Good Advice from Good Writers

Never use a long word where a short one will do. – George Orwell

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
— Elmore Leonard

“Good writing should be grasped at once — in a second.”
— Anton Chekhov

“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

“Never use the words ‘suddenly’ or ‘all hell broke loose.’ Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.”
— Elmore Leonard

“If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”
— George Orwell

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story.”
— Anton Chekhov

“Start as close to the end as possible.”
— Kurt Vonnegut

“Use vigorous English.”
Kansas City Star style guide that Ernest Hemingway cited throughout his life.

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.” – Hemingway, to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934.

“When you can’t create you can work.”
— Henry Miller

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”
— Virginia Woolf

“Let your work stand before deciding whether or not to serve.”
— Andrew Motion, poet laureate of UK

“Develop craftsmanship through years of wide reading.”
— Annie Proulx

"Technique is something you use to make your ideas listenable." – Oscar Peterson

“A word after a word after a word is power.”
— Margaret Atwood

“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”
— Virginia Woolf

“A good story must be disturbing.”
— Mark Rubinstein

“If Hamlet comes home from school, and his dad asks him how school was, and Hamlet says, ‘It was fine, Dad,’ it’s boring.”
— David Mamet

“[Sometimes when I struggled to write I would think to myself] ‘All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.”
— Ernest Hemingway

“Write a sentence as clean as a bone.”
— James Baldwin

“Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition.”
— Jack Kerouac

“Writers use everything. We can’t help it. Whatever touches us touches our writing.” – Octavia E. Butler


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