The habits of famous writers

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a New York Times piece on the habits of famous writers….

If you like emulating the habits of famous, successful writers, the New York Times has some advice for you.

In a Tina Jordan piece headlined, “Some Dos and Don’ts From Famous Writers,” John Grisham will tell you to avoid a prologue. (“They’re gimmicks,” he says). [The late] William Faulkner will tell you to be a voracious reader. Roddy Doyle will tell you not to put a famous author’s photograph on your desk.

What I found most useful and interesting, however was some advice from J.K. Rowling (pictured above). I explored a link in the story to some tips she had posted on her own website. Her writing ideas include the necessary — if somewhat predictable — concepts of reading, discipline and resilience. But I particularly appreciated her mention of a website called Writer Beware.

Founded in 1998, the website provides warnings about literary schemes and scams, along with information about how writers can protect themselves. For example, a recent blog post focused on a Harper’s Bazaar story competition that required all entrants (not just the winner) to surrender their copyright for stories entered, which would mean the writers would never be able to sell or publish their story anywhere else. (Interestingly, this demand was ultimately withdrawn, perhaps as a result of the negative publicity from sites such as Writer Beware.)