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Writers on Writing: From the Profound to the Hilarious
By Rebecca D’Harlingue
August 17, 2021

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, it’s always interesting to hear what writers have to say about their craft. What does it mean to them? How do they do it? What do they advise?

 When it comes to recommendations, it seems like there is a constant stream. The thing is, anyone can give advice about writing, and it’s impossible to prove them wrong. I know that I love to find suggestions that confirm what I’m already doing, but I also highly value the warning that tells me to completely change my ways.

 We’ve all heard things like write every day, have a schedule, make a plan, (or be spontaneous), and revise, revise, revise. These links lead to insights that go beyond that, and sometimes even contradict it. If you’re a reader, you’ll get a glimpse into the writing process. If you’re a writer, it can be reassuring to see that the great authors had some of the same difficulties (see the Hemingway quote below).

 Have fun! The thing about being a writer is that, for better or worse, you decide what advice you want to take.

 I’ve tried to place the links in categories, but there is overlap. Browse as you will, go write, and come back another day when you need more inspiration, or even comfort.

Advice from Individual Authors

This quote from King’s On Writing made me decide to finally read it: “In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” There’s also a great section on seeing stories as unfound relics.

“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.”

I had to include this one, as George Saunders’s book on writing, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, deeply analyzes three Chekhov stories.

Vonnegut goes against all the advice that you’ve ever read about creating suspense.

White asks us to consider: “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.”

This liberating thought: “When I started writing seriously, I made the major discovery of my life—that I am right and everybody else is wrong if they disagree with me.” (Although, see Gaiman’s advice above.)

Elmore Leonard gives such sage advice as, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

Lots of Authors Giving Tips

“You have to get to a very quiet place inside yourself.” Maya Angelou

Hilary Mantel recommends arrogance.

A new quote every day. On August 1, Larry Gelbart empathized with those of us who procrastinate. “I take the time to sharpen my pencils to the point where they’re able to perform brain surgery.”

Distilled down into 7 points!

“You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult

Inspiring the Next Generation

“First of all, let her be bored.”

“Don’t write at first for anyone but yourself.”

Books on writing and even a few videos of authors

Practical Advice & Word Lists

And on a Lighter Note

“Procrastination is an alluring siren taunting you to google the country where Balki from Perfect Strangers was from, and to arrange sticky notes on your dog in the shape of hilarious dog shorts.”

Rebecca D’Harlingue
Written by Rebecca D’Harlingue

Award-winning author Rebecca D’Harlingue writes about seventeenth-century women forging a different path. Her debut novel, The Lines Between Us, won an Independent Press Award and a CIBA Chaucer Award. Her second novel, The Map Colorist, won a Literary Titan Award and a Firebird Book Award.

View Rebecca’s PLW Profile

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