I know I post a lot of stuff from Brainpickings, but they do such a fabulous job summarizing and providing vivid detail, I simply can’t resist!
This article Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing by Maria Popova not only provides his eight tips, but also links to several other articles for writing tips from several other famous authors, including Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck, Susan Sontag, David Ogilvy, Henry Miller, Elmore Leonard, and Zadie Smith.
Here are my favorites from each that ring particularly true to my own writing experience:
- 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. – Gaiman
In short, trust yourself when considering feedback or advice from others.
- Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful. – Leonard
In poetry, one of my professors taught that you only get one or two exclamation points ever.
- Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it. – Smith
Why it may sometimes take me months or years to decide a poem is done. And why I never say definitively that’s the case.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia. – Vonnegut
Hence my tagline, “A selfish poet.”
- Write the way you talk. Naturally. – Oglivy
To me, this translates to: don’t overuse a thesaurus. Your readers will take notice.
- When you can’t create you can work. – Miller
Sometimes I need to create, sometimes I need to work on submissions, networking, supporting poetry and other arts. It all supports my craft in the long run.
- Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it. – Miller
Experience is the source of inspiration, and well yeah, DRINK IF YOU FEEL LIKE IT.
- No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge. – Kerouac
The old adage to ‘write what you know’ was always daunting to me, until I discovered I know more than I thought—all of life’s little experiences can translate into something new and undiscovered, or something close and relatable for those who read your work. Capture those moments with dignity.
- Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better. – Kerouac
Cut loose—the wildly honest stuff is often the beginning of my best writing.
- Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material. – Steinbeck
This is a bad habit of mine, editing as I go along. I think some of my first drafts suffer due to it—it’s something I’m still working on.
- The writer does not have to write. She must imagine that she must. A great book: no one is addressed, it counts as cultural surplus, it comes from the will. – Sontag
This reminds me of Bukowski’s poem “so you want to be a writer?” Indeed, “if it doesn’t come bursting out of you / in spite of everything, / don’t do it.”