Some writing advice from the pros…

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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 blog post containing writing advice from the pros…

I’m generally a bit skeptical of taking advice from “successful” authors. Yes, their techniques work for them, but the far more important question is: will they work for me?

For this reason, I’m not interested in the time of day at which they write (I already know I’m a morning person), nor do I care which software program they use or how they store their notes. I limit my interest to specific techniques relating to editing.

A recent blog post on the site Ebook friendly, recently rounded up 15 pieces of stellar advice from 15 exceptionally well known writers.

I found almost all of the writing advice from the pros to be both interesting and useful. Let me highlight four of the tips here:

C.S. Lewis: “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

Janet Fitch: (author of White Oleander) “Most people use twenty verbs to describe everything from a run in their stocking to the explosion of an atomic bomb… Pick a better verb. Challenge all those verbs to really lift some weight for you.” Here’s an example: Don’t say walk when you could say saunter.

George Orwell: “By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.”

And, finally, the best tip of all from the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, Octavia E. Butler:

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not… Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

I give exactly the same advice to participants in my Get It Done writing group.

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