Marcia Strykowski

The Best Writing Tips

Every day, more and more people take pen to paper (or put fingers to keys) in search of their inner muse. Many would-be authors do not want to take the time to study the craft on their own. (Good reason to join a critique group!) If you’re really short on time though, why reinvent the wheel of good writing when there are volumes of how-to-books already published? Despite these short-cuts, it still takes a long time to become a skilled writer.  For those who want a very condensed basic course, I thought I’d share my favorite writing rules. Rather than foolishly trying to improve on the masters, I searched through the hundreds of quotations already out there. It was difficult to narrow the list down, but I especially agree with the following words from the wise. (I’ve also boldly added in one of my own suggestions at the end.)

From their workspace to yours, from top left: F. Scott Fitzgerald, E. B. White, Ezra Pound,
Mark Twain, Phyllis A. Whitney, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, and Stephen King.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Jack London
“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” Barbara Kingsolver
“If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Stephen King
“Beginning writers must appreciate the prerequisites if they hope to become writers. You pay your dues—which takes years.” Alex Haley
“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
“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” William Faulkner
“You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.” Phyllis A. Whitney
“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” Henry David Thoreau
“My aim is to put down what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way I can tell it.” Ernest Hemingway
“I write as straight as I can, just as I walk as straight as I can, because that is the best way to get there.” H.G. Wells
“Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear.” Ezra Pound
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
Robert Frost
“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” E.L. Doctorow
“As for the adjective, when in doubt leave it out.” Mark Twain
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov
“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.” Kurt Vonnegut
“Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
“If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.” John Steinbeck
“There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” E. B. White
“When you get in a tight place & everything goes against you, till it seems you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place & time that the tide will turn.”  Harriet Beecher Stowe
“Shut down the internet, set a timer for 15 minutes, and write. Hopefully, when the timer goes off, you will be involved in your story enough to keep going.” Marcia Strykowski

36 Comments

  1. Joyce Teal

    Marcia,
    These are wonderful quotes. It is more important to write than anything else. Often people worry about spelling, grammar, etc than the story. Once the story is down on paper or saved in a working file, it can be edited for clarity. Writing is the most important step!
    Joyce

    • You’re so right, Joyce. Just throw anything down on paper to take that first step. For me, revision is where it really happens and the most fun. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Love these quotes, especially the last one. :)

  3. Great roundup of quotes. Thanks for sharing, Marcia. I particularly like the one from Barbara Kingsolver.

    • Yes, Barbara’s is a great quote. Glad you enjoyed, Ruth!

  4. I love the Stephen King quote. I found his book about writing very inspirational. My personal favorite is Mark Twain’s about adjectives. It reminds me of one that Linda Howard once said about adverbs (basically to leave them out).

    • Yes, King’s is a well-praised book. Most everyone seems to agree on adverbs and adjectives–that less is best. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Great quotes, Marcia! Yours is great too! :)

    • Thank you–lots of inspiration out there!

      • mirkabreen

        These were fun. But my favorite echoes my thoughts and hits one of my pet-peeves: “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.” F. Scott Fitzgerald”

        • The overuse of exclamation marks does seem to be at an all time high.

  6. Excellent article. Thank you for gathering these words of wisdom in one place.

  7. Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing:)

  8. Ashley

    What a great picture of the famous authors at their writing desks! Great quotes too!

  9. Sharing with my (new) writing group – thanks!

  10. nice collection! Thanks for gathering! I adore things like “Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die” for procrastination-busting….

  11. Bette Norton

    I love this post Marcia!! The writing quotes are great and so are the pictures. I will share this with my writing group! Very informative and enjoyable.

  12. Becky Shillington

    These are amazing, Marcia, and so true. Thank you SO MUCH–I needed to read this today!

    • Hi Becky, thanks for the nice comments and good luck with your writing!

  13. leandrajwallace

    A superb collection of quotes. Especially liked the Harriet Beecher Stowe one- I just might have to print that one out for my inspiration board.

  14. I love the E.L. Doctorow advice of making the whole journey with what your headlights can show one step at a time, and the Stowe quote on not giving up when things are the toughest. For that really is when things will turn. :) And of course, I now have another quote to enjoy ~ the Marcia Strykowski quote.

  15. The quote from Ernest Hemingway ‘my aim is to put down what I see and what I feel…’ sounds so easy but is the hardest thing to do. I have so much respect for writers. I find trying to ‘write’ (cobble together) my blog daunting enough!

    • You’re right about Hemingway’s quote. I guess like with any talent/sport, the pros make it look easy.

  16. Edward

    Hi! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to take a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information.

  17. Vicki

    Good day, very nice blog!! I’m glad to find a lot of helpful info here, thanks for sharing!!

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