The Art of Great Writing: 60 Writing Tips from 6 All-time Great Writers

Posted on July 7, 2016 By thesuccessmanual Taged: Remarkable, Quotes

This compilation of useful writing advice is from The Success Manual, 600+ pages of compiled wisdom on 125 important traits, skills and activities. You might also want to check out Rules for Writers, a compilation of writing wisdom from great authors and some highly useful books on writing.

Also Read Part 2, 125 More Tips from 20 All Time Great Writers - writing advice from Steinbeck, Ballard, Naipaul, Gladwell, Russell, Capote and more great writers.

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
- Thomas Mann

An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterwards.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never us a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, scientific word, or jargon if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
- “Politics and the English Language”

In every sentence that you write, ask yourself,

What am I trying to say?
What words will express it?
What image or idiom will make it clearer?
Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
Could I put it more shortly?
Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?


1. A writer’s problem does not change. He himself changes and the world he lives in changes but his problem remains the same. It is always how to write truly and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it.

2. Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.
- On being informed that Faulkner had said that Hemingway "had never been known to use a word that might send the reader to the dictionary."

3. Then there is the other secret. There isn't any symbolism [sic]. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.

4. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.

5. The hardest thing to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings. First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write. Both take a lifetime to learn, and anybody is cheating who takes politics as a way out. All the outs are too easy, and the thing itself is too hard to do.

6. The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shock-proof shit-detector.

7. A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.

8. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.
It wasn't by accident that the Gettysburg address was so short.

In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

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 hell 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.

1. Find a subject you care about.
2. Do not ramble, though.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Have the guts to cut.
5. Sound like yourself.
6. Say what you mean to say.
7. Pity the readers.

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
Which can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. A prologue in a novel is back-story, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.
3. Never use a verb other than ''said'' to carry dialogue.
Said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ''said'' . . .
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.''
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
For example, thick paragraphs of prose.
11. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

You Must Write
Finish What You Start
You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order
You Must Put Your Story on the Market
You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold
Start Working on Something Else

1. Get to the point.
2. Write a draft. Then let it rest.
3. Cut down your text.
4. Be relatable and honest.
5. Don’t care too much what others may think.
6. Read a lot.
7. Write a lot.

Related Read

125 More Tips from 20+ Great Writers of All Time

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