Twenty-Five Pieces of Advice from Famous Writers That Are Actually Useful! by Marie Lavender

25 Pieces of Advice from Famous Writers That Are Actually Useful!

by Marie Lavender

Some beginning writers feel that taking advice from dead or even current, famous authors is silly. “Just write; it’s simple.” 

Hannah Olinger, Unsplash

Well…yes, we should simplify everything, and get back to basics. Are we overloaded with writing tips from the internet? It’s possible. There’s no rule that says a writer should accept every crumb offered.

But dismissing good advice will help no one. Today, you can ignore me – hell, what do I know, anyway – and discover tips from authors we’ve all heard of!  :)

To be fair, they will also be from vastly different genres. I’ll list each one, and briefly discuss how their advice could help a writer at any stage of his or her process. Without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?

“Observe strangers. Let your own version of their life story shoot through your head — how they got where they are now, where they might be going — and fill in the blanks for yourself.”

“Eavesdrop. Listen to the way people speak, but pay special attention to their silence.” 

Adelin Preda, Unsplash

Glad I’m not the only one who does this! People-watching is a big resource in learning how to make characters realistic.

Be creative! Once I witnessed a couple having a serious discussion in a parking lot. The woman was crying, and it was tough to watch, yet impossible to look away. I couldn’t tell what they were saying…it could’ve been anything from a tough break-up to the man comforting her over something she was dealing with. I just know it affected me, and I yearned to tell their story.

“Describe your characters beautifully if possible, and truthfully at any rate. Any captivating protagonist should be someone you can imagine in the center of all sorts of scenes.”

Your character’s description should be thorough. Don’t forget to cover their flaws as well. Readers will identify with people who are REAL.

Oladimeji Odunsi, Unsplash

Who is your main character/protagonist? Make sure you’ve selected the one who can best tell the story.

“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything. Or a broken billboard. Or weeds growing in the cracks of a library’s steps. Of course, none of this means a lot without characters the reader cares about (and sometimes characters—‘bad guys’—the reader is rooting against).”

The key is ‘suspension of disbelief’. Even when you’re covering a fantastical world, the tale and characters should be relatable. 

Jeff Finley, Unsplash

“The writer must have a good imagination to begin with, but the imagination has to be muscular, which means it must be exercised in a disciplined way, day in and day out, by writing, failing, succeeding and revising.”

Keep writing. Don’t give up!

“Writers are often the worst judges of what they have written.”

Nothing will paralyze you more as a writer than your own opinion of a manuscript. We are our own worst critics. 

Tim Gouw, Unsplash

Diversely, we sometimes reach that point when we fall in love with our work. That’s what editors are for! They help to cut through some of that chaos.

No, it’s not. Writing is about joy, and finding a direct path to the story. Nothing else matters.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 

This is probably one of Hemingway’s most famous quotes about writing. Still, it’s true. Writing is both a simple and complex process. While you’re in the midst of a scene, you can tap into great emotions, and in a way, it is almost like nicking a vein.

“Don’t worry. You’ve written before and you will write again.”

Suffering from a case of writer’s block? He’s right. Give it time. Relax and enjoy your life. The writing bug will revisit you.

“Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.”

It is hard for readers to accept a writer’s retirement. For myself, I’m not sure how I could actually turn off the need to write. You can’t flip it on and off the way you would a light switch. Being a writer is just a part of you.

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

Created by yanalya -

I couldn’t have said it better myself. The key is to make it look as natural as possible, so that when the reader steps away, they realize they’ve escaped into another world for a time.

As writers, we are accountable to ourselves alone. We must carve time out for writing. No one else will do it for us.

Once you have a publisher, then you’ll have deadlines. But in the meantime, you have to take charge of your own writing journey. In any case, it’s a good habit to adopt regardless of whether you pursue indie or traditional publishing.

“Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean ‘More people died’, don’t say ‘Mortality rose’.”

Never try to impress your reader with big words or flowery descriptions. At the same time, don’t assume your audience is stupid either. Readers are intelligent professionals who are often looking for a literary escape. Be sincere and direct.


“Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was ‘terrible’, describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, and exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please, will you do my job for me?”

If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve probably come across this advice, but it was housed in the phrase ‘show, don’t tell’.  When you describe a scene or the actions of a character, ask yourself instead:

What about the image was horrific or scary? 

How can I describe Robert’s fear?

Readers should be able to feel what the character is experiencing.

schlappohr, Pixabay

Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh at your mistakes. 

rawpixel, Pixabay

Watch a funny movie, or read a silly story. Try your hand at writing comedy. 

Hey, why not? The experience may be a lot smoother that way.

“You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it alive and vital. Virtually every page is a cliff-hanger—you’ve got to force them to turn it.”

Everything that is happening in the book should be imperative to the story. Cut out the unnecessary stuff. 

Charles 🇵🇭, Unsplash

Write short sentences. Or medium length. Even go for longer ones, if that works with the plot. But break up the flow so it becomes a true reading experience, and the audience doesn’t get hung up on how you went into too much detail with one sentence.

And here’s a Seuss poem with advice too…

It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.
So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.
That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.

“Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!”

Go easy on yourself, but not so much that you can’t find room for improvement in your work.

“Unless you are writing something very post-modernist – self-conscious, self-reflexive and ‘provocative’ – be alert for possibilities of using plain familiar words in place of polysyllabic ‘big’ words.”

Pretty much what C.S. Lewis said. ;)



Kurt Vonnegut

Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.”

The protagonist should be relatable – complete with flaws – someone the reader can easily follow during the story. 

Same thing goes for an anti-hero. He needs to have a few redeeming qualities, even if we just love to hate him. To go a step further, villains are also people too, and they have certain motivations that drive them - most believe they are the heroes of their own stories. Now and then, I write from the perspective of the villain during a scene in the story. It challenges me as a writer, and helps me flip into a different mindset.

Pawel Janiak, Unsplash

“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.”

Don’t be afraid to torture your characters a little. I always find myself doing this, and it usually turns out well. 

Just keep in mind that readers can further identify with a character if they find out how they handle certain situations.

dylan nolte, Unsplash

“Write something every day, even if it means getting just a few sentences on the screen.”


Just write, no matter how brief it is. All you can do is try. 


One technique I used in the past while focused on a project was to write a paragraph, scene or chapter each day, but if I couldn’t do that, I would at least choose an aspect of the research. I’d look up the detail I needed, and then add it to the story somehow. That way, I felt like I was accomplishing something.



Neil Gaiman

“Write ideas down. If they are going to be stories, try and tell the stories you would like to read. Finish the things you start to write. Do it a lot and you will be a writer. The only way to do it is to do it.”

Same thing goes. Just write. 

Write what moves you alone, what you’d love to pick up in a bookstore or on Amazon if you could. 

Amanda Jones, Unsplash

And if you’re lucky, you won’t be the only one who wanted to read a story like that.

J.RR. Tolkien


“Let your interests drive your writing.”


DON’T ‘write what you know’. Instead write what inspires you, what you need to learn about to tell the story. Write what thrills you, what you can't wait to talk about on the page.


Steven Houston, Unsplash


“Dreams give us inspiration.”


If you can remember your dreams, write them down. A lot of successful authors have used their dreams as story ideas.


Johannes Plenio, Unsplash



Ray Bradbury

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

With the outside world comes the chaos of bills, appointments, getting your kid to and from school or extracurricular activities, and figuring out what’s for dinner.

The point here is that you should try to find an escape from those distractions while you’re writing. Stay in the zone.

Enjoy the creative process, and when you finally step away from it, you’ll be ready to face reality again.

One of Natalie’s books, Writing Down the Bones, has become a quintessential resource on the craft of writing.

I can’t in good conscience have an article about advice from writers without including this one tidbit, which has saved me time and time again.

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

Brave the storms of writing with your dark truths. Dig deep into your wealth of experience, and make what you have lived real in your story. Authenticity will always ring truer with your audience.

Well…I hope you’ll consider this advice from all these well-known authors. I know they’ve given me something to think about!

Tell me. What is your favorite crumb of writing advice from an author? Let’s start a discussion in the comments…

Blogger Bio

Multi-genre author of Victorian romance, UPON YOUR RETURN, and 23 other books. Reached the Top 10 Authors list on for the last 4 years. Featured interview in the January 2018 issue of Womelle Magazine. The Heiresses in Love Trilogy made the TOP 10 on the Anthology category on the 2018 P&E Readers' Poll, and BLOOD INSTINCTS reached TOP 10 status in the Romance category. The Heiresses in Love Trilogy and DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART both reached the semi-finalist round in the 2018 AuthorsDB Book Cover Contest. Voted TOP BLOGGER for 2018 on the Romance Lives Forever Blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2018 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated and made it past the first round in the 2018 Author Academy Awards. UPON YOUR LOVE and THE MISSING PIECE placed in the TOP 10 on the 2017 P&E Readers' Poll. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated for the 2017 Reader's Choice Awards. The I Love Romance Blog became a finalist in StartDating DK's Romance Blog Awards of 2017. ILRB landed on Feedspot’s 2017-2018 TOP 100 Novel Blogs and TOP 100 Romance Blogs. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART placed in the TOP 10 Books of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge Survivor in 2016. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title - winner of the "Broken Heart" themed contest and the "I Love You" themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers' Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers' Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial's Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader's Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013, 2014 and 2016. 2013 and 2014 Amazon Bestseller Ranking for UPON YOUR RETURN. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.
Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She writes adult fiction, as well as occasional stories for children, and has recently started some young adult fiction. She has also contributed to several anthologies. Her current published series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Eternal Hearts Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series and The Blood at First Sight Series.


  1. Wise words from authors who use words wisely.

  2. Excellent compilation of great writing advice! Thanks.

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