Maybe you should kill all of your darlings, as the famous line misquoted to Stephen King goes, but the advice you are going to read here by other famous authors is undeniably poor. It is shoddy advice given to aspiring writers. Even though this is quoted to some of the world’s most successful authors, do not follow it.
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
– Ernest Hemingway
Poetic yet unpractical it is to say that all a writer needs to do is sit at a typewriter and bleed. If the intention of this advice was to nurture Mr. Hemingway’s own personal humility, fine. If you took it as an invitation to vomit your thoughts onto paper with the sole purpose of calling yourself a writer, you will be sadly disillusioned. Frankly, there is much work that goes into honing your writing craft, and believing otherwise is lazy.
The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can’t deal with this, you needn’t apply.
– Will Self
It is difficult to create space for writing in a full house or a busy office. On the contrary, watching and interacting with people makes for some of the best writing material. If you don’t know it, you can’t write it. If you aren’t experiencing the confusion, passion, and solace that is born of human interaction, how do you expect to write about it? You won’t. So, just because you are an aspiring novelist doesn’t mean you need to retreat to the life of a hermit to make something of your work. Live life as it is, and create time to write about it.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
– George Orwell
Anytime someone says “never” or “always,” you can determine that the statement is not true, even if the speaker is the author of one of the most famous novels of all time. Nothing is never or always one way or another. A truth-junkie like Orwell knew this. If you’re one of the writers who read his advice to cut all foreign phrases, scientific words, or jargon from your work, and took it literally, you can stop. You should also know that he also said to ignore all of his advice if it suits you. He’s like the man who says, “I disagree with most of my own opinions.” There is more truth in that quandary than the quote above.
An example of why this is bad advice lies in the phrase, “folie à deux.” As an English speaker, it’s easy to see that the French term speaks more deeply than the translation to my native tongue.
Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
– Mark Twain
I must admit, for some reason, this makes me laugh. Given the fact that Mark Twain was a comedian, that should be an appropriate reaction. But, in all seriousness, do not be the Amelia Bedelia of writing and actually write “damn” throughout your work. These days, editors are busy, and do not have time to go through the work of someone that isn’t sincerely trying to get published, especially if the writer hasn’t been published before. Sure, go ahead and leave out the word “very” – most of the time it won’t add value to your work. And, if this quote helps you remember that, then use it this way.
Immature poets imitate. Mature poets steal.
– C.S. Lewis
In all fairness, re-telling old stories is a great way to reach people and instill a sense of familiarity. Marketers and songwriters are taught this. But, if you don’t have a creative mind with original thoughts, writing is not for you. Do not plagiarize the work of your fellow writers. Don’t steal others’ work just for the sake of writing. If you really want to become a great writer of any kind, write from your own experiences. The rewards are immeasurable.
All the information you need can be given in dialogue.
– Elmore Leonard
If all of the meat and potatoes of your story are wrapped up in the conversations taking place, it’s not going to work. This means that the setting wherein they are taking place are all the perception of the characters. You want your reader to feel as if he or she is a part of the fable. If the projections are only those of this character or that character, you have missed the best part, the truth. There is your perception, my perception, and the truth. The truth is not interdependent of the former.
Grammar is the Grave of Letters.
– Elbert Hubbard
Really? This little bit of intelligence seems to imply that proper grammar might as well be ignored. If that is the case, then why even bother becoming a writer. You’re not going to send your intended message to readers if you think sally setted on the chair while John hop up and down aside her. You can take the statement above with a grain of salt and save the sentence structuring for the editing phase of your work only if it helps you get your words on paper.
After all of that bad advice, it’s time for something you can use. One of the wisest and helpful quotes for wanna-be authors comes from Lev Grossman:
Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.
Eva Creerson is a content writer at masterpapers.org writing company. She is also a beginner author working on her first novel.