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What is your favorite advice on writing?

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Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 12:25 pm


In my Mass Comm class at Delta College, we discuss the tectonic shifts driven by social media. We explore the struggles of legacy media and the green sprouts of digital communications.

But we also discuss the beauty of a simple sentence.

We talk about why writers should show, not just tell.

My current class includes several aspiring, talented writers. We recently gathered for a writer's session, with everyone contributing something for collective discussion.

Among the submissions was a list of quotes gleaned from an excellent website,

I thought it would be worth sharing:

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

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. ~ E.L. Doctorow

Write with the complete palette of emotions. ~ Cindy Lambert

Write your first draft with your heart. Rewrite with your head. ~ Mike Rich

The difference between the almost right word and the right work is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. ~ Mark Twain

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~ Elmore Leonard

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. ~ C.S. Lewis

First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him. ~ Ray Bradbury

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material…..John Steinbeck

When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand. ~ Raymond Chandler

The objective of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story …to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all. Stephen King

Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. ~ Barbara Kingsolver

 Fiction does not spring into the world fully grown, like Athena. It is the process of writing and rewriting that makes a fiction original, if not profound. ~ John Gardner

It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does. ~ William Faulkner

Writing a novel is like heading out over the open sea in a small boat. It helps if you have a plan and a course laid out. ~ John Gardner

Suit the action to the word, the word to the action. ~ William Shakespeare

I'm always on the prowl for advice on writing. Do you have a favorite tip or quote? Please send it along to

Many thanks,