Writing Tips: What the masters tell us

Jan 4, 2016 | Better Writing

I spent some time this past weekend looking over the “Advice from the Masters” section of this site. As of today there’s advice from over a hundred masters.

There’s advice from some writers whose work I haven’t read. Two of my favorite authors, Willa Cather and Raymond Chandler are represented, but Ernest Hemingway is not, even though advice from him is all over this site. (I fixed the lack of advice from Hemingway, with a post on 1/6/16).

What struck me as I looked over those hundred-plus posts is how often the same advice keeps popping up. Here’s my take on the most common advice.

Get to work

Don’t wait for inspiration. Don’t wait until the time is right. Start writing regularly and seriously and good things will happen. Jack London had it right. Don’t wait for inspiration, “light out after it with a club.”

Get it out

You really can’t do anything with your work until it’s out of your head. So get it out of your head and into a file. Follow the advice of Joshua Wolf Shenk: “Get through a draft as quickly as possible.”

Get it right

One your work is out of your head you can get down to the serious business of writing: rewriting and revising. That’s how you create a great book. As the legendary writing coach, William Zinsser put it: “Rewriting is the essence of writing well. It is where the game is won or lost.”

Get it done

The book you haven’t finished won’t help boost your reputation or your income. Steve Jobs said it often: “Real artists ship.”