Writing is not a new craft. A lot of the advice you hear as a writer has been around for quite a while. So why not learn from those who made themselves immortal? Here are 5 tips from dead writers that you should live by.
1. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov
You know the worn out writing mantra by now: “show, don’t tell”. Chekhov just makes it sound better while showing you exactly what he means.
Often, the small details we use in writing are the ones that convey the most powerful images. We have all seen the moon shining. The glint of moonlight on broken glass creates movement and places significant objects in the setting. It hardly takes extra words.
Showing rather than telling isn’t about fluffing up your writing with details. It captures something specific, unique, and telling about the subject.
2. “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” ― William Faulkner
Here’s another one you have probably heard before. It’s about making difficult decisions.
When it comes to writing, you will inevitably have to make cuts. You have to be brutally honest about what works and what doesn’t work in your book. Sometimes this means parting with a character you love or an entire scene you poured your heart into. Sometimes it’s just crossing out a few lines.
But that doesn’t mean you have to throw your darling in the fire.
Save your cuts. You might find a better home for one and draw inspiration from another.
3. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London
Jack has point. Don’t be kind to writer’s block.
Inspiration isn’t a magical phenomenon. You won’t find it by waiting for the muse to come. Writers are curious and hungry. The read constantly, they take walks, they observe people, they research weird topics. They are constantly taking in inspiration.
Don’t wait for it. Go after it.
4. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ― Octavia E. Butler
I love this. So much.
Whether you’re new to the writing world or have been writing for years, you will always have room to grow. One of the only surefire ways to improve is to keep writing. Persist.
Most writers look at their own work at some point and think it’s utter crap. I’ve done it. But I think that dissatisfaction is a driving force. It pushes you to become better. To polish. To rewrite. To keep trying.
5. “The dearest ones of time, the strongest friends of the soul–BOOKS.” ― Emily Dickinson
All good writers read. Another mantra among writers.
Reading is the second surefire way to improve your writing. How could you possibly improve your craft without studying the works of masters? How could you possibly write without a deep love for its fruit?
Books are your closet friends as a writer. I think it wise to always have one near.
- Showing is always more powerful than telling.
- You will have to make tough decisions when you edit.
- Don’t wait for inspiration.
- Write persistently.
- Read often.