A lot of people think they can write or paint or draw or sing or make movies or what-have-you, but having an artistic temperament doth not make one an artist.
Even the great writers of our time have tried and failed and failed some more. Vladimir Nabokov received a harsh rejection letter from Knopf upon submitting Lolita, which would later go on to sell fifty million copies. Sylvia Plath’s first rejection letter for The Bell Jar read, “There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.” Gertrude Stein received a cruel rejection letter that mocked her style. Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way earned him a sprawling rejection letter regarding the reasons he should simply give up writing all together. Tim Burton’s first illustrated book, The Giant Zlig, got the thumbs down from Walt Disney Productions, and even Jack Kerouac’s perennial On the Road received a particularly blunt rejection letter that simply read, “I don’t dig this one at all.”
So even if you’re an utterly fantastic writer who will be remembered for decades forthcoming, you’ll still most likely receive a large dollop of criticism, rejection, and perhaps even mockery before you get there. Having been through it all these great writers offer some writing tips without pulling punches. After all, if a publishing house is going to tear into your manuscript you might as well be prepared.
1. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass. -David Ogilvy
2. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker
3. Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. -Paul Theroux
4. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee
5. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London
6. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham
7. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King
8. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
9. If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser
10. Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut
11. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. – Ernest Hemingway
12. Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. – Joshua Wolf Shenk
13. Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. ― Neil Gaiman
14. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde
15. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman
Neil Gaiman has become so popular he is often considered the rock star of the literary world. He trades mostly in science fiction and fantasy in a variety of formsnovels, childrens books, graphic novels, comic books, and film. Among his trend-setting works: Coraline, The Graveyard Book and The Sandman series. He takes readers, of all ages, to the very edge of imagination.
8 Good Writing Practices
· Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
· Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
· Put it aside. Read it pretending youve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
· Remember: when people tell you somethings wrong or doesnt work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
· Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
· Laugh at your own jokes.
· The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, youre allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But its definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
From an article in The Guardian