As every aspiring novelist knows, coming up with the ‘big’ ideas is the easy part. But, unfortunately, developing your scribbled notebook entries into a fleshed-out story with believable characters isn’t quite so simple.
So how do the pros do it? Academic writing service Ivory Research decided to find out. Their researchers collected the best pieces of writing advice from 15 highly successful novelists. And they put them all into one infographic that shows you how to apply these pro-tips to your creative endeavors.
The best pieces of advice can apply to anyone. And that’s definitely the case with Octavia Butler’s top tip for writers learning their craft. Writing is actually pretty simple, suggests Butler. You just need to sit down and do it. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But too many writers are waiting for a visit from the muses. Instead, they should dedicate a few hours to banging out a daily word count. Because habit is more important than inspiration.
“Forget inspiration,” advised Butler. “Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”
Horror master Stephen King is another bestselling author who takes a dogged, workmanlike approach to his writing. In his 2001 book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King pulled back the curtain and revealed that all great art comes from putting in the work. So if you want to be a professional writer, then you have to treat writing like a profession.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration,” wrote King. “The rest of us get up and go to work.”
But how much should you write every day? There’s no hard rule. Some writers produce thousands of words every day; how many of these words make it into the final draft is a different matter altogether! Other wordsmiths work much slower, and that’s fine.
James Joyce, widely regarded as one the greatest authors of all time, wrote around 100 words per day. T.S. Elliot produced a grand total of 150 pages of poetry during his 25-year career. That equates to about half a page of poetry every month.
More quotes for writers: Funny quotes and quotes to light a fire under your butt
Joyce and Elliot are famous for their elegant writing styles. But you don’t have to craft an endless stream of heart-stopping metaphors to be a great writer. In fact, trying to sound lofty and profound is the first major pitfall most novice writers have to overcome.
C.S. Lewis, John McPhee, and creative writing tutor Janet Fitch are all big advocates of the ‘keep it simple’ rule. So was the Nobel Prize-winning poet Wisława Szymborska. She often came across poems packed with words like “truth” and “justice.” But, as Szymborska told one would-be bard, “Such words don’t come cheap. Real blood flows in them, which can’t be counterfeited with ink. [So] let’s take the wings off and try writing on foot, shall we?”
Here’s a closer look at the rest of the 15 tips on how to write like a pro.