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Janey Burton

PUBLISHING CONSULTANT

Editor & Contracts Negotiator

This is my last post of 2020, and what a long and difficult year it has been. To finish the year on a high note, I’ve collected my favourite pieces of writing advice from great writers:

Read, and Write

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” Stephen King

“The only way anybody ever learns to write well is by trying to write well. This usually begins by reading good writing by other people, and writing very badly by yourself, for a long time.” Ursula K. Le Guin

“Read, read, read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” William Faulkner

“Looking back I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.” Katherine Mansfield

Focus

“Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.” Zadie Smith

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.” Stephen King

Have an attitude

“The most helpful quality a writer can cultivate is self-confidence – arrogance, if you can manage it. You write to impose yourself on the world, and you have to believe in your own ability when the world shows no sign of agreeing with you.” Hilary Mantel

Expect it to be hard

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” George Orwell

Do what works for you

“Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously” Lev Grossman

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” W. Somerset Maugham

And, lastly, on the importance of editors

“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