All writers have their favorite thinkers and authors whose voices they trust for writing tips and advice. This is a must because writers are readers. I enjoy reading. And, my library is full of my absolute favorite authors.
Some of the writers I love are known for their classic works. Others are contemporary, but give lots of credit and honor to the traditions of those who’ve paved the way for us.
I’ve taken up lots of space today listening to my Jill Scott playlist, researched many of my favorite writers and came up with a top 10 list of their quotes.
These are writing tips I live by. Their experience helps my daily writing practice and keeps me intentionally implementing their advice.
Top 10 Writing Tips From Leading Accomplished Writers
Zane, Erotica Fiction Writer
“Writers need to stay centered on whatever they are trying to do. If they truly believe they’re walking in their gift, then they should feel that that’s their responsibility and their purpose in life… keep it extremely real.”
Toni Morrison, American Novelist
“What I feel most is that because I am open and available, the universe—the idea—comes to me. It feels a little like being called. I felt it very strongly with Song of Solomon…It’s that being open—not scratching for it, not digging for it, not constructing something but being open to the situation and trusting that what you don’t know will be available to you. It is bigger than your overt consciousness or your intelligence or even your gifts; it is out there somewhere and you have to let it in.”
James McBride, American Writer –Memoirs
“I’m writing in the van as we drive. These guys are playing music and watching television. It doesn’t bother me that much. I put headphones on and tune it out and go to work. I’m not one of these people who needs birds tweeting and beautiful lakes. Being a fiction writer means you have to see the world clearly enough that you can view it from everyone’s point of view without having to write a report about it. You can’t become a good writer unless you have the ability to see that everybody is seeking to ease his or her pain, and everyone’s pain is relative. Blondes don’t really have more fun. There’s always someone who’s going to be bigger or faster or stronger or a better writer or singer or architect than you are. But accepting you where you are is one of the things that fiction helps you do.”
Amy Tan, Chinese American Novelist
“I map out some of it, through the journals. I like doing it with journals, because I can jot down ideas quickly, and then write in the margins arrows that will connect one thing to the other. There are notes I often write at night in bed, or on an airplane—wherever I have time. I think about the novel every single night, before I go to bed, and try to work some aspect out. Usually the beginning and the voice. I sketch out a very very basic outline, a couple of paragraphs. Then I add little funny details—well, not funny, but some specifics that I know I want to include as part of the character. It could be a small attribute or an event. When I finally sit down and write, it is done entirely on computer.”
bell hooks, American Author
“Writing is my passion. Words are the way to know ecstasy. Without them life is barren. The poet insists, language is a body of suffering and when you take up language you take up the suffering too. All my life I have been suffering for words. Words have been the source of the pain and the way to heal. Struck as a child for talking, for speaking out of turn, for being out of my place. Struck as a grown woman for not knowing when to shut up, for not being willing to sacrifice words for desire. Struck by writing a book that disrupts. There are many ways to be hit. Pain is the price we pay to speak the truth.”
Maxine Hong Kingston, Chinese American Author
“The whole process of editing is difficult. But, again with my ideal that all of us can write beautifully and that we can process trauma into art—that we can make a piece of beautiful art and that we can transform a war experience into a wonderful war story—with that idea…The way it works is that people have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. Constantly, I am editing and shaping.”
Alice Walker, American Author & Short Story Writer
“Well, I think they’re being led by someone else, someone else’s idea of what they should be in their writing life and, therefore, in their total life. I would not be able to accept that. I feel that I need to write what comes to me, as this particular person—and if I am patient enough, and if I meditate enough, and if I take enough long walks, and if I just do nothing but basically stay open, that the genre actually will form itself to suit whatever the subject is that arrives. So I would want writers to consider that just as they wouldn’t get dressed and wear only a hat [laughs]”
Rebecca Walker, American Writer
“I think I’m at the end of writing about family. I’ve resolved a lot and am ready to move on. I believe in the power of words, but I also have been around writers who are over-identified with their creations and that can be a trap. I’m not defined by my writer’s persona or by print per se. I am bigger than the Word. Language itself is limiting. What I’d like to do is author my own life outside of other narratives, rebirth language in my own way to avoid its limitations. I really write to connect to readers for whom my work has meaning. I’m always reaching for new heights, but I fundamentally write to reveal, connect and affirm. I’m inspired by writing on the Web, on its orientation toward relationships and transparency—audiences either believe you or they don’t, they affiliate with you synergistically or they ignore you.”
Patrick Rosal, Filipino American Poet
“The only difference between me and somebody who is not a poet is my heightened attention. I might notice something other folks don’t, and I try to remember that. I might jot it down or go home and write it. That becomes the raw material for the poems, and when I get a little bit of extra time I can sit down and look at all the little observations I’ve gathered and see if there’s a story, song or rhythm inside them. Then I go to work and revise and revise and revise until something surprises me. Sometimes I write things that terrify or excite me – that’s when I know I’m on to something.”
Nikki Giovanni, American Poet & Writer
“…as writers, you trust your own voice. A lot of people write and think, ‘The public will like this,’ or, ‘This will be important,’ but you are your first reader. The first person that has to be impressed with what you’re writing is you. You always have to remember that.”