Writing Lessons From Famous Writers

By on December 25, 2015
Writing Lessons From Famous Writers - Writer's Life.org

Writing is a skill. It takes practice, effort and commitment. Struggling with plot, characters, descriptions and dialogue are common complaints from writers trying to get their ideas down on paper.

Finding the time, and having the focus and discipline to write a story is another difficulty many writers have to face, and don’t get us started on that troublesome inner critic that squashes your confidence and tells you you are not good enough and should simply pack it all in.

Luckily there are many tried and tested ways to combat all of the above and if you are willing to put the effort in, no matter how challenging writing can be, you can do it, and get that story out of you and into a work you can be proud of. One of the best sources of comfort, advice and inspiration are, yes, you guessed it, other writers! We can find solace in the knowledge that we are not alone, and that even some of the most celebrated authors in the world have had to overcome disappointment, self doubt and frustration in order to get to where they are now.

So if you are feeling despairing about your writing, don’t put down that pen just yet! Turn to the greats for some fantastic tips and advice that will have you feeling motivated and confident in no time.

Rejection should only make you stronger

Rejection happens to all of us, and some of the best, most famous, and richest writers in the world suffered years of rejection before they were acknowledged. Every writer in history has suffered rejection of some sort at some point in their career. If you don’t believe us head to Jack London State Historic Park, to look at the 600 rejection letters he received during his career. Look at J.K. Rowling who, according to the author herself, had her now world-famous book rejected ‘loads’ of times before someone finally saw its promise. Agatha Christie struggled on for 5 years before she was finally published, imagine if she had given up? A world without Miss Marple does not bear thinking about.

The point is while rejection can be crushing, try to brush it off, and look to the greats, they experienced it and persevered. Just keep writing, you never know when a publishing deal might be right around the corner.

Create your own writing world

Every writer needs a space that works for them, a quiet place they can retreat to to allow their creative juices to flow. Many famous writers recognized the importance of this, and made sure they found a perfect writing spot that was just for them. Emily Dickinson for example was well-known for retreating to her house in Amherst. This was her sunny sanctuary, surrounded by woodlands, and was the perfect safe, serene place for her to do her best work.

We are not saying that in order to write you need to buy a delightful country mansion somewhere, however wherever you live try to find a quiet spot away from the humdrum of every day life and make this a place where you write. A calm, quiet environment usually works best, and somewhere where you won’t get distracted by anything or anyone else. 

Make the world your inspiration

The best writers draw form their own experiences, and view the world in a very special way. As Judy Blume famously said ‘a good writer is always a people watcher’. By getting out there and being inspired by everything that surrounds us we can suddenly find that first bubble of a story brewing. Sometimes all it takes is a good walk in the open air to see things clearly. Many famous writers use real-life experiences in their work. A trip to Monterey, Calif in 1879 clearly influenced Robert Louis Stevenson’s vivd descriptions in Treasure Island. Beatrix Potter created her series of children's books with animals as the protagonists due to her love of nature and her life on Hill Top Farm.

Writers can be inspired by the smallest things, and see beauty and magic  in the most ordinary of occurrences, so make sure you keep your eyes open and wits about you at all times - you never know what might inspire you to write an incredible story.

Use your emotions to influence your work

As human beings we undergo a wealth of different emotions almost every single day. The best writers draw on these and use them in their work. As J.R.R.Tolkien said ”Courage is found in unlikely places.”

Writing is a powerful tool, so when you experience something extreme channel it into your writing and the authenticity of emotion is bound shine through and resonate with your reader.

Show your reader, don’t tell them

One of the most common writing mistakes is the overuse of adverbs. Good writing is about trusting the reader and writing in such a way that they understand what you are trying to convey, and react the way you want them to, without you having to explicitly tell them. As the amazing C.S. Lewis said: "Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was 'terrible,' describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was 'delightful'; make us say 'delightful' when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, 'Please, will you do my job for me?'"

Learning from our contemporaries is a fantastic way of improving ourselves, and the greatest writers in history are certainly worth listening to. Next time you feel your confidence wavering, or writers block knocking at your door, why not turn to some of the most famous writers for comfort and advice? Hopefully with their help, you can achieve great things too.

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