Skip to content

Hot Tips!


Hot Tip # 1 – Read!

Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.   – William Faulkner

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.   – Hart Crane.

William Faulkner







Hot Tip # 2 – Write what you know

Write what you know.   – Mark Twain

Don’t write what you know—what you know may bore you, and thus bore your readers. Write about what interests you—and interests you deeply—and your readers will catch fire at your words.   – Valerie Sherwood

Creative writing teachers should be purged until every last instructor who has uttered the words “Write what you know” is confined to a labor camp. Please, talented scribblers, write what you don’t. The blind guy with the funny little harp who composed The Iliad , how much combat do you think he saw?   – P. J. O’Rourke

Write what you know.   – Mark Twain


Hot Tip # 3 – Show don’t tell

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.   – Anton Chekhov


Hot Tip # 4 – Trust your readers

Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.   – Lubitsch

The first page of every novel should be: ‘Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human.’   – Michael Ondaatje


Hot Tip # 5 – Don’t polish the cannonball – make your mistakes quickly

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow, or with taper-light to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, is wasteful and ridiculous excess.   – William Shakespeare – “King John”

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.   – George Patton


Hot Tip # 6 – Kill your darlings

In writing, you must kill all your darlings.   William Faulkner


Hot Tip # 7 – Take your writing seriously

As the outside world grows less dependable, I keep buttressing my inside world, where people go on meaning well and surprising other people with little touches of grace. There are days when I sink into my novel like a pool and emerge feeling blank and bemused and used up. Then I drift over to the schoolyard and there’s this mother wondering if I’m doing anything halfway useful yet. Am I working? Have I found a job? No, I tell her. I’m still just writing.   – Anne Tyler

Over the years, I’ve found one rule … If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write. The point is that you have to maintain trustworthy relations.   – Norman Mailer, “The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing.”


Hot Tip # 8 – Have faith

In my experience, the angel does, almost always, come. If I keep faith. On some days, keeping faith means simply staying there, when more than anything else I want to get out of that room. It sometimes means going up without hope and without energy and turning on my computer. And, at the end of two or three hours, and without hope and without energy, I find that I have indeed written some sentences that wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t gone up to write them. And – what is even more surprising – these sentences written without hope or energy often turn out to be just as good as the ones I wrote with hope and energy.   – Gail Godwin, “Rituals and Readiness”, in National Book Awards: The Writing Life

Therefore, be brave. Everyone has gone through the loss of faith in the material. Sometimes the novel dies beneath you like a horse, and when it begins to really smell, bury it. But not until it’s really putrid do you bury it.    – Thomas Keneally in “Writers on Writing,” ed. James Roberts, Barry Mitchell, Roger Zubrinich, Penguin.

Everything stinks till it’s finished.   – Dr. Seuss


Hot Tip # 9 – Write!

Don’t be ‘a writer’. Be writing.   William Faulkner

The Art of Writing is the Art of Applying the Seat of the Pants to the Seat of the Chair.   – Mary Heaton Vorse (1874-1966)

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.   – E.B. White


Hot Tip # 10 – Stick at it

All good writing is swimming underwater, holding your breath   – F. Scott Fitzgerald

I am constantly meeting ladies who say, ‘how lovely it must be to write’, as though one sat down at the escritoire after breakfast, and it poured out like a succession of bread and butter letters, instead of being dragged out, by tongs, a bloody mess, in the small hours.   – Patrick White

Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank piece of paper until a drop of blood forms on your forehead.   – Douglas Adams

And here I sit, like a weevil in a biscuit.   – Virginia Woolf

I sometimes ask myself whether I enjoy writing. The answer is yes, but a qualified yes. I only enjoy it when it’s going well. Starting a new book is always hard work, and work that moreover for months feels pointless (why bother? why not do something else?) or ill-directed (why this subject? why not something more global, more domestic, less domestic?): I walk around, looking for plot, structure, characters, images, trying not to repeat or imitate or listen too much to the wrong voices. This is a dreary time, comfortless, irritable, unsatisfying. When the book begins to move, everything changes, and everything I see or hear or read seems to be part of, to contribute to the new pattern. This is exciting. It’s the only time when I forget time. Past the half way mark, a novel almost writes itself. Events beget events, characters insist on seeing one another again, and I just sit and transcribe. I get quite cheerful and communicative. A strange process …   – Margaret Drabble

If you ever read one of my books I hope you’ll think it looks so easy. In fact, I wrote those chapters 20 times over, and over, and over, and that if you want to write at a good level, you’ll have to do that too. – Peter Carey

Don’t let’s pity ourselves. We are the privileged. Our minds are lit by gas. There are so many people shivering in attics without even candles.   – Gustave Flaubert


Bonus Hot Tip!

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.   – William Somerset Maugham



2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Margarita #

    Can you tel me the source of Margaret Drabble’s quote, please?

    November 19, 2012
    • Hello Margarita,
      I came across the quote on the website of the Varuna Writers’ Centre Alumni Page.
      Cheers Nicole

      November 19, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: