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Writing Tips From Famous Authors – How to Become a Writer

These writing tips from famous authors will help you learn how to become a writer. After all, the first step to becoming a writer – to calling yourself a “real” writer – is defining what “real writer” means to you. And that’s what these writing tips and quips from famous authors are all about!

To get the ball rolling, here’s one of my favorite quips and tips: 

“What I did have, which others perhaps didn’t, was a capacity for sticking at it, which really is the point, not the talent at all. You have to stick at it.” ~ Doris Lessing.

Sticking at it — perservering despite lack of motivation, rejection, dejection, and failure — may be the number one trait of successfully published authors (or, writers who see themselves as “real” writers). Maybe you write like Kingsolver or Shakespeare or Dillard…but if you can’t stick to your writing schedule, you aren’t likely to succeed.

One of my favorite books about writing is Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. It’s both motivational and instructional!

And, here are some of my favorite quips and tips from seriously successful authors…

Writing Tips From Famous Authors – How to Become a Writer

The writing tips in bold are pulled from the accompanying writing quips….and they all focus on learning how to become a “real” writer (whatever that means to you!).

Realize that different authors have different ideas on becoming a writer. “As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert.

Develop a long-term relationship with your book, novel, article. “I write a book or a short story three times. Once to understand her, the second time to improve her prose, and a third to compel her to say what she must.” ~ Bernard Malamud.

Find a writing mentor, a hero – someone who helps you write despite yourself. “When I’m scared – and I’m always scared when I have to face an audience, when I have to read a review, when I publish a book…then, I think of my grandfather. My grandfather was this strong, tough Basque who would never bend….What would he do? Well, he would go ahead, close his eyes, and drive forward. You do it and the spirit that is within you….is there.” ~ Isabelle Allende.

Prioritize your writing. “Let the grass die. I let almost all of my indoor plants die from neglect while I was writing the book. There are all kinds of ways to live. You can take your choice. You can keep a tidy house, and when St. Peter asks you what you did with your life, you can say, I kept a tidy house, I made my own cheese balls.” ~ Annie Dillard.

Remember that even writing tips from famous authors do not teach you how to become a writer! “In the end, writing skills are mostly absorbed, not learned. Like learning to speak as a native speaker, learning to write well is not just learning a set of rules or techniques. It’s a huge, messy body of deep language, inspired by bits of readings, conversations, incidents; it’s affected by how you were taught and where you live and who you want to become. For every convention, there is another way that may work better. For every rule, there are mavericks who succeed by flaunting it. There is no right or wrong way to write, no ten easy steps.” ~ Philip Martin. (If you want to become a writer, you need to study less and absorb more!).

Remember that even famous authors get scared. “The fact is that blank pages inspire me with terror. What will I put on them? Will it be good enough? Will I have to throw it out?” ~ Margaret Atwood.

Let it go, after you’re finished writing your book, article, or blog post. “I approach my work with a passionate intensity, acting as if its success depends entirely on me. “But once I’ve done my best, I try to let go as much as possible and have no expectations about how my work will be received by the world.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach.

Accept your bad writing – don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of it. Don’t be discouraged! “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a sh*tty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” ~ Anne Lamott. (This is one of the most popular writing tips from famous authors — and Hemingway said it first!)

Keep practicing the most famous writing tip of all (“Show, don’t tell”). “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov.

Stay hungry; the more you want it, the more likely you’ll become a writer. “You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price in 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 Whitney.

Remember that you’re not alone – even famous authors struggle to become writers. “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” ~ Joseph Heller.

Don’t expect writing to be easy. “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” ~ George Orwell.

Fellow scribes, do you have any writing tips from famous authors — or from your own experience? I welcome you below!

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15 thoughts on “Writing Tips From Famous Authors – How to Become a Writer”

  1. There is no such thing as a perfect writer, if there were the writer would not know rejection and their every book would win a Pulitzer Prize. Never focus on the reward of writing, focus on your story and you will succeed.

  2. It has always been my dream to become a Famous Author, i have even come up with some great ideas for books and pursued those ideas even though some of them don’t turn out well. The only thing i cant find an answer to is if ill be able to live off being an author? Even if i could how do i get my book published? So if you can answer these concerns i’d most appreciate it.

  3. Thanks for the wonderful quotes about writing by famous authors. My favourite is by George Orwell.His magnum opus ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’validates the essence of the above quote.The novel is a tribute to his analytical skills and incisive imagination.He could predict accurately the hair raising realities of totalitarian regimes and expressed these through a powerful narrative.It speaks volumes about his greatness as a writer.

  4. Victoria Collins

    I found all of these tips to be helpful, and true. The one thing I struggle with is not the idea, not the story line, but “Is it good enough that someone else wants to read it?” It never seems to me, good enough.

  5. Thanks for this wonderful post. I always wanted to be a good writer since I was a child. I idolize many writers. I appreciate this post it would help me a lot.

  6. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments!

    Pookie, writing skills may or may not be important in the blogosphere. Maybe search engine optimization and other web writing skills may be just as important, in terms of attracting traffic. But, these famous authors aren’t talking about blogging, they’re talking about how to become a writer. There’s a big difference!

    Rohit, I agree that it’s not a good idea to copy another writer’s style — whether they’re a famous author or not. I think it’s important to recognize what makes a particular writing style work, and then to let your own style bubble to the surface.

  7. I would personally recommend not to copy the style of anyone.. Create your own Blogging style so that you get reviews from other s and you stand out unique in the crowd.. There is no point in behaving like others..

  8. If your goal is to make money by blogging, practicing and perfecting your writing skills is crucial.In the bloggosphere quality content is gold.Excellent site and tips.

  9. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your writing tip! I like your gravatar, of the baby reading the book — very cute. And yes, writers need to find that balance between writing and reading about writing. It’s important to learn from published authors how to write, but perhaps more important to practice writing.

  10. My own writing tip is common sense – simply write. We often think that reading is what we need to do in order to write our best but every task takes practice to be perfect at it.

    So my advice: stop reading and start spending your time writing. 🙂 Easier said than done, I know.