“When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way.” -Michael Lewis
Writing is an art. It’s a mirror into our deepest selves, into unknown worlds that grow into kingdoms with every passing page. Good writing is something to be admired because when done well, a piece of writing takes you along on a journey which you have the power to create.
So, how can you become a better writer you ask? Well, I can’t call myself a seasoned writer for the simple fact that I am not one. So, I’ve taken the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve come to know from writers who have shared their wisdom on the craft of writing. Here are some of their guiding words that I hope will inspire you, too.
Keep on Keepin’ on
“You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”-Neil Gaiman
Have you ever started a piece of writing, only to throw in the towel halfway? Maybe it wasn’t good enough. Maybe your direction seemed too unclear and hazy. Whatever the reason, it’ll never be a good enough reason to throw your work away. Always keep your writing, even if you hate it and can’t bare to look at it. Stephen King thought Carrie was so bad he threw it in the trash. The trash! Lucky for him his wife fished it out and pressed him to keep going. You might not have that same saving grace, so it’s up to you to carry on.
Don’t Just Sit and Wait
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” -Stephen King
You can spend the rest of your days waiting for inspiration. If you’re lucky, maybe it’ll come. But, it might not. The truth is, inspiration doesn’t just come knocking at your door. It isn’t a message in a bottle that’s washed up on shore, waiting to be discovered. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s your job to find it. It’s out there, in every crook of life if you look closely enough, so what are you waiting for?
You’re Not Here To Please
“If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.” -Stephen King
When I would write, I’d constantly worry about whether my opinion was offensive, vulgar, or too honest. The more I worried and tried to gloss over these bits of uncertainty, the more dull and predictable my writing became. Writing has to be honest. Your readers will know if you are speaking truthfully. Rather than being politically correct, embrace the grit of being honest, write from the heart and don’t worry about the rest.
The Dreadful Adverb
“Never use an adverb to modify the verb ‘said’ . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange.” -Elmore Leonard
“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late”. -Stephen King
I’ve used them, Stephen King has admitted to using them, and you probably have too. Sometimes, we throw in an adverb or two… or ten. They often take away from the writing itself, and create a weaker piece of writing. Have faith that your reader will know how your characters are speaking and what they’re feeling.
With Good Writing Comes the Bad
“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.” -Jennifer Egan
This is a tough one. When you write something, leave it on your desk to set for a few days, and then look it over only to find yourself thinking, “man, this is bad” don’t freak out. It happens to all of us.
Sometimes, you’ll think your work is awful when really, it has a chance. Other times, you might be right. Bad writing plays as big of a part in the process as good writing does. Don’t let it discourage you, and don’t let yourself get caught up in the whirlwind of self-doubt of thinking maybe all of your writing is bad. It’s just a brick in the wall.
What are your favorite writing tips? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories!