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Writing Advice From The Experts - Part 2

Marlene is a published author who enjoys sharing tips that have helped her succeed in writing fiction, non fiction, and screenplays.

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Learn From the Best

Many books provide tips and guidance for publishing success and this series of articles takes you directly to a trusted source of wisdom – established authors. My hope with this compilation of writers is the experiences these notable writers have encountered will assist you in your writing objectives.

On Editing

Writers have a love relationship with words. For me, words are like my babies, and it isn’t easy to let some of them go. But, as you will see, the following authors have insightful wisdom to share about editing and letting go of words.

Thomas Jefferson

It is interesting that Thomas Jefferson, our third United States president, was the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence. He didn’t write many novels; however, that which he wrote was noteworthy. His only novel is titled Notes on the State of Virginia. He also wrote a manual titled A Manual of Parliamentary Practice, a guide to legislative proceedings.

Thomas Jefferson is famous for saying, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” But, when it comes to writing, Jefferson says:

“The most valuable of talents is never using two words when one will do.”

— Thomas Jefferson

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish essayist, poet, and writer of fiction and travel books. He is most famous for writing Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. About writing, Stevenson says,

“There is but one art, to omit!”

— Robert Louis Stevenson

As writers, we tend to write and write and write, and sometimes we write more than needs to be written. I think Thomas Jefferson and Robert Louis Stevenson are on the same page when writing less, and less is better.

William Strunk, Jr.

William Strunk, Jr. was a Cornell University, English professor. In 1918 he wrote, The Elements of Style, an American English style guide. I remember, in college, every student was required to get a copy of this book as a reference guide in English class. Strunk, Jr. also wrote Romeo and Juliet. Strunk has this advice for writers.

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

— William Strunk, Jr.

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard was a novelist and screenwriter. He wrote many western and crime novels, of which in 1961, The Western Writers of America chose his western novel Hombre as one of the best westerns of all time. He has won numerous awards such as the Edgar, National Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contributions, and the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award. His books are best-sellers. Twenty-six of them became popular films and television shows. To name a few, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jacky Brown, Hombre, and 3:10 to Yuma. I have seen and enjoyed all of these shows.

Leonard says this to writers:

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”

— Elmore Leonard

In other words, take out all of the boring minutiae and get to the point.

Mark Twain

I quoted Mark Twain in Part 1 of this series when, on writing well, he said, “Don’t say the old lady screamed -- bring her on and let her scream.” It wouldn’t hurt to quote him again when he says this about editing,

“As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”

— Mark Twain

Adjectives, as we know, are words that describe the qualities or states of being of a noun. So I think what Twain is saying is we should not go overboard with descriptions of people, places, and things.

On Writer's Block

Sometimes, writers will sit down and then suddenly discover they have seemingly lost the ability to pen a single word or thought. We writers know this as writer’s block. The following author shares a wise tip to help unlock the mind and unblock the words you need to get your book done.

H. G. Wells

Herbert George Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times. Although he has written numerous novels and short stories, Wells is famous for writing, The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and The War in the Air. Some of his lesser-known novels are War and Common Sense and Little Wars: A Game for Boys from Twelve Years of Age to One Hundred and Fifty and for that More Intelligent Sort of Girls Who Like Boys’ Games and Books.

Wells was a bit of a go-getter, and he gives writers this advice about writer’s block:

“If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it an hour when it isn’t expecting it.”

— H. G. Wells

I believe what Wells means by this quote is that writers should sit down, dive in, and write at no prearranged time instead of sitting and staring at a blank page.

On Motivation

Writing may be fun, but writing is not easy. We all need motivation, a muse to inspire us to write. The following authors have some inspirational tips to help awaken our writing spirit.

Robertson Davies

William Robertson Davies was a Canadian journalist, playwright, critic, novelist, and professor. He was the editor of such magazines as Saturday Night Magazine and Peterborough Examiner, ultimately serving as the publisher. Davies published 18 of his own books and produced many of his own plays. Davies sometimes wrote under the pen name of Samuel Marchbanks. As a journalist, he wrote articles for several journals in Canada. He owned several newspapers and taught literature at Trinity College.

Davies won many awards. Some of his awards are listed here.

  • In 1948, for Eros at Breakfast, he won the Dominion Drama Festival Award for best Canadian play.
  • In 1955, for Leaven of Malice, he won the Stephen Leacock Award or Humor.
  • In 1972, for The Manticore, he won the Governor-Generals Literary Award in the English language fiction category.

Davies says to writers:

“The most original thing a writer can do is write like himself. It is also the most difficult task.”

— Robertson Davies

As writers, we are often taught to find our voice and write in that voice.

Epictetus

Epictetus was a Greek philosopher who believed in what is called a Stoic way of life. In other words, he believed in mindful living. He wrote and talked about how we can control how we respond to situations and steer our lives toward positive or negative directions based on how we act. He is famous for writing The Enchiridion (a handbook).

It is no wonder Epictetus would offer this advice to writers:

“If you wish to be a writer, write.”

— Epictetus

Paul West

Paul Noden West is a novelist, poet, and essayist. His awards include the following:

  • In 1985 he won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for literature.
  • In 1993 he won the Lannan Prize for fiction
  • In 1993he won the Kaminsky Prize for best foreign book.

West has written over 50 fiction and non-fiction books.

He is quoted for offering this advice to writers:

“You write about the thing that sank its teeth into you and wouldn’t let go.”

— Paul West

On Humility

It sounds a little insensitive, but it is a reality that not all who write are writers in the sense of the definition of what a writer is.

Dictionary.com describes a writer as “A person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.”

In light of the definition of writer, the following author has an unsurprising bit of advice.

Wallace Stegner

Wallace Earle Stegner was a professor at the University of Wisconsin, then Harvard University, and finally at Stanford University, where he founded the creative writing program. Stegner wrote novels and short stories, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for Angle of Repose and the U.S. National Book Award in 1977 for The Spectator Bird.

In all, I counted over 20 awards that he has won for his works. I counted 43 books in both fiction and non-fiction books.

Stegner has this advice for writers:

“Young writers should be encouraged to write, and discouraged from thinking they are writers.”

— Wallace Stegner

It took me a long time to discern what Stegner might have meant by this quote. I think he means we should inspire those who have aspirations to write. At the same time, we should not have them believing they are writers, especially if they do not write well or if they have not produced a finished product, like a book, an article, or such.

Introducing Part 3 in the series Writing Advice From the Experts

I hope these quotes in Part 2 of this series provided tips that motivate you to continue to write. Overcome writer’s block, stay motivated, and stay humble as you strive to be the best writer you can be.

In the third and final part of this series, we will look at a few words of wisdom from authors on naming your work, learning from the success and failure of other writers, and the inner struggles authors often face.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Marlene Bertrand

Comments

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 23, 2021:

Thank you, Devika! You are very kind with your words of encouragement.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 23, 2021:

Hi, a very interesting hub on this title. Your follow up is useful and I am sure all writers will take heed to your well-informed tips.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 18, 2021:

MarleneB, you're welcome.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 18, 2021:

Miebakagh Fiberesima, you are such an encourager. Thank you very much.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 18, 2021:

MB, keep going high.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 18, 2021:

Hello Miebakagh Fiberesima! I do agree with you. They set the bar high. I hope one day to come close to their standards.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 18, 2021:

He Bill! I absolutely enjoy reading their work. The way their words flow is like listening to good music. It is very comforting as they took such pride in the craft of writing.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 18, 2021:

Thank you, John! I started reading the works of these old and notable writers. I enjoyed them so much I wanted to share.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 17, 2021:

The only real advice I take about writing is from the experts, and these wonderful writers know what they are talking about. Some of my all time favourites among those listed. Thank you for writing this series, Marlene. I love it.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 17, 2021:

I always enjoy reading the words of the masters. Thank you for sharing, my friend. I have spent many a wonderful night reading the words of those greats.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 17, 2021:

Without these old writers, we can't be here, or no where.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 16, 2021:

You are welcome Pamela Oglesby! I enjoy reading about writers of the past. Writing styles may have been different then, but the art of writing is the same and these "old-timers" have a lot to share that we could learn a lot from them.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 16, 2021:

Hello Misbah Sheikh! I am glad you enjoyed reading about these notable authors. They have taught me a lot about writing.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 16, 2021:

Hello Dora! I agree with you about H. G. Wells. He seems like he would be a great motivator.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 16, 2021:

Hello Miebakagh Fiberesima! I am so glad you like Part 1 and Part 2. I hope you enjoy Part 3 arriving soon.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 16, 2021:

Hello Chitrangada Sharan! Thank you for your encouragement.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 16, 2021:

Hello Marlene!

This is another excellent article in your series. I liked all the selected quotes. They are inspiring and motivating indeed, by all the celeberated authors.

Thank you for sharing!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 16, 2021:

Thanks. Both parts inspire my muse.

Dora Weithers on October 16, 2021:

Really informative and interesting. I learned much about the authors and from their advice. Will like to try that from H. G. Wells. Thank you.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Rebels. on October 16, 2021:

Such a great article and wonderful words of wisdom by true experts. I enjoyed reading your hub, Marlene. I especially liked the quotes by Wallace Stegner, Paul West, and Elmore Leonard.

This quote really touched my heart, "Young writers should be encouraged to write, and discouraged from thinking they are writers."

Thank you so much for sharing. Have a great day.

Blessings and Love to you!!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 16, 2021:

This is such an interesting article, Marlene, as you reviewed so historical writers from the past. I like the people you wrote about, as I love historical writers. Thank you for sharing all of this information.

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