Monday, March 14, 2011

Writing advice from the pros

Margaret Atwood
Don't sit down in the middle of the woods. If you're lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

Diana Athill
Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out – they can be got right only by ear).

Roddy Doyle
Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

Helen Dunmore
Finish the day's writing when you still want to continue.

Geoff Dyer
Keep a diary. The biggest regret of my writing life is that I have never kept a journal or a diary.

Anne Enright
Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.

Richard Ford
Try to think of others' good luck as encouragement to yourself.

Jonathan Franzen
You have to love before you can be relentless.

Esther Freud
Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they'll know it too.

Neil Gaiman
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

David Hare
Never take advice from anyone with no investment in the outcome.

PD James
Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more ­effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.

AL Kennedy
Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and ­irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won't need to take notes.

Do you have some writing advice you'd like to share?


  1. great quotes! You should read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. There are a plethora of one-liners which make you just think, wow, that's me!

  2. I agree Jessica. Anne Lamott has a lot of great things to say. Have you read Stephen King's ON WRITING? That's another great book for writers. Have a great day!

  3. Great post. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Great advice and so varied. And like you say, Bird by Bird and On Writing has great advice too.

  5. These are such great quotes. I especially love Ester Freud's advice to trust your reader. That is true on so many levels. Thanks for a great post!


  6. These are great quotes, Buffy, I especially loved Margaret Atwood's way out of the woods. So true! Great new pic, too btw :)