From Dan Brown to Ian Rankin: Here Are 10 Great Writing Tips From Best-Selling Authors


When you’re struggling with a story or trying to get used to the discipline of writing, it helps to share notes and learn from those who have been there and have done it. So whether you’re a skilled writer with a creativity shortage or a newbie wondering where to start, these solid writing tips from successful storytellers will show you the way:

Clarity is the key

Clarity is important to me. I forget who said “Prose should be as clear as windowpane.” I’m very into this school, and it’s the kind of fiction that I love to read. The kind of writing I like to read is clear writing.

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Facebook)

Inspiration can be simple

Now, it usually starts with a picture: a patient in a bed talking to a nurse, maybe, or a boy walking in a field eating a stalk of celery, something as simple as that. Then I have a period, and I have this picture, and that’s how my books begin. I don’t have that big plot scheme or any sort of idea for a novel at the start. I kind of investigate this little keyhole in a picture and then the book follows.

– Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje (Facebook)
Michael Ondaatje (Facebook)

You are the audience

Write a book that you would like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anyone else? Do not write for an audience or a perceived market. It may well be gone by the time your book is ready.

– Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel (Man Booker Prize website)
Hilary Mantel (Man Booker Prize website)

Solid research is a must

Solid research allows for authentic description, that is, writing filled with detail. Examples of “specifics” might include the exact flora or fauna of a given environment, the precise jargon of a technician, or something as simple as the step-by-step method of cooking a regional recipe. Including details will increase the credibility, depth and appeal of your writing. Plus, the research process often unveils dramatic options that take your plot in directions you (and your readers) didn’t expect.

– Dan Brown

Dan Brown (AP file)
Dan Brown (AP file)

Feet on the ground

Don’t romanticize your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no such thing as a “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

– Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith (Dominique Nabokov)
Zadie Smith (Dominique Nabokov)

Write like yourself

“You can’t imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what the writer does. You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile, in other words. People who decide to make their fortune by writing like John Grisham or Tom Clancy produce only pale imitations, on the whole, as the vocabulary is not the same as the feeling and the plot is light years away. of the truth as understood by the mind and the heart. “

– Stephen King

Stephen king
Stephen king

Your characters are always real to you

There is no singular experience of a place, a time, an event, a genre. Think about how your characters experience what is happening to them rather than trying to write the definitive account of any experience.

– Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie (Facebook)
Kamila Shamsie (Facebook)

Write daily

The trick is to make writing a daily habit. The same time. Same place. Same hot drink of your choice. All. Alone. Day. Again. And. Again.

– James Patterson

James Patterson (Twitter)
James Patterson (Twitter)

Disconnect while writing

“Sometimes I have to get away from social media for a while. I love social media and I love to talk about books on Twitter, but sometimes it can take over. I had to force myself to quit social media after last year’s referendum vote because it was too distracting.

– Paula Hawkins

Perseverance and thick skin

Be confident in your abilities, and the confidence that you have a story worth telling. But be open to advice and criticism. It takes persistence and thick skin, and it also takes a little luck. I had been published for over 10 years before I got there.
– Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin (Facebook)
Ian Rankin (Facebook)

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