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Advice for Writers: 15 Cheeky Quotes

Last updated on March 12, 2024

Here are fifteen of my favorite bits of advice for writers, from a collection of writers I admire. You’ll note there’s not a single bit of guidance on grammar. “Conan not do grammar!”

  1. “Ignore all proffered rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.” ~Michael Moorcock 
  2. “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” ~Kurt Vonnegut
  3. “If you have to read, to cheer yourself up read biographies of writers who went insane.” ~Colm Tóibín
  4. “Do not place a photograph of your favorite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.” ~Roddy Doyle
  5. “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.” ~Oscar Wilde
  6. “Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.” ~Geoff Dyer
  7. “Stop reading fiction – it’s all lies anyway, and it doesn’t have anything to tell you that you don’t know already (assuming, that is, you’ve read a great deal of fiction in the past; if you haven’t you have no business whatsoever being a writer of fiction).” ~Will Self*
  8.  “Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.
    “You can also do all that with whiskey.” ~Anne Enright
  9. “Start as close to the end as possible.” ~Kurt Vonnegut
  10.  “Try to think of others? good luck as encouragement to yourself.” ~Richard Ford
  11. “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” ~Jonathan Franzen
  12. “You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.” ~Will Self
  13. “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.” ~Elmore Leonard
  14. “To write is human, to edit is divine.” ~Stephen King
  15. “A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.” ~Dorothy L. Sayers**

* This only applies to writers of fiction, and only after they’ve read voraciously as children, teens and adults! Everyone else must read novels!

** There’s some debate about this, but the germ of the quote does seem to come from her book, Gaudy Night.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels


cover art of The Fridgularity and Marvellous Hairy, both by Mark A. Rayner

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