Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Writing

Your ability to exchange ideas, collaborate with others, and ultimately succeed hinges on the ability to write effectively. Here are some timeless tips, straight from the pens of the world’s most renowned authors, to help you develop both style and substance.


I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret. ~Matthew Arnold

Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them. ~John Ruskin

Try to always write with your readers in mind. What do they need to know and want to know? If you have nothing to say, or what you say has no meaning for the reader, there is no point in writing it.


I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. ~Truman Capote

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

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. ~Stephen King

Don’t be fooled into believing that words like really, actually, or extremely make writing more forceful. They don’t — they just get in the way. Cut them and never look back.


When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men’s minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind. ~Cicero

Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.

Maybe it was all those late nights as an undergraduate struggling to fill out mandatory ten-page papers that made us think the only worthwhile writing is long and drawn out. While it’s more difficult to express yourself in the simplest possible manner, it’s so much more effective. More work for you means less work for your reader.


You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. ~Isaac Asimov

Engrave this in your brain: EVERY WRITER GETS REJECTED. You will be no different. ~John Scalzi

Writing means putting yourself at the mercy of others who may not always say nice things about what you write. Learn to make the most of the insults and accept the praise with a dose of skepticism. Use the criticism from others to improve and strengthen your writing. Foster a relationship with a good editor—one who knows sound writing and isn’t afraid to teach as s/he critiques.


Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~Ray Bradbury

By writing much, one learns to write well. ~ Robert Southey

For many writers, it’s hard to know where to begin. So forget about beginning—just write. Keep a journal to make notes and observations about your research and your reading. Comment on ideas you hear from others. Critique presentations you hear at conferences. And take every opportunity to write wherever you find one.


The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. ~ Linus Pauling

If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~Lord Acton

Successful writing is all about trust and authority. It makes sense to write about your area of expertise. If you don’t have an expertise, reading and writing is the best way to develop one and put it on display.


Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto. ~Ray Bradbury

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. ~William Faulkner

Doing what worked once will only get you so far. Experiment with new styles, even if it means taking criticism. Without moving forward, you’ll be left behind.


10 Writing Tips from the Masters. www.pickthebrain.com/blog/art- of-writing/

Quotable Quotes on Writers and Writing. www.logicalcreativity.com/jon/quotes.html

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