15 Timeless Pieces of Advice and Inspiration About Writing
Stephen King writing from his home office in the 1980's.
Whether you are an aspiring or seasoned fiction writer, non-fiction writer, blogger or entrepreneur, you stand to benefit from the best advice, tips, and tricks about the writing craft from some of history’s most accomplished and successful writers.
We highlight 15 of our all-time favorite writers who offer enduring advice on how to write better.
If you are looking to improve your writing, check out the quotes below and heed the advice.
Timeless Writing Quotes and Inspiration
These timeless quotes from top writers present practical advice on how to write better fiction and nonfiction, secrets for getting published, inspiration to stay motivated, and more.
Delve in and be inspired!
“A writer should say to himself, not, How can I get more money?, but How can I reach more readers (without lowering standards)?”
—Brian Aldiss, English Writer born August 18, 1925
“If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that’s read by persons who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves.”
—Don Marquis, American Poet, humorist, journalist and author (1878-1937)
“Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style.”
—Matthew Arnold, British poet and cultural critic (1822 –1888)
“In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigour it will give your style.”
—Sydney Smith in "A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith," 1855
“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
—Thomas Jefferson, American Founding Father and principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1743-1826)
“Use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English–it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.”
—Mark Twain, American author and humorist in a letter to D. W. Bowser, March 1880
“Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.”
—Leslie Gordon Barnard, Canadian short story writer, May 1923
“Make your novel readable. Make it easy to read, pleasant to read. This doesn’t mean flowery passages, ambitious flights of pyrotechnic verbiage; it means strong, simple, natural sentences.”
—Laurence D’Orsay, American author and literary critic, October 1929
“Loving your subject, you will write about it with the spontaneity and enthusiasm that will transmit itself to your reader. Loving your reader, you will respect him and want to please him. You will not write down to him. You will take infinite pains with your work. You will write well. And if you write well, you will get published.”
—Lee Wyndham, author, November 1962
“If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh, yeah!’ But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!”
—Fred East, June 1944
“He who wants to know whether he has written what he wishes to say, and as he ought to say it, let him read it aloud to himself. Even his own voice will seem as apart from him as that of an auditor. Or let him do as the shrewd Moliere did, read his composition to his cook, if no one else is at hand–read it to anyone who will listen–and the reader will at once become sensible of redundancies, omissions, irrelevancies, and incongruities, of which his own wit will never make him sensible. Even stupidity as an auditor will improve style.”
—George Jacob Holyoake, "Public Speaking and Debate: A Manual for Advocates and Agitators," 2nd. ed., 1896
‘When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.’
—Stephen King, “The Horror Writer Market and the Ten Bears,” November 1973
“The swiftly done work of the journalist, and the cheap finish and ready-made methods to which it leads, you must try to counteract in private by writing with the most considerate slowness and on the most ambitious models. And when I say "writing"–O believe me, it is rewritting that I have chiefly in mind.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson, letter to Richard Harding Davis, 1889
“I always began my task by reading the work of the day before, an operation which would take me half an hour, and which consisted chiefly in weighing with my ear the sound of the words and phrases. I would strongly recommend this practice to all tyros in writing. . . . By reading what he has last written, just before he recommences his task, the writer will catch the tone and spirit of what he is then saying, and will avoid the fault of seeming to be unlike himself.”
—Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography, 1883
“Once we discover how to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life.”
— Harry Pepner, as quoted in "Chicken Soup for the Soul : Stories for a Better World" (2005) by Jack Canfield