Who better to help sharpen your writing skills than those who have already had some success in that area? Here is a small collection of pithy advice to help you bring your own work up to the next level.
1. “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” — Anton Chekhov
I love this quote because it’s so rewarding when its advice is followed correctly. Don’t place significance on items/ideas that don’t contribute to the story. Also, if you can find ways to foreshadow major moments with wall hangings earlier in your story, it makes them that much more satisfying because your audience has been waiting for them to happen (whether they realize it or not).
2. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” — Robert Frost
Now, I don’t believe Frost is saying you actually need to make people cry, but you should make them care. If you aren’t emotionally invested in your writing, how can you expect anyone else to be? And regardless of how strictly you outline, there should always be room for your story to take on a life of its own. Don’t be afraid to explore those unexpected ideas that come along as you write.
3. “Write drunk, edit sober.” — Ernest Hemingway
I don’t think Hemingway meant this literally, but from what I’ve read on him, it is possible. Metaphorically speaking, his advice is pretty good. Writing and editing require different mindsets and should be done separately. If you self-edit as you write you’ll hardly get anything down on paper.
4. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” — Anton Chekhov
Chekhov again! Much as it wearied me to study him in college, the guy knew what he was doing. This quote is an excellent example of the “show don’t tell” principle, and less likely to annoy you the twentieth time you repeat it to yourself.
5. “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck.” — Ernest Hemingway
This can be hard advice to follow, but I can say from experience that it does work. It’s a lot easier to get back into a groove when you can pick up where you left off as opposed to having to find your way back in.
6. “The best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event.” — Stephen King
A good plot will get people’s attention, but it is good characters that will make them care enough to stick around. Make your characters memorable, but most importantly, make them real.