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27 Hard-Won Lessons about Writing from New York Times Bestselling Authors

Writing tips are like beer nuts.

They’re addictive.

No matter how many you have, you always want more.

But do you ever get the feeling that the writing “experts” who are dispensing the tips barely have more experience than you?

Which usually means their advice is either second-hand or second-rate.

And maybe that’s why it fails to hit the spot, and you find yourself reaching robotically for the next tip.

The thing is, sometimes you have to go back to the source to find the real stuff — wisdom borne from personal experience, not well-meaning guesswork or threadbare philosophical hand-me-downs.

So we’ve collected some truly valuable writing advice from authors whose books have achieved what few others’ have — landing on the coveted New York Times Bestseller list.

#1. There is No Muse

Nora Roberts - Writing Tips

Source: Nora Roberts’ Top 7 Tips for Writers and Authors

#2. Ignore the Rules

Lee Child - Writing Tips

Source: Lee Child and the “Long Game”: Lessons on Success From One of America’s Favorite Authors

#3. Knowledge is Poisonous

Siddhartha Mukherjee - Writing Tips

Source: Siddhartha Mukherjee: ‘A positive attitude does not cure cancer, any more than a negative one causes it’

#4. Writing Is Your Exhale

Glennon Doyle Melton - Writing Tips

Source: Goodreads: Glennon Doyle Melton Quotes

#5. No Telephones, TV or Videogames

Stephen King - Writing Tips

Source: Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers

#6. Writing is Hard but Coal Mining is Harder

Cheryl Strayed - Writing Tips

Source: The Art of Motherfuckitude: Cheryl Strayed’s Advice to an Aspiring Writer on Faith and Humility

#7. Everything is Relevant

Anthony Doerr - Writing Tips

Source: Interview With Anthony Doerr, 2014 National Book Award Finalist, Fiction

#8. Force Yourself to Finish, Even If It’s Garbage

Jodi Picoult - Writing Tips

Source: Jodi Picoult: The million-selling novelist on carving out time for writing and the influence of Gone With the Wind

#9. Never Make Them Read a Sentence Twice

Ken Follett - Writing Tips

Source: Ken Follett: Masterclass

#10. Stop Making Improvements and Start the Next Book

Neal Stephenson - Writing Tips

Source: Neal Stephenson’s writing advice for students (and everyone else)

#11. Everyone Has to Work a Day Job First

Jim Butcher - Writing Tips

Source: Interview with Jim Butcher

#12. Write Even When Your Kids are Sick

Kristin Hannah - Writing Tips

Source: Kristin Hannah: FAQ

#13. Daydreaming Isn’t Writing

Andy Weir - Writing Tips

Source: Quora Question: Andy Weir Gives Tips for New Writers

#14. Don’t be Afraid of Radical Surgery

Jojo Moyes - Writing Tips

Source: Words of wisdom for writers from Jojo Moyes

#15. Discover Where the Lies are Buried

Michael Eric Dyson - Writing Tips

Source: Book TV: Michael Eric Dyson on Writing from In Depth

#16. Writing is Simply a Matter of Discipline

Elin Hilderbrand

Source: How the ‘queen of the beach novel’ became a best-selling author after her first 4 books flopped

#17. Rearrange Your Life

Douglas Preston - Writing Tips

Source: So you want to become a published writer?

#18. Talent Won’t Get You Published

Gillian Flynn - Writing Tips

Source: Gillian Flynn: How I Write

#19. Stop Trying to Edit Your Curiosity

Malcolm Gladwell - Writing Tips

Source: Malcolm Gladwell on writing

#20. Commit to a Goal

Liane Moriarty - Writing Tips

Source: 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Liane Moriarty

#21. You Don’t Need a Degree in Writing

Clive Cussler - Writing Tips

Source: Clive Cussler FAQ: Frequently Asked Question and Answer

#22. Rewrite It Fifty Times If You Have to

Tana French - Writing Tips

Source: 5 Writing Tips from Tana French

#23. Being Stumped is Essential

Jonah Lehrer - Writing Tips

Source: Five Tips for Reaching Your Creative Potential

#24. Everybody Sucks at First

Patricia Cornwell - Writing Tips

Source: Writer’s Digest Interview with Patricia Cornwell

#25. Abandon Good Ideas for Better Ones

Jonathan Safran Foer - Writing Tips

Source: Feeling Stuck? Good Ideas Hide in Plain Sight, Says Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer

#26. Write, Even If People Think You’re Crazy

Louise Penny - Writing Tips

Source: Writing & Publishing Advice from Louise Penny

#27. Write Until the Water Runs Clear

Lin Manuel Miranda - Writing Tips

Source: ‘Hamilton’ Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Key to Writing and Fulfilling Disney Dreams with ‘Moana’

Slipstream the Success of These Bestselling Writers

Not all writing advice is created equal. Nor every writer.

But the lessons from this list are based on countless hours of experience accumulated by writers who rose to the top of the pile.

Not every example will resonate with you, but you can be sure those that do are grounded in the practical realities of becoming a successful writer.

So it’s time to stop chasing new tips and start applying the battle-tested advice of the true experts.

Because the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll have a shot at joining this league of celebrated writers.

So… which lessons will inspire your future success?

About the Author: Glen Long is the managing editor of Smart Blogger. He lives in London with his wife and two young boys (one human, one canine). Catch him on Twitter?

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