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10 Fun Tips on Writing by Joyce Carol Oates

by Staff Writers | The Web Writer Spotlight: Aug 1, 2014

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"I've never given up. I've always kept going. I don't feel that I could afford to give up." ~ Joyce Carol Oates, born: June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York


Joyce Carol Oates, three time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize and recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, has published more than 100 books of fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry over the past 50 years. Her literary achievement and distinction has led some critics to label her (perhaps out of envy) as "a word machine."  

But, writing hasn’t always been easy even for someone as prolific and accomplished as Oates. In a National Book Award interview, Oates reveals she often has to force herself to write. “Each day is like an enormous rock that I'm trying to push up this hill. I get it up a fair distance, it rolls back a little bit, and I keep pushing it, hoping I'll get it to the top of the hill and that it will go on its own momentum,” she says.

If her writing experience sounds familiar, maybe you can glean some vital bits of insight on the craft from this literary stateswoman’s earnest, yet entertaining ‘10 Writing Tips.’ Oates shared the tips on her Twitter account to inspire writers. Some of the tips are elementary or abstract like Tip No. 1, while others offer specific writing guidance like Tip No. 6. Enjoy!




  1. Write your heart out.
  2. The first sentence can be written only after the last sentence has been written. FIRST DRAFTS ARE HELL. FINAL DRAFTS, PARADISE.
  3. You are writing for your contemporaries not for Posterity. If you are lucky, your contemporaries will become Posterity.
  4. Keep in mind Oscar Wilde: A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
  5. When in doubt how to end a chapter, bring in a man with a gun. (This is Raymond Chandler's advice, not mine. I would not try this.)
  6. Unless you are experimenting with form gnarled, snarled, & obscure be alert for possibilities of paragraphing.
  7. Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!
  8. Don't try to anticipate an ideal reader or any reader. He/she might exist but is reading someone else.
  9. Read, observe, listen intensely! as if your life depended upon it.
  10. Write your heart out.

What would you add to the list?

-- Originally tweeted by Joyce Carol Oates.

Image credit: shawncalhoun via flickr

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