking time.” Harlan Coben

33. “Writing a novel is like making love, but it’s also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s like making love while having a tooth pulled.” Dean Koontz

34. “The storytelling gift is innate: one has it or one doesn’t. But style is at least partly a learned thing: one refines it by looking and listening and reading and practice—by work.” Donna Tartt

35. “Write because you love the art and the discipline, not because you’re looking to sell something.” Ann Patchett

36. “I am not a particularly natural writer. I am not a person who can write in paragraphs the way some writers do. For me, it’s sentence by sentence, sometimes word by word. And I revise constantly. It’s a very laborious process, but I love doing it.” Yann Martel

37. “Writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer. There are people who write, but I think they’re quite different from people who must write.” Harper Lee

38. “One day, I started writing, not knowing that I had chained myself for life to a noble but merciless master. When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended solely for self-flagellation…I’m here alone in my dark madness, all by myself with my deck of cards—and of course, the whip God gave me.” Truman Capote

39. “I’m just going to write because I cannot help it.” Charlotte Bronte

40. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Jack London

41. “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” Virginia Woolf

42. “The hardest thing about writing is writing.” Nora Ephron

43. “Sometimes, if you aren’t sure about something, you just have to jump off the bridge and grow your wings on the way down.” Danielle Steele

44. “I don’t believe in having writer’s block. Think about it—when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands.” Jodi Picoult

45. “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and play and build and draw and dance and live as only you can.” Neil Gaiman

46. “Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift you give to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.” Amy Tan

47. “The most important thing in life is to stop saying, ‘I wish’ and start saying, ‘I will.’ Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities.” Charles Dickens

48. “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” George Orwell

49. “Writing, or at least good writing, is an outgrowth of that urge to communicate complex ideas and experiences between people. And that’s true whether you’re reading Shakespeare or bad vampire fiction—reading is always an act of empathy. It’s always an imagining of what it’s like to be someone else.” John Green

50. “Start writing, no matter what. The faucet does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’amour

What’s your favorite author quote on writing? Share it in the comments below!