10 Great writing tips from great writers (+10 terrible ones)

10 Great writing tips from great writers (+10 terrible ones)

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Every writer has their own take on exactly what is needed to write a damn good book. Well, we’re here to either prove or debunk (in our opinion) some wiring tips to help you become the best author you can be.

In this video, we’ll be looking at great writing tips. Everything from sitting down to just write, through to getting into your first draft and is show don’t tell really a thing? Amazing tips from amazing authors, the likes of Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, and more besides.

Plus, we’ll be highlighting some writing tips that we just don’t think are that worthwhile listening to. Yes, just because someone is a great, well respected author, doesn’t mean to have to listen to them! Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury and even Maya Angelou (sorry!) we’re coming for you.

All in all, it’s your choice whose advice you decide to listen to, but watch this video to get Harry’s opinion on what exactly you should and shouldn’t be listening to.

And a reminder – you can get all the slides from all our YouTube videos by going here:

hi the Internet is absolutely full of tips from famous writers you know what some of those really great really helpful and some of them are just stupid so we're gonna look at what I think are ten really great writing tips that you can take away make your book better straight away but we're going to look at ten terrible tips as well from some really great writers I'm Harry Bingham for Jericho writers and let's jump straight in okay great tip number ten I'm going to work up to the dog I'm great tip number ten Sinclair Lewis the art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and this is the most basic writing tip of them all if you don't sit at your desk and write you're not being a writer you're thinking about a book it's not writing a book you need to sit and work your ideas out on the page that is the heart of all writing if you're not doing that you're not going to make it as a writer terrible tip number ten and we're gonna work wait stop any proof I love her as a writer I think she says proceed slowly and take care to ensure that you proceed slowly right by hand what rubbish if you like writing on a computer right on the computer don't boast about just because any proof says you need to write by hand she likes writing by hand you write whatever way you want to write if that's crayon on the wall you write in crayon on the wall right tip number nine Chuck Wendy stories are like wine they need time so take the time this isn't a hot dog eating contest you're not being touched on how much you write but rather how well you do and again it's such a basic tip here quality counts and in the end a really successful book is one that lingers forever in the readers memory and that's the book that you want to write so don't force yourself to hit deadlines that are unrealistic care about quality your speed up the more experience you have but for now just focus on quality great tip terrible step number nine Stephen King the road to hell is paved with adverbs well maybe okay hold on maybe is an adverb hmm so possibly no possibly is an adverb there are millions of adverbs that are absolutely fine what he means is don't have things like he spluttered indignantly all the time and he's right about that but absolutely feel free to use that but they're totally fine that part of the language that we all use great tip number eight Hilary mantel love Hilary description must work for its place it can't be simply ornamental it usually works best if it has a human element if description is colored by the viewpoint of the character who's doing the noticing it becomes in effect part of the character definition and part of the action and get enough absolutely great if your descriptions are really character centered and really focused on the stage you are at in the story they are never in the way they are never surplus they're just a brilliant part of the story you are writing great tip terrible tip number eight maya angelou again in great write she's got a nobel prize I think there is no greater agony than burying an untold story inside you really what about having your fingernails pulled out where they get stopped oh I'm gonna say that it's a bigger agony so don't get all cutesy about your game work writers we like being a writer but having an untold story inside you know if there are bigger Agony's than that I'm afraid great tip number seven Jane smiley this is a really good one every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is excellent okay I don't care how bad your first draft novel is it's probably going to be bad I mean what way one says the first draft of everything is Shi T and he's probably right all the first rough has to do is exist your job then is to edit it into shape so don't worry too much about the quality of that first draft just make it exist great tip Jane smiley thank you very much terrible tip number seven Agatha Christie what a ridiculous thing to say the best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes well maybe it is for her and maybe it's not for you but don't be bossed around by Agatha Christie you plan the book when you want to plan the book now I might be walking dog might be doing the dishes that might be sitting in front of a computer and actually working it out and of those three I'd suggest walking the dog is quite a good one but actually sitting at the computer and doing some work that is even better great tip number six any prove again okay I gave you a terrible tip for money proved before here's a great tip I'm from her if you get the landscape right the characters will step out of it and they'll be in the right place settings really matter yeah I think that it's bit neglected and by a lot of first-time right the stronger your settings are the more real your characters are and the character will stop talking to you and acting because you feel them in the real world and the reader will feel them in the real world so really focus on your settings and think about those in just the same way as you would think about your major characters – here's a terrible tip from Ray Bradbury you must write every single day of your life you must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like the perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads may you be in love every day for the next twenty thousand days and out of that love remake a world but I quite like a bit about remaking a world and being in love is a nice thing but don't wear books like hats on your crazy head that's in the deal and if you've got to go and pick up your mother from the airport you gotta deal with your kids in the tippity plate you might not write that day and you haven't lost anything look life comes first writing comes second don't worry about Ray Bradbury great tip number five Anton Chekhov you've heard this before and it's a really good don't tell me the moon is training show me the glint of light on broken glass the more detailed and focused you can make your prose the more real it'll seem so the moon Jean that is that's a nothing it's bland it's generic but talk about the glint of light on broken glass and what instantly there and see there's a kind of magical qualities you so focus on those details find those details and you've great writing will grow out of that exploration of that of the detailed terrible tip number five Elmore Leonard never open a book with a well that – why not tip annoyed me so much so when I read it the next book I wrote I opened a book with the weather I'm just to annoy Elmore Leonard I don't folks wrote my book and I sent it to my young agent it's a certain I said I've just broken Elmore Leonard's rule number six of writing here it goes and they were absolutely finding that beyond her opener but with the weather open a book with aware great tip number four Margaret Atwood I've had books that didn't work out I just abandoned them he was depressing but it wasn't the end of the world I mean sometimes you bash yourself against the wall and you get through it but sometimes the wall is just a wall and you know this is an interesting tip we come across writers at Jericho writers where sometimes they've been working on the magic for three or four years it's just not going right and you know what they were going to massive in that writing process but maybe it's a time to move on from that book and to take all of the wisdom and knowledge and experience they've required and how that into a novel that really can succeed so you know I think it's really important to be diligent and persistent you know you've got a knock against the wall to see if you can get away through it but sometimes you just say it's not right move on terrible tip number four when we're getting to our top three in a minute Mark Twain I often want to criticize Jane Austen but her books manly so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader and therefore I have to stop every time I begin every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin bone well that's ridiculous Pride and Prejudice is a magnificent but Mark Twain you're a magnificent writer but that's an idiotic thing to say so we don't need to listen to mark twain on that right great tip number three Tom Clancy didn't expect him in the top three did you suspense is achieved by information control what you know what the reader knows what the characters know that's a great tip because it can really focus your mind if you're if you've got a particular plot problem thinking about information control and who knows what it can be a real tool for unlocking that particular problem so thinking about suspense as a process of information control it can be a really great device for helping you figure out your plot problems terrible tip number three William Faulkner in writing you must kill all your darlings this is so famous is such a great line but it's rubbish and you know if you write something that you think is really good and other people think is really good and you love it and it is one of your darlings don't kill it it's great keep it the idea that you have to kill your dog's is just not true okay sometimes you have to mostly you don't okay great tip number two friends Kafka a lot of this don't bend don't water it down don't try to make it logical don't edit your own soul according to the fashion rather follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly by following your own obsessions like mercilessly he says that's going to get you to to the most individual novel and and therefore the most original novel that was one that sort of stands the most is that it's not going to be like everything else on the shop there's going to be like your book that only you could have written and out of that kind of real pursuit of your own identities follow the novel great friction can grow terrible SEC number two all Jonathan Franzen it's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection of his workplace is rising to a fiction well Jonathan Franzen this is my workplace I have an internet connection and I write good friction so what you say is a load of rubbish and now our top one great step number one and I'm going to cheek something again if you check these are my two favorite writer quotes of all time Chuck Close is that painter actually no right so maybe I'm not cheating golfy now is that style is knowing who you are what you want to say I'm not giving a damn and I love that quote because it tells you that it's all about finding your authentic self I'm putting it expressing it on the page as fully and wholly as you can and if you do that you're going to write something that other people are going to want to read and then chop close like a Caesar he's a painter but this is a really great great quote as well inspiration is for amateurs the rest of us just show up and get to work all the best ideas come out of the process they come out of the work itself this is the opposite of actor the Christie's doing the dishes thing it's actually if you sit in front of a computer and hammer out your ideas and you know you get into a tangle you get into a knot and you undo things you really do things in crimes are avenues Zaki's work and that is how writers actually operate and that is where inspiration comes from inspiration isn't a bolt of lightning it's something that comes out of the process of working things through and our top terrible tip to end this video Ernest Hemingway's there is nothing to writing all you do is sit down at a typewriter and plate and again this is just nonsense it's its writers making themselves feel amazing about their job it's just a job we enjoy it readers like reading it um you know if you can't enjoy writing don't then go and do something else um I think that it's a rubbish tip but I've really enjoyed this video ten top tips and ten terrible wrong ones from great writers I've just got one more tip for you and that is that we've got some great tools for you and you can get an idea generator that helps you shape the idea of you but also you can get all of the slides from this video just from the de link right underneath now all the slides from this video and our idea generator tool it will really help you build your ideas to a very solid idea for a book I'm Harry Bingham for Jericho writers thanks very much indeed for watching it's been a pleasure

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  1. Just remember folks that a number of those terrible tips are indeed terrible, but those authors often said them as hyperbole, to be melodramatic, humorous, or as rhetorical flourish. Twain's is a perfect example. 🙂

  2. I discovered the best ideas come from my first rewrites. For instance, I was working on a rewrite of a short story–a Lovecraftian tale for the modern era–when halfway thru the process I received an idea that broke the story wide open and now I'm 60,000 words into making it into a novel, with potential to carry the story further in follow up novels. I can't wait to see what happens when I complete the rough draft and work on the rewrite of the novel.

  3. I think what Agatha Christie was getting at was that inspiration often comes out of mundane activities. With your mind occupied by trivial tasks, it often is more creative because nothing clutters up the creative process. I've seen this with my own writing.

  4. Sorry, but I have to strongly disagree with the first tip already. Writing is not just sitting at your desk and typing. Writing is research, outlining, planning, problem solving, editing, more planning, cutting. Writing is the complex process of crafting a story, and the several steps that go into it. And any step that gets you closer to finishing your story is writing. Several amateur writers think they can pump out a story by jumping into their seat the moment they have an idea, not realizing they're leaping head first into quick sand.

  5. 'Kill your darlings' I think what Faulkner meant was the 'darlings' that no one else thinks are darlings. You're so keen for them to be in the book but they do nothing except make you dewy eyed.

  6. Can I suggest 'planning' the book is less process and more framework to give the writer some confidence about the journey they are about to embark on. The most exciting moment is when your characters start writing the book for you…

  7. So glad it's all right to start with the weather. That's were mine starts. While I'm saving the money to join and downloading all the freebies I going to start on my series one more time. I have a background in writing, but not novels so I have no idea how I "should" be doing this so I am going to start at the beginning write it straight thru to the end and then figure out how to format it. Hope it works even if it sounds a roundabout way of getting it done.
    I learn so much from your videos. They are clear, concise and practical. Thank you. Happy holidays for you and yours.

  8. I really like your practical approach, Harry. It has its eye on the pro writing ball. My only caveat is I think you do Ray Bradbury an injustice. He was a poet, and his quote glitters with his brand of star-struck hyperbole. But what it boils down to is "love to write." And that IMO is the best possible advice for a writer.

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