Every wanna-be writer has a literary icon they look up to. Someone who’s writing style, creativity, and ingenious ideas they’d love to emulate. We look at authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King and wonder how they ever managed to pull it off and get published. So who better to turn to for advice on how to get published than the authors themselves? Check out these tips on writing from your favourite authors!
Stephen King adamantly believes that when you sit down to write you should do just that and only that, write. Don’t look at references, dictionaries, thesaurus, don’t google names or places. Don’t Edit. Correct and rewrite later. His reasoning?: “Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere?”
Knowing how to evaluate criticism is key as an author. Accepting criticism and learning and growing from it isn’t the easiest thing to do. But feedback makes you a better writer and makes your story that much stronger. Stephen emphasises that it doesn’t matter how keen you were for a particular facet of your story if many of your beta readers are telling you it isn’t working you should consider changing it.
It’s dialogue that gives your characters their voices
Stephen King labels talk as “sneaky” because it’s what gives your characters definition and personality. How a person talks, what they talk about, and their mannerism when speaking are all facets that inform how readers imagine your cast.
“Well-crafted dialogue will indicate if a character is smart or dumb, honest or dishonest, amusing or an old sobersides”
You can’t wait around for inspiration to strike. You need to be ready to write regardless. Stephen King describes this perfectly in his memoir.
“Don’t wait for the muse. Your Job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ‘till noon. …If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up”.
Write the best books you possibly can, Nora Roberts says. Your focus shouldn’t be on how many books you can sell, or what books you might be writing in five or ten years time. Pay attention to what you’re writing today and make sure it’s your best writing to-date. Don’t aim for one-hit-wonders either, write something lasting and engage your readers in a series that they will always want more of.
This is a job, treat it like one
You shouldn’t need to justify spending time on your writing. If you’re aiming for a real writing career you have to treat it like any other career. Prioritise it. Nora Roberts summarises it by saying, “you can’t find the time to write – you make time”
Simply put, this means Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. Nora Roberts has a massively prolific portfolio of books, so she knows her stuff. She suggests writing like it’s your job, not just a hobby if you want to make progress and produce a sizable body of work that makes a career.
“Get in front of the computer and create words every single day of your life”.
Find your perfect writing place
For JK Rowling her perfect writing place has had to change over the years. It used to be a cafe, the best were the ones where you could blend into the crowd without having to share a table with someone else. These days she needs someplace a little more private:
“My writing room is probably my favourite place in the world. It’s in the garden, about a minute’s walk from the house. There’s a central room where I work, a kettle, a sink and a cupboard-sized bathroom“.
Accept setbacks and be persistent
It’s well-known that JK Rowling faced rejection after rejection before Harry Potter was finally accepted for publication. She is the perfect example of accepting setbacks and persisting regardless. She has spoken publicly about the inevitability of failure a few times, and it’s always powerful advice.
“Perseverance is absolutely essential, not just to produce all those words, but to survive rejection and criticism”.
Protect your writing days
JK Rowling knows the key to writing is to write as much and as often as you can. She was known to run to nearby cafes to cram in writing while her baby daughter slept in her pram. As such, it’s no surprise how she emphasises the need to protect writing days.
“I must, therefore, guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg”.
John Green is an advocate for traditional publishing. He believes in the support from and collaboration with editors, agents, and publishing house staff from copy editors, warehouse employees, and so many more. Whether or not you’re considering traditional or self-publishing having support is key to being a successful writer.
“I’m in the book business, the idea-sharing, consciousness-expanding, storytelling business”.
Tell your stories to your friends
John Green says to tell your stories to your friends and pay attention when they get bored. This helps him understand the best pacing for his stories and what audiences find engaging. It’s also key to listen to criticism from them. Usually, if they find a weakness in your story (even if it isn’t quite the right one and even if they can’t offer quite the right solution) it gives you a sense of when something in your story is off.
“If you’re going to ask for readers’ time, after all, the story you write has to be a gift for you and for them”.
Sometimes, even as a successful author, you won’t feel up to the task of writing says John Green. He, just like any author published or not, gets mad at himself for writing poorly, or worries he won’t finish another book, or feels like his at his talents edge. John Green even says he’s usually pretty disappointed when he hands in the final revision of his book. His way of coping is giving himself permission to suck.
“I delete about 90% of my first drafts so it doesn’t really matter much if on a particular day I write beautiful and brilliant prose that will stick in the minds of my readers forever, because there’s a 90% chance I’m just gonna delete whatever I write anyway. I find this hugely liberating.
Across the Board Tips from Well-Known Authors
While all of these authors have various pieces of advice to give out to anyone who aspires to become an author, there were a few tips they had in common. The biggest two – schedule your writing time (and stick to it) and read. Read widely, read as much as you can, read books from people who inspire you, read books in your genre. Read, read, read!