Writing tips from three of my favorite authors

I’m always looking to learn from other writers. As I developed my own writing voice and my own style of telling stories, I’ve found various lessons and insights that were helpful. Here is a collection from three authors I’ve enjoyed.

Robert Heinelein’s Rules of Writing:
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.
6. Start Working on something else.

Heinlein’s rules were the very first set of writing tips I remember reading. Of course, this was a long time ago and the industry has changed a lot since he wrote those rules, especially in regards to Rules #4 and #5.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Basic Tips for Writing:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

I included Vonnegut’s tips because I love everything that has anything to do with him. His voice as a writer made a big impact on me and ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ is one of my all-time favorite books. I also enjoy how frank he is in everything he says, even his writing advice.

Stephen King’s Tips for Becoming a Better Writer:
1. Get to the point.
2. Write a draft, then let it rest.
3. Cut down your text.
4. Be relateable and honest.
5. Don’t care too much what others may think.
6. Read a lot.
7. Write a lot.

Stephen King’s tips are last because I relate to them the most. If I were going to suggest some tips for aspiring authors they would most resemble the list King put together.

For another list of writing tips, check out an article the Guardian posted a couple years ago, with writing tips by the likes of Margaret Atwood, Elmore Leonard, Richard Ford, Neil Gaiman, and others.

If these tips help at least one aspiring writer, then they have served their purpose. If you’ve found other writing tips that are particularly useful, I’d love to hear them.