20 Expert Writing Tips: Advice for Authors

No one likes staring at a blank page— not for five minutes, and certainly not for five hours. If you’re an author or aspiring author, you have probably fallen victim to the blank-page-stare. Whether it’s writer’s block, not knowing where to start, where to pick up the next day, or how to go forward with your content strategy, we get you. We feel you. We see you.

That’s why we compiled twenty expert writing tips for you to lean into when the skies look gray and the page looks… as white as ever.

How about the horse’s mouth? When things come straight from the horse’s mouth, or the writers’ pens, then things get a little better. These writing tips from authors are just that. They’re writing tips from authors, real authors!

Take your fingers off the keyboard and get ready to scroll!

Table of Contents

20 Writing Tips from Authors

Writing Tip #1:

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” —Mark Twain

Start writing! Just write! We’re serious. WRITE NOW. RIGHT NOW. If you just trust in the flow of the process, just get writing and don’t focus on the good, bad, the glorious, or the ugly. Just start writing. You can go back later and do a heavy round of edits. You can scrap whole pages if you want. Start writing and edit later.

Writing Tip #2:

“Never use a long word where a short one will do.” —George Orwell

The more you can cut from your writing, while still being clear, the better. While it’s tempting to be bombastic and throw around pretty words, only do so if they serve a specific purpose. Writing advice always points to this— clarity comes first.

Writing Tip #3:

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E. L. Doctorow

We all want to see exactly where we are going. Human beings like being on solid ground. Unfortunately, in the world of writing, you don’t get to see your destination from page one, or even page 101. Just keep going, one page at a time. Sure. You’re content strategy probably has a beginning, middle, and end you’re trying to follow, but the page-by-page struggle is how the book is written!

Writing Tip #4:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” —Anne Lamott

Ever heard of a shitty first draft? You can thank Anne Lamott who coined this term in her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Allow yourself the gift of a shitty first draft. Don’t obsess about being perfect, well, really during any phase of writing a book, but certainly not during your first draft. Perfectionism is the enemy of writers! It’s actually not a good thing for humans in general. Unless they’re building airplanes, then please make those airplanes perfect and perfectly safe. We’ll allow you all the perfectionism you need!

Writing Tip #5:

“Remember, Grammar Nazis: It’s YOU’RE going to die alone.” —Damien Fahey

grammarrulesWho wants to be a rule follower? Don’t be afraid to wave your improper-grammar flag, and to wave it with pride! As long as it works for you and the reader, who cares! Grammar nazis? No one likes them anyways.

Writing Tip #6:

“I feel like a lot of time my writing is like having about twenty boxes of Christmas decorations. But no tree. You’re going, Where do I put this? Then they go, Okay, you can have a tree, but we’ll blindfold you and you gotta cut it down with a spoon.” —Carolyn Chute

Sometimes writing feels hard, really really really really hard. Yes, all the reallys were necessary, and well-earned! While this quote might not feel like writing advice, it is one of our favorite writing tips from authors in general. You can feel the struggle. All the decorations. No tree. Ok. One tree. Cut it down blindfolded. No axe. No saw. One spoon. YIKES. It’s palpable. We also wanted to take a moment here to acknowledge that writing is difficult, and it takes courage and tenacity. Don’t underestimate your bravery!

Writing Tip #7:

“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.”—W. Somerset Maugham

If you have a good plot, then no one cares about your fancy words or extraordinary usage of flowery metaphors or glittery similies. We’re not giving you permission to be a horrible writer with a good plot, but it doesn’t hurt to remember that your writing is a vehicle to tell a story. Your story is the heart of why a reader picks up a book, devotes hours of their time, and falls in love with your words.

Writing Tip #8:

“Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try.” —Neil Patel

If you have decided to try, then you’re already halfway there. As the other writing tips have alluded to, writing is a walk in the park. The decision to be a writer puts you on the path. You’re already on your way to the accomplishment of publishing your book and sharing it with the world.

Writing Tip #9:

“Life is chaotic and meaningless, and you have to find your meaning. You must find the answer, you can’t just live. That’s the point of the story: helping you find your meaning in life.” —Robert McKee

thats-too-much-pressure-to-put-on-me-too-much-pressureDid we just hear you say, “Hold the phone. The purpose of my story is to help me find meaning in life?” The pressure is on, kid! Well, in reality, all writing is an act of catharsis— a way of sharing our story and processing our thoughts and emotions. That’s why it’s not only solid writing advice but solid therapy advice to write to process emotions. And while writing helps you find meaning in your life, good writing and powerful storytelling will also help those who read your words find meaning in theirs.

Writing Tip #10:

“Writing cannot be taught, though it can be learned.” —Joseph Epstein

Make as much sense as a pig in a blanket on a hot summer’s day. We’re not talking about mini-hot dogs, we’re talking about google ol’ sweltering barnyard pigs. While you’re scratching your head over that analogy, our point is that writing is an act of creation, it comes from inside of you. It’s not something someone can teach you to do, by writing you learn how to do it yourself. That being said, feel free to read all the writing tips you want, and take all the writing classes you feel like. Everything is a part of learning to write!

Writing Tip #11:

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” —Stephen King

Our lawyers want us to make sure we’re clear here. We are absolutely NOT advocating for murdering children. That’s not at all what we, or Stephen King, are actually talking about. What Mr. King is saying is that when you’re editing, it can be a painful process of murdering your favorite lines, parts, or scenes. Acknowledge that this is uncomfortable and that it makes you angry or sad. Let the emotion flow. And get ready to strikethrough way too many of your favorite pieces of prose.

Writing Tip #12:

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ―Toni Morrison

As of 2010, there were 129,864,880 published since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440. As that number hasn’t been updated in well over a decade, we’re sure that number has dramatically increased as well. With such a staggering number of books out there, it’s all too natural to feel like there just isn’t room out there for one more book written by little ol’ me. Guess what? There is. Especially if you have a book inside of you, it’s your duty to write it!

Writing Tip #13:

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ―Sylvia Plath

While we’ve mentioned that perfectionism is the enemy of the people, and particularly of the writer, so is self-doubt. Writing takes outgoing and ongoing guts. Don’t doubt yourself. Write and write some more. Don’t be THAT guy. Humility and self-doubt aren’t the same things. Take a humility vitamin if you need to every morning, but no more heaping spoonfuls of self-doubt for you!

Writing Tip #14:

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

surpriseIs there surprise or no surprise in the reader reading this writing tip? Ha. We think we’re funny sometimes. Remember that your emotions are what’s fueling the story. If you aren’t passionately involved, your readers won’t be either.

Writing Tip #15:

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ―Anton Chekhov

Be creative. Be descriptive. See the world with new eyes. Try to describe things in such great staggering detail that your words come to life on the page. And then, after your first few drafts, we’re sure you’ll be cutting nearly half of all your descriptions, but still. It’s worth spending time noodling over the descriptions and breathing life into your words.

Writing Tip #16:

“Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.” ―Neil Gaiman

Speaking of paying the rent…. We want to be mighty clear here. Writing tips from authors always highlight how you can’t expect your book to make money, and you can’t write books if you’re only writing them for a paycheck. While Neil Gaiman here is being coy, he sure is able to pay his rent on the power of his prose. You may not be so lucky. Don’t write for the money. Write because you are a writer who has chosen to write.

Writing Tip #17:

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” ―Thomas Mann

This writing tip, and quote, made us smile. Writer to writer— we get you. And we’re picking up what Thomas Mann is laying down.

Writing Tip #18:

“You can make anything by writing.” ―C.S. Lewis

Don’t limit your imagination. Don’t fear that you’re taking things too far with your imagination. As C.S. Lewis and countless other writers have made clear, you can create entirely new worlds with your writing. Your writing can create anything.

Writing Tip #19:

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

Another writing tip about sitting down to write? Write, write, and write some more. Yep. You got that right. Another writing tip about just, well, writing. Don’t sit there and stare at that blank page for more than a minute or two, pick up your metaphorical club and get writing!

Writing Tip #20:

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” ―Isaac Asimov

jimcarreywritingIf you’re the type of writer who has to write because you’re bearing an untold story inside of you that simply must be let out, then this writing tip will resonate with you. Type faster. Write faster. If you write as though you are running out of time, imagine what that would do for your daily word counts or for your productivity in general. If you set an actual timer and only allow yourself six minutes to write, how juicy and delicious do you think your writing would be? Give it a try. Let us know how it goes.

What Did You Think Of Our 20 Expert Writing Tips?

With 20 writing tips straight from the experts, plus plenty of fun little asides penned by our expert writers, we are sure that your blank page isn’t looking as blank as it did before you started reading this piece. Major takeaway? Biggest writing tip? Go. Write. Now.

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