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  • 8 Creative Writing Tips from Famous Authors and How to Incorporate Them Into Your Own Work

creative writing famous authors

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And many writers simply love giving interviews where they throw out pithy and quotable lines about the nature of their genius. Think of Ernest Hemingway’s “There is nothing to writing. All you do is just sit at a typewriter and bleed.” It would look great on a mug or a t-shirt. But does this actually give you any insight into how to become a better or more successful writer? Probably not, unless you want to study its construction when working on your epigrams. Still more writers provide advice that works beautifully for their own particular style of writing (such as Kurt Vonnegut’s stern words against semicolons, or Stephen King’s against adverbs) but may not be as generally applicable as they think it is. As a result, we’ve compiled this list of 8 popular and pithy quotes from famous writers – and looked at what you can actually learn from them for use in your own writing.

1. “I took a master class with Billy Wilder once and he said that in the first act of a story you put your character up in a tree and the second act you set the tree on fire and then in the third you get him down.” – Gary Kurtz, producer of Star Wars Episode IV and V.

Image shows a man hanging from a tree.

Has a more elegant summary of the three-act structure ever been produced? These are the principles at the heart of most storytelling, whether it’s around a campfire or on a cinema screen. You get your protagonist into trouble – then the trouble gets worse – then it gets resolved. Note that this structure doesn’t demand a happy ending. Your character could depart the tree in as unpleasant a manner as you like; what this structure requires is plot progression followed by resolution, as well as tying you into a storyline that, at heart, can be summarised in a couple of sentences. Even if you’re writing a madly complicated epic fantasy series, it can be a good maxim to come back to. Which event constitutes putting the character up a tree? Are you just letting him hang around there, or are you keeping the tension going by setting the tree on fire? Do you just leave him up there getting toasty, or have you been sure to take him down?

2. “Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain, author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Image shows the front cover of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Authors being critical of particular words or even types of word (we return to Stephen King and his adverbs) is a commonplace of writing advice. Often, they simply represent the writing fashion of their own time; Stephen King’s crisp, clear writing style (“She was a grown up now, and she discovered that being a grown up was not quite what she had suspected it would be when she was a child”) would sound as wrong in the 18th century as the more adverb-laden style of two or three hundred years ago does now. Mark Twain’s advice still stands over a hundred years later – writing littered with the word ‘very’ is seldom any good – even though this is perhaps not a trap into which that many novelists fall, and few editors would systematically delete the word ‘damn’ any more either. The best message to take from this is to keep an eye on words you overuse, particularly if they are as weak as ‘very’, and delete them whenever they appear.

3. “If you have other things in your life – family, friends, good productive day work – these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.” – David Brin, Hugo-award winning author

Image shows an old, dusty attic room.

An important message that many writers forget, this quotation from David Brin reminds us that locking yourself away in a garret isn’t a great move unless you want to write the twenty-first century’s Great Garret Novel. It reminds us that the greatest source of inspiration isn’t usually spending time navel-gazing, but going out and interacting with the world, and then seeing how easily an overheard conversation slides into your novel and becomes a plot point, or spotting a woman at the bus stop who looks exactly like the villain you couldn’t quite picture. This doesn’t just apply to realist fiction; David Brin is a science fiction author, and still takes inspiration from everyday human interactions and brings that into his work.

4. “My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.” – Anton Chekhov, playwright and author

Image shows a grandfather with a small boy on his lap.

This is the kind of zippy quote that Waterstone’s like to put on their bags, but what exactly does it mean and what can we learn from it? The former half of that question is probably best left to Chekhov scholars. The latter half is easier; this advice is excellent and straightforward if we simply ignore Chekhov’s justification. The beginning and end are less at risk of being full of lies than full of waffle. It’s best to resist the temptation to open like a medieval saga with a multi-chapter genealogy and family history of all of your characters, and similarly to resist the temptation, like Tolkien didn’t in The Return of the King, to come to a logical ending to your story and then end it three more times. But if you can’t resist that temptation in your first draft, get it all out of your system and then simply delete those sections from draft 2 onwards.

5. “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!” – Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451

Image shows boxes of the Sims games.

Like many other creative writing tips, this can feel a little bit like magical thinking. See also: “I let my characters decide the plot” or even “I had this bit all worked out, but then my characters decided to do something different” – as if the story you were writing was some kind of hyperactive game of the Sims, rather than something born from and guided entirely by your own imagination. If you are a more practically-minded writer, this might seem entirely baffling. (If it makes complete, instinctive sense to you, you might wish to skip ahead to the next point). Don’t read this advice and proceed to treat the process of writing as a particularly lonely roleplaying game. Remember instead that when you have lovingly crafted a character who is so realistic that they could practically walk off the page, if their planned actions conflict with their character, then you need to change one or the other, rather than shoehorning a character into actions that they clearly would not perform.

6. “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Image shows Douglas Adams.

This comment is an impressive demonstration of what not to do. Adams’ first bestseller – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – ends very abruptly because he had missed so many deadlines that his publisher simply told him to finish the page he was on and sent a courier to collect the book as it was. Subsequent deadlines have a remarkable theme – the Doctor Who producer who locked Adams in his study and gave him coffee and whiskey for two days until it was finished; the girlfriend who locked Adams in her house until he finished The Restaurant at the End of the Universe ; and the editor who locked him in a hotel suite for three weeks until he wrote So Long and Thanks for All the Fish . It appears that, having found a solution to making Adams write to a deadline, his collaborators stuck to it, whether or not that meant committing the crime of false imprisonment. There are two messages for aspiring writers here. One is that you should make an attempt to control your procrastination before it reaches such legendary heights. The other, I suppose, is that if you find an odd technique that helps you write, you should go ahead and make the most of it – at least other people will get a good anecdote out of it.

7. “I can’t write five words but that I change seven.” – Dorothy Parker, poet, short story writer, critic and satirist

Image shows someone editing an essay.

Dorothy Parker was a writer now best known for a huge number of highly quoted phrases, such as, “the two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘cheque enclosed.’” The sharp, concise elegance of her writing is – as this quotation suggests – the result of a colossal amount of editing. Parker phrases this as if it were an unfortunate condition, but it’s a very rare writer who gets everything right first time. (To skip back to point 6, the book that Douglas Adams edited the most – Last Chance to See – was also the one of which he was the most proud). There are arguments to be had about when editing is appropriate. Should you write a first draft in full before you go back to tweak anything, or should you edit as you go along? This will depend on temperament and ability to cope with imperfections. What is crucial is that by the time you’re ready to submit anything for publication, at least seven words have been changed for every five you initially wrote.

8. “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison, Nobel prize-winning novelist

Image shows rows of bookshop shelves.

This is good advice for writers of fiction and nonfiction alike. In nonfiction the barrier to entry is higher (for instance, if you desperately want to read a first-person account of the writing of epic poetry in Anglo-Saxon times, you’ll be waiting a while) but in fiction the ground is open to everyone. If you’re fed up with whatever the prevailing literary trend is (whether that’s dystopian young adult fiction or yummy-mummy novels), you can be the change you wish to see in the world. Don’t be sanctimonious about writing the novel that you think the world needs – that’s a sure-fire way to lose friends – but it can be deeply motivational to remember that there is a space in the world where your novel should be. Aside from anything else, filling a gap in the market makes excellent business sense. Do you have any creative writing tips that you think should be more widely known? Share them in the comments!

creative writing famous authors

The Marginalian

Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers

By maria popova.

By popular demand, I’ve put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented here over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut , Susan Sontag , Henry Miller , Stephen King , F. Scott Fitzgerald , Susan Orlean , Ernest Hemingway , Zadie Smith , and more.

creative writing famous authors

Please enjoy.

  • Ursula K. Le Guin on Art, Storytelling, and the Power of Language to Transform and Redeem “One of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience… Storytelling is a tool for knowing who we are and what we want.”
  • Rachel Carson on Writing and the Loneliness of Creative Work “If you write what you yourself sincerely think and feel and are interested in… you will interest other people.”
  • Jeanette Winterson’s 10 Tips on Writing “Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.”
  • Jennifer Egan on Writing, the Trap of Approval, and the Most Important Discipline for Aspiring Writers “You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”
  • T.S. Eliot on Writing: His Warm and Wry Letter of Advice to a Sixteen-Year-Old Girl Aspiring to Become a Writer “Don’t write at first for anyone but yourself.”
  • Anton Chekhov’s 6 Rules for a Great Story Mastering the essential complementarity of compassion and total objectivity.
  • The Only Story in the World: John Steinbeck on Kindness, Good and Evil, the Wellspring of Good Writing “Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.”
  • Zadie Smith on What Writers Can Learn from Some of History’s Greatest Dancers

“Between propriety and joy choose joy.”

  • The Continuous Thread of Revelation: Eudora Welty on Writing, Time, and Embracing the Nonlinearity of How We Become Who We Are

“Greater than scene… is situation. Greater than situation is implication. Greater than all of these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame.”

  • The Effortless Effort of Creativity: Jane Hirshfield on Storytelling, the Art of Concentration, and Difficulty as a Consecrating Force of Creative Attention “In the wholeheartedness of concentration, world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”
  • Ted Hughes on How to Be a Writer: A Letter of Advice to His 18-Year-Old Daughter “The first sign of disintegration — in a writer — is that the writing loses the unique stamp of his/her character, & loses its inner light.”
  • Colette on Writing, the Blissful Obsessive-Compulsiveness of Creative Work, and Withstanding Naysayers “A lack of money, if it be relative, and a lack of comfort can be endured if one is sustained by pride. But not the need to be astounded.”
  • Auden on Writing, Originality, Self-Criticism, and How to Be a Good Reader “It would only be necessary for a writer to secure universal popularity if imagination and intelligence were equally distributed among all men.”
  • Stephen King: Writing and the Art of “Creative Sleep”: “In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”
  • Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing “If it sounds like writing … rewrite it.”
  • Michael Lewis: Writing, Money, and the Necessary Self-Delusion of Creativity “When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way.”
  • Annie Dillard on Writing “At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”
  • Susan Sontag on Writing “There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work.”
  • Ray Bradbury: How List-Making Can Boost Your Creativity How to feel your way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of your skull.
  • Anne Lamott: Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”
  • Italo Calvino on Writing: Insights from 40+ Years of His Letters “To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being… what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.”
  • Ernest Hemingway : Writing, Knowledge, and the Danger of Ego “All bad writers are in love with the epic.”
  • David Foster Wallace: Writing, Death, and Redemption “You don’t have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness … has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me.”
  • Isabel Allende: Writing Brings Order to the Chaos of Life “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”
  • Stephen King: The Adverb Is Not Your Friend “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”
  • Malcolm Cowley: The Four Stages of Writing “The germ of a story is a new and simple element introduced into an existing situation or mood.”
  • Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing “Work on one thing at a time until finished.”
  • Advice on Writing: Collected Wisdom from Modernity’s Greatest Writers “Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.”
  • Kurt Vonnegut: 8 Rules for a Great Story “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.”
  • Susan Orlean on Writing “You have to simply love writing, and you have to remind yourself often that you love it.”
  • Zadie Smith: 10 Rules of Writing “Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.”
  • John Steinbeck: 6 Tips on Writing, and a Disclaimer “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.”
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Secret of Great Writing (1938) “Nothing any good isn’t hard.”
  • E. B. White: Egoism and the Art of the Essay “Only a person who is congenially self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays”
  • E. B. White: Why Brevity Is Not the Gold Standard for Style “Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound.”
  • Ray Bradbury: Creative Purpose in the Face of Rejection “The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.”
  • Mary Karr: The Magnetism and Madness of the Written Word “Be willing to be a child and be the Lilliputian in the world of Gulliver.”
  • Kurt Vonnegut: How to Write With Style and the 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word (1985) “The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.”
  • Ann Patchett: What Now? “Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected.”
  • Mary Gordon: The Joy of Notebooks and Writing by Hand as a Creative Catalyst “However thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.”
  • H. P. Lovecraft: Advice to Aspiring Writers (1920) “A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.”
  • Henry Miller: Reflections on Writing “Understanding is not a piercing of the mystery, but an acceptance of it, a living blissfully with it, in it, through and by it.”
  • Margaret Atwood: 10 Rules of Writing “­Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.”
  • David Foster Wallace: The Nature of the Fun and Why Writers Write “Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likable.”
  • Joy Williams: Why Writers Write “A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light.”
  • Joan Didion: Ego, Grammar, and the Impetus to Write “Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.”
  • David Ogilvy: 10 No-Bullshit Tips on Writing “Never write more than two pages on any subject.”
  • George Orwell: The Four Motives for Writing (1946) “Sheer egoism… Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.”
  • Ezra Pound: A Few Don’ts for Those Beginning to Write Verse (1913) “Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.”
  • Ray Bradbury: Storytelling and Human Nature (1963) “Man has always been half-monster, half-dreamer.”
  • Joseph Conrad: Writing and the Role of the Artist (1897) “Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.”
  • Helen Dunmore: 9 Rules of Writing “A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.”
  • E. B. White: The Role and Responsibility of the Writer (1969) “Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”
  • Jack Kerouac: 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life “No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge.”
  • Raymond Chandler on Writing “The test of a writer is whether you want to read him again years after he should by the rules be dated.”
  • Walter Benjamin: The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses “The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself.”
  • 28-Year-Old Susan Sontag on the Four People a Great Writer Must Be “A great writer has all 4 — but you can still be a good writer with only 1 and 2.”
  • 10 Tips on Writing from Joyce Carol Oates “Don’t try to anticipate an ideal reader — or any reader. He/she might exist — but is reading someone else.”
  • Neil Gaiman: 8 Rules of Writing “Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”
  • Anaïs Nin: Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
  • Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers “You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”
  • Jorge Luis Borges on Writing: Wisdom from His Most Candid Interviews “A writer’s work is the product of laziness.”
  • Herbert Spencer: The Philosophy of Style, the Economy of Attention, and the Ideal Writer (1852) “To have a specific style is to be poor in speech.”
  • Charles Bukowski on Writing and His Insane Daily Routine “Writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money.”
  • Samuel Johnson on Writing and Creative Doggedness “Composition is for the most part an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverance, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution, and from which the attention is every moment starting to more delightful amusements.”
  • Edgar Allan Poe: The Joy of Marginalia and What Handwriting Reveals about Character “In the marginalia … we talk only to ourselves; we therefore talk freshly — boldly — originally — with abandonment — without conceit.”
  • Kurt Vonnegut: The Writer’s Responsibility, the Limitations of the Brain, and Why the Universe Exists: A Rare 1974 WNYC Interview “We have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted.”
  • Ernest Hemingway on Not Writing for Free and How to Run a First-Rate Publication Find the best writers, pay them to write, and avoid typos at all costs.
  • How to Be a Writer: Ernest Hemingway’s Advice to Aspiring Authors “As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.”
  • Eudora Welty: The Poetics of Place and Writing as an Explorer’s Map of the Unknown “No art ever came out of not risking your neck.”
  • Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize Interview: Writing, Women, and the Rewards of Storytelling “I want my stories to move people … to feel some kind of reward from the writing.”
  • Samuel Delany: Good Writing vs. Talented Writing “Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”
  • William Faulkner: Writing, the Purpose of Art, Working in a Brothel, and the Meaning of Life “The only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost.”
  • Anaïs Nin: Writing, the Future of the Novel, and How Keeping a Diary Enhances Creativity: Wisdom from a Rare 1947 Chapbook “It is in the movements of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately.”
  • John Updike: Writing and Death “Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”
  • Charles Bukowski Debunks the “Tortured Genius” Myth of Creativity “unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.”
  • Mary Gaitskill: Why Writers Write and The Six Motives of Creativity The art of integrating the ego and the impulse for empathy in a dynamic call and response.
  • Vladimir Nabokov: Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have “Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”
  • Joan Didion: Telling Stories, the Economy of Words, Starting Out as a Writer, and Facing Rejection “Short stories demand a certain awareness of one’s own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.”
  • Herman Melville’s Daily Routine and Thoughts on the Writing Life “A book in a man’s brain is better off than a book bound in calf — at any rate it is safer from criticism.”
  • William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: The Writer as a Booster of the Human Heart “The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is … to help man endure by lifting his heart.”
  • John Updike: Making Money, How to Have a Productive Daily Routine, and the Most Important Things for Aspiring Writers to Know “In a country this large and a language even larger … there ought to be a living for somebody who cares and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.”
  • Susan Sontag : Writing, Routines, Education, and Elitism in a 1992 Recording from the 92Y Archives “To make your life being a writer, it’s an auto-slavery … you are both the slave and the task-master.”
  • Chinua Achebe: The Meaning of Life and the Writer’s Responsibility in Society The difference between blind optimism and the urge to improve the world’s imperfection.
  • Leonard Cohen: Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is You’re Quitting “The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”
  • Ray Bradbury: What Failure Really Means, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors How working for the wrong motives poisons our creativity and warps our ideas of success and failure.
  • Joyce Carol Oates: What Hemingway’s Early Stories Can Teach Us About Writing and the Defining Quality of Great Art On the elusive gift of blending austerity of craft with elasticity of allure.
  • Willa Cather: Writing Through Troubled Times “The test of one’s decency is how much of a fight one can put up after one has stopped caring, and after one has found out that one can never please the people they wanted to please.”
  • Anthony Trollope: Witty and Wise Advice on How to Be a Successful Writer “My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.”
  • William Styron: Why Formal Education Is a Waste of Time for Writers “For a person whose sole burning ambition is to write — like myself — college is useless beyond the Sophomore year.”
  • Madeleine L’Engle: Creativity, Censorship, Writing, and the Duty of Children’s Books “We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them. If we are looking for witchcraft and evil, we’ll likely find them, and we may get taken over by them.”
  • Saul Bellow: How Writers and Artists Save Us from the “Moronic Inferno” of Our Time “The writer cannot make the seas of distraction stand still, but he [or she] can at times come between the madly distracted and the distractions.”
  • Mary Oliver: The Mystery of the Human Psyche, the Secret of Great Poetry, and How Rhythm Makes Us Come Alive “Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”
  • Schopenhauer on Style “Truth that is naked is the most beautiful, and the simpler its expression the deeper is the impression it makes.”
  • Flannery O’Connor: Why the Grotesque Appeals to Us, Plus a Rare Recording of Her Reading “There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.”
  • Annie Dillard: The Art of the Essay and Narrative Nonfiction vs. Poetry and Short Stories “Writers serve as the memory of a people. They chew over our public past.”
  • C.S. Lewis: The 3 Ways of Writing for Children and the Key to Authenticity in All Writing “The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.”
  • Nietzsche: 10 Rules for Writers “Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.”
  • William Faulkner: Writing, the Human Dilemma, and Why We Create “It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.”
  • David Foster Wallace: The Redemptive Power of Reading and the Future of Writing in the Age of Information The fun of reading as “an exchange between consciousnesses, a way for human beings to talk to each other about stuff we can’t normally talk about.”
  • Zadie Smith: The Psychology of the Two Types of Writers “It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”
  • George Orwell: Writing, How to Counter the Mindless Momentum of Language, and the Four Questions a Great Writer Must Ask Herself “By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.”
  • Italo Calvino: The Art of Quickness, Digression as a Hedge Against Death, and the Key to Great Writing “Success consists in felicity of verbal expression, which every so often may result from a quick flash of inspiration but as a rule involves a patient search… for the sentence in which every word is unalterable.”
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: Where Ideas Come From, the “Secret” of Great Writing, and the Trap of Marketing Your Work “All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.”
  • Gabriel García Márquez on His Unlikely Beginnings as a Writer “If you’re going to be a writer you have to be one of the great ones… After all, there are better ways to starve to death.”
  • Roald Dahl: How Illness Emboldens Creativity: A Moving Letter to His Bedridden Mentor “I doubt I would have written a line … unless some minor tragedy had sort of twisted my mind out of the normal rut.”
  • Robert Frost: How to Read Intelligently and Write a Great Essay “The sidelong glance is what you depend on.”
  • Lewis Carroll: How to Work Through Difficulty and His Three Tips for Overcoming Creative Block “When you have made a thorough and reasonably long effort, to understand a thing, and still feel puzzled by it, stop, you will only hurt yourself by going on.”
  • Mark Strand: The Heartbeat of Creative Work and the Artist’s Task to Bear Witness to the Universe “It’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention.”
  • John Steinbeck: The Diary as a Tool of Discipline, a Hedge Against Self-Doubt, and a Pacemaker for the Heartbeat of Creative Work “Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.”
  • E.B. White: How to Write for Children and the Writer’s Responsibility to All Audiences “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.”
  • Virginia Woolf: Writing and Self-Doubt Consolation for those moments when you can’t tell whether you’re “the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”
  • Cheryl Strayed: Faith, Humility, and the Art of Motherfuckitude “Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”
  • Ann Patchett: Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art “The ability to forgive oneself … is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.”
  • Umberto Eco’s Advice to Writers “If we think that our reader is an idiot, we should not use rhetorical figures, but if we use them and feel the need to explain them, we are essentially calling the reader an idiot. In turn, he will…
  • Grace Paley: The Value of Not Understanding Everything “Luckily for art, life is difficult, hard to understand, useless, and mysterious.”
  • Jane Kenyon: Some of the Wisest Words to Create and Live By “Be a good steward of your gifts.”
  • Joseph Conrad on Art and What Makes a Great Writer, in a Beautiful Tribute to Henry James “All creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive, enlightening, familiar and surprising, for the edification of mankind.”
  • How to Save Your Soul: Willa Cather on Productivity vs. Creativity, Selling Out, and the Life-Changing Advice That Made Her a Writer “It’s so foolish to live (which is always trouble enough) and not to save your soul. It’s so foolish to lose your real pleasures for the supposed pleasures of the chase — or the stock exchange.”
  • Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, Ambition, the Art of Revision, and His Reading List of Essential Books for Aspiring Writers “In any art you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better.”
  • James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing “Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”
  • Alison Bechdel on Writing, Therapy, Self-Doubt, and How the Messiness of Life Feeds the Creative Conscience “It’s by writing… by stepping back a bit from the real thing to look at it, that we are most present.”
  • Elizabeth Alexander on Writing, the Ethic of Love, Language as a Vehicle for the Self, and the Inherent Poetry of Personhood “You have to tell your own story simultaneously as you hear and respond to the stories of others.”
  • Can Goodness Win? George Saunders on Writing, the Artist’s Task, and the Importance of Living with Opposing Truths “See how long you can stay in that space, where both things are true… That’s a great place to try to be.”

— Published May 3, 2013 — —




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 Toni Morrison in 1979.

Top 10 books about creative writing

From linguistics to essays by Zadie Smith and Toni Morrison, poet Anthony Anaxagorou recommends some ‘lateral’ ways in to a demanding craft

T he poet Rita Dove was once asked what makes poetry successful. She went on to illuminate three key areas: First, the heart of the writer; the things they wish to say – their politics and overarching sensibilities. Second, their tools: how they work language to organise and position words. And the third, the love a person must have for books: “To read, read, read.”

When I started mapping out How to Write It , I wanted to focus on the aspects of writing development that took in both theoretical and interpersonal aspects. No writer lives in a vacuum, their job is an endless task of paying attention.

How do I get myself an agent? What’s the best way to approach a publisher? Should I self-publish? There is never one way to assuage the concerns of those looking to make a career out of writing. Many labour tirelessly for decades on manuscripts that never make it to print. The UK on average publishes around 185,000 new titles per year, ranking us the third largest publishing market in the world, yet the number of aspiring writers is substantially greater.

Writers writing about writing can become a supercilious endeavour; I’m more interested in the process of making work and the writer’s perspectives that substantiate the framework.

There’s no single authority, anything is possible. All that’s required are some words and an idea – which makes the art of writing enticing but also difficult and daunting. The books listed below, diverse in their central arguments and genres, guide us towards more interesting and lateral ways to think about what we want to say, and ultimately, how we choose to say it.

1. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner An intellectual meditation on the cultural function of poetry. Less idealistic than other poetry criticism, Lerner puts forward a richly layered case for the reasons writers and readers alike turn to poetry, probing into why it’s often misconceived as elitist or tedious, and asks that we reconsider the value we place on the art form today.

2. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas One of the hardest things about creative writing is developing a voice and not compromising your vision for the sake of public appeal. Thomas offers sharp advice to those wrestling with novels or Young Adult fiction. She writes with appealing honesty, taking in everything from writer’s block to deciding what a final draft should look like. The book also comes interspersed with prompts and writing exercises alongside other tips and suggestions to help airlift writers out of the mud.

3. Linguistics: Why It Matters by Geoffrey K Pullum If language is in a constant state of flux, and rules governing sentence construction, meaning and logic are always at a point of contention, what then can conventional modes of language and linguistics tell us about ourselves, our cultures and our relationship to the material world? Pullum addresses a number of philosophical questions through the scientific study of human languages – their grammars, clauses and limitations. An approachable, fascinating resource for those interested in the mechanics of words.

4. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle The collected lectures of poet and professor Mary Ruefle present us with an erudite inquiry into some of the major aspects of a writer’s mind and craft. Ruefle possesses an uncanny ability to excavate broad and complex subjects with such unforced and original lucidity that you come away feeling as if you’ve acquired an entirely new perspective from only a few pages. Themes range from sentimentality in poetry, to fear, beginnings and – a topic she returns to throughout the book – wonder. “A poem is a finished work of the mind, it is not the work of a finished mind.”

Zadie Smith.

5. Feel Free by Zadie Smith These astute and topical essays dating from 2010 to 2017 demonstrate Smith’s forensic ability to navigate and unpack everything from Brexit to Justin Bieber. Dissecting high philosophical works then bringing the focus back on to her own practice as a fiction writer, her essay The I Who Is Not Me sees Smith extrapolate on how autobiography shapes novel writing, and elucidates her approach to thinking around British society’s tenuous and often binary perspectives on race, class and ethnicity.

6. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil Who occupies the “I” in poetry? When poets write, are they personally embodying their speakers or are they intended to be emblematic of something larger and more complex? Is the “I” assumed to be immutable or is it more porous? These are the questions posited in Threads, which illuminates the function of the lyric “I” in relation to whiteness, maleness and Britishness. Its short but acute essays interrogate whiteness’s hegemony in literature and language, revealing how writers from outside the dominant paradigm are often made to reckon with the positions and perspectives they write from.

7. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison An urgent set of essays and lectures from the late Nobel prize winner that collates her most discerning musings around citizenship, race and art, as well as offering invaluable insight into the craft of writing. She reflects on revisions made to her most famous novel, Beloved, while also reflecting on the ways vernaculars can shape new stories. One of my favourite aphorisms written by Morrison sits on my desk and declares: “As writers, what we do is remember. And to remember this world is to create it.”

8. On Poetry by Jonathan Davidson Poetry can be thought of as something arduous or an exercise in analysis, existing either within small artistic enclaves or secondary school classrooms. One of the many strengths of Davidson’s writing is how he makes poetry feel intimate and personal, neither dry or remote. His approach to thinking around ways that certain poems affect us is well measured without being exclusive. A timely and resourceful book for writers interested in how poems go on to live with us throughout our lives.

9. Essays by Lydia Davis From flash fiction to stories, Davis is recognised as one of the preeminent writers of short-form fiction. In these essays, spanning several decades, she tracks much of her writing process and her relationship to experimentalism, form and the ways language can work when pushed to its outer limits. How we read into lines is something Davis returns to, as is the idea of risk and brevity within micro-fiction.

10. Essayism by Brian Dillon Dillon summarises the essay as an “experiment in attention”. This dynamic and robust consideration of the form sheds light on how and why certain essays have changed the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages to the present time. A sharp and curious disquisition on one of the more popular yet challenging writing enterprises.

How to Write It by Anthony Anaxagorou is published by Merky Books. To order a copy, go to .

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Fifty of the Most Inspiring Authors in the World

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eleanorp replied on December 16, 2009 - 3:28pm Permalink

Lucille Clifton

fluong replied on December 17, 2009 - 3:08pm Permalink

For a list of authors of the

CE replied on December 17, 2009 - 7:13pm Permalink

kcherry replied on December 19, 2009 - 4:36pm Permalink

50 inspiring authors

William Owen replied on December 22, 2009 - 6:07pm Permalink

Feels like a serious omission

boypoet replied on January 15, 2010 - 10:24pm Permalink

Why have a list such as this

bkotevski replied on January 16, 2010 - 1:12am Permalink

Fifty inspiring authors

mikerol replied on January 19, 2010 - 10:47pm Permalink

this is such an arbitrary list, not that i know all of the

eve replied on January 27, 2010 - 11:01pm Permalink

"Fifty Authors" article

alamana replied on February 9, 2010 - 10:47am Permalink

I would add Saramago.

David Raphael Israel replied on February 9, 2010 - 11:25am Permalink

some additions

dfbyrne replied on February 13, 2010 - 10:54pm Permalink

living writers

jtbartlett replied on April 6, 2010 - 10:43pm Permalink

So glad that you picked

wishdaycome replied on April 13, 2010 - 11:05am Permalink

Zadie Smith. She makes you

yali replied on April 22, 2010 - 4:02am Permalink

Gary Snyder

TammyJ replied on April 23, 2010 - 9:48am Permalink

Barack Obama

stevendaniels replied on April 23, 2010 - 7:14pm Permalink

Marilynne Robinson

IrisBelen replied on May 28, 2010 - 10:19pm Permalink

Paulo Coelho

Without a doubt Paulo Coelho is one of the most inspirational authors in the world. He writes about people on quests and his books are full of beautiful and enlightening proverbs. It's a must read for every one, because it enlightens without promoting a specific religion, just a higher power and the power of the self.

mspeachstate replied on June 3, 2010 - 10:28pm Permalink

Anne Carson

As an author myself, I really enjoy this article. Fifty of the Most Inspiring Authors in the World. Anne Carson was my favorite from these list of all times.

Dave Murray replied on June 24, 2010 - 11:18am Permalink

inspiring writers

David Whyte's writing is particularly inciteful to me as a man who is continuously probing internally to understand how I see what I see, and wrestling with the dancing choices inside, especially those sitting on the sides afraid to join the dance.

MAKINEEDI replied on July 5, 2010 - 5:28pm Permalink

Good Selection

En listing of 'Fifty of Most Inspiring Authors' is good,among which Chinua Achebe is my favorite. I am acquainted with his writings. I didn't read none of the remaining.

The list is dominated by the American Writers. I felt sorry to learn that no Indian author is enlisted.

It will be useful if the e-mail I.D's are provided, for easy communication.

Become a Writer Today

14 Great Writing Advice From Authors Who Found Success

Read top writing advice from authors and writers who’ve found success with the written word.

I love collecting writing advice from best-selling authors and famous writers because it offers a glimpse into their creative process. Read enough of this advice and you’ll start discovering common themes about the creative process, first drafts, editing, rewriting and publishing. Below, I’ll share some of the best advice from successful writers and authors, old and new. 

1. Read Widely and Deeply

2. creativity is infinite, 3. keep a daily journal, 4. art is a support system for life, 5. write a little every day, 6. separate writing and editing, 7. don’t fear the rewrite, 8. writing is work, 9. write one page a day, 10. stop when the going is good, 11. avoid cliques, gangs, groups, 12. seek clarity and precision, 13. every story element has a purpose, 14. work through rejection, writing tips from authors: the final word, what are three things that good writers do, what are the traits that make an author’s writing good.

A good writer’s job is to read regularly and outside of their comfort zone. They should take apart these books to determine what works and doesn’t. Writing widely and deeply helps a good writer understand the conventions of their preferred genre and learn more about what readers expect. Stephen King said about the importance of reading: 

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.”

Nobel-prize-winning author American novelist William Faulkner almost hammered home the importance of reading a variety of genres and books. He offered this piece of advice.

“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it, just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

New writers often save a good idea for the next blog post, article or book. They worry they’ll run out of ideas or inspiration. But creativity isn’t a finite resource. Usually, one promising idea leads to another one. Plus, a writer’s biggest challenge isn’t finding ideas; it’s putting them to use. Maya Angelou , noted poet and author of the classic I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , said about the creative process.:

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Writing advice from authors: Keep a daily journal

Daily journaling is the easiest way to build a good writing habit. Anyone can write about their thoughts, feelings and ideas without worry. Usually, these entries are for the writer alone.

A few years ago, I took a writing course by David Sedaris on Masterclass. He explains how his journaling practice helps him write. Sedaris writes up what he does every day, like scenes in a short story. He includes character descriptions, locations, dialogue, colourful anecdotes, metaphors, and even inciting incidents. These scenes from his own life serve as source material for his colorful essays. Sedaris said about this practice:

“I know for myself it’s very important to write every single day… So much happens by sitting at your desk when you don’t have an idea… you need to sit there and not have the internet and see what happens.”

If you want to build a practice, I recommend using a good journaling app. For my recommendation, check out this Day One app review . 

Writers can struggle to find a work-life balance. That’s perhaps because they spend so much time working alone in a room. Working with the written word is an introverted profession. 

Finding a balance between spending time alone writing and cultivating friendships, hobbies and spending time with family can take time to get right. I struggled with this when I started taking writing seriously. Then, I stumbled across this excellent piece of writing advice from Stephen King in his On Writing :

“Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” 

When Jerry Seinfeld was an unknown but ambitious comedian, he tasked himself with writing one joke every day. He hung a large monthly calendar next to where he worked. If he wrote a joke, he marked a large X through the day’s date and built up a chain of Xs. Jerry Seinfeld said his only job was to:

“Don’t break the chain.”

Seinfeld recently wrote the best-seller Is This Anything? His advice shows writing a little daily is a surefire way to build a body of work and improve your craft and fare more effective than trying to write for hours once or twice a week. Check out our guide on common writing conventions .

New writers often confuse writing and editing. They’re two different tasks that engage separate parts of the brain. Editing while writing the first draft is a surefire way never to finish anything.

When celebrated American essayist Joan Didion finished a draft of an article, essay or book, she stuck it in her freezer and left it there for weeks, if not months. After forgetting about the specifics of the draft, she’d take it out and edit and write ruthlessly. She said about the writing process:

“There’s a point when you go with what you’ve got. Or you don’t go.”

Writing advice from authors: Don’t fear the rewrite

Joan Didion’s approach to first drafts isn’t unique. Tamika Waititi is the writer behind hit films like Jo Jo Rabbit and Thor Ragnorak . He often takes the editing process one step further and will rewrite a script or a draft from scratch months after finishing it. He said about writing and editing:

“I will write a draft and put it away for a year or so. Sometimes it will be two years, sometimes three. Then I’ll come back to it, and I’ll read it two or three times…Then, I’ll throw it all away and start over from page one, based on the memory of what I’ve read.”

A doctor doesn’t complain of not feeling it before surgery, and a plumber doesn’t complain to a client that they’re out of inspiration. So why is writing any different? Sometimes a writer has to turn up in front of the blank page and hit that word count or publishing milestone even if they’re tired or out of ideas. Often, the only way to become a better writer is by doing the work. Oliver Stone said about creative graft, 

“Writing is butt on chair.”

Writing a book isn’t always easy. The prospect of writing thousands of words about a single idea or story is off-putting for new writers. It can take months of commitment to turn an idea into a first draft, edit that draft repeatedly and then publish the result. 

Instead, far better to break writing a book down into much smaller chunks like a daily word count or a single page. That way, a writer can make small but measurable progress on their book each day. Author John Steinbeck offered this advice in a 1943 interview with The Paris Review :

“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day; it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”

Turning up in front of the page and not knowing what you’re going to write next is intimidating. It can even lead to writer’s block. Instead, successful authors and famous writers set up the following day’s work in advance. They stop in the middle of a sentence or paragraph and leave triggers for the subconscious to work on a story in the meantime. 

These writers ensure they don’t run out of ideas or inspiration when it’s time to write. This practice makes it easier for them to progress through a difficult first draft. Ernest Hemingway said:

“The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work.”

I spent two years in a creative writing group. These groups are a useful support mechanism for new writers because they encourage accountability. They also offer a new writer a chance to get feedback on their work, even if they’ve no readers, audience or budget for an editor yet. 

However, relying too much on feedback from like-minded peers can hinder progress. A younger or newer writer could start editing their work to please their friends and not because it improves the quality of a piece of writing. They may also start to mimic the writing style of others in the group inadvertently. The same piece of advice holds true if a writer spends hours on social media instead of writing first drafts and revising.

At some point, a young writer needs to break from their comfort zone. Author Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth said to the Guardian cliques:

“The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

I worked as a content editor for a software company several years ago. Executives and colleagues who didn’t write much for a living sometimes sent me their reports to edit. The big mistake I saw? They usually relied heavily on complex words and terminology that hindered the readability of their reports. 

The same holds for most fiction. Clarity and precision matter far more than impressing the reader with your knowledge of the English dictionary of a thesaurus. Consider George Orwell, author of 1984 , who said:

“Never use a long word where a short one will do.” 

Chekhov’s gun is a famous metaphorical piece of writing advice for fiction writers. If a writer mentions a detail or character in a story, it must have consequences for the characters or the plot. 

If a gun appears in act one, it must go off by act three. When a Marvel superhero discovers their powers in Act One, they must put them to use in act three. Chekhov wrote in an 1889 letter to his friend Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev:

“One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”

Ernest Hemingway famously poked fun at this rule by introducing two characters in his short story Fifty Grand that he never mentioned again. Modern thriller writers deliberately break this principle and introduce plot Mac Guffins to confuse and intrigue readers. However, best know the rules before you break them!

All writers face rejection at some point in their careers. They may fail to find an agent, land a book publishing deal, or write a best-seller. Learning how to handle rejection and failure is part of the writing process. Usually, writers can use these moments to figure out what aspects of their craft they need to improve. In Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass course , I came across this piece of advice:

“People ask me, ‘How do you cope with rejection?’ … And there are only two ways to do it—one of which is you go down. You get sad. You put the thing away. You stop writing. You go and get a real job, go and do something else. And the other is a kind of crazed attitude that actually the most important thing now is to write something so brilliant, so powerful, so good nobody could ever reject it.”

If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out our list of great writing books to read.

Word is a rewarding profession. It’s fun working with the words, creating stories or writing non-fiction readers love. However, it’s also hard work. The most successful writers treat writing like a job and turn up like any good professional. For more, read our guide of author tips . 

Writing Advice From Authors FAQ

Good writers work a little every day on their craft. They separate writing and revising. And they read often and outside of their comfort zone. When they start writing something, they finish it. They also take steps to ensure their writing appears on the market. They keep writing, knowing that a back catalogue is a key part of earning a living.

An author’s writing is good if it informs, entertains or inspires the reader. Their writing embraces qualities like concision and clarity. It also draws on the five senses. Usually, it tells a good story that leaves readers with a meaningful and memorable impression. In short, it leaves a reader wanting more.

creative writing famous authors

Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.

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The 19 best online writing classes led by famous authors, including Malcolm Gladwell, Neil Gaiman, and Judy Blume

When you buy through our links, Business Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

  • Strong communication and writing skills will help you succeed in any profession.
  • Online classes are an affordable way to learn writing tips and receive feedback on your work.
  • All the classes on this list are taught by award-winning writers with decades of experience.

Insider Today

Good writing skills can take you far (just take it from a business major who wormed her way into an editorial career). Strong written communication skills can help you land a job or move up in your career , but good writing doesn't come easily or instinctively to everyone. As with any skill, you won't get any better at writing simply by reading books or watching videos about it.

Online classes from e-learning platforms like MasterClass and Skillshare are affordable, flexible ways to not only learn the proper strategies but also practice and receive feedback on your writing. And who better to learn from than actual published authors, writers, and editors?

creative writing famous authors

The following classes are all taught by accomplished, award-winning writers who have decades of experience in communicating ideas, telling stories, and captivating audiences. Some specialize in fiction, while others employ storytelling tricks to make even the driest facts shine.

If you see the word "creative" in the title, don't immediately dismiss the class. All the courses have valuable lessons to learn for making your writing more effective, whether you're in a creative industry or not.

19 writing classes taught by experienced authors, writers, and editors:

Neil gaiman's masterclass on the art of storytelling.

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: Award-winning writer Neil Gaiman (" The Sandman ," " Coraline ," " American Gods ") has dabbled in everything from novels and comic books to film and audio theatre. The course: Gaiman covers the fundamentals of storytelling, from finding your voice to fleshing out your characters. The price: $180 ($15 per month) for an annual MasterClass membership.

Joyce Carol Oats' MasterClass on the Art of the Short Story

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: Joyce Carol Oates is the author of over 58 novels (" We Were the Mulvaneys ," " Blonde ," " The Accursed "), as well as countless short stories, essays, and articles. She is also a former professor of creative writing at Princeton University .

The course: Oates' class helps students finetune their storytelling instincts for short story writing, from learning how to observe the world around them to nailing down structure and form.

The price: $180 ($15 per month) for an annual MasterClass membership.

Judy Blume's MasterClass on Writing

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: Judy Blume's beloved children's books (" Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret ," " Superfudge ") have sold millions of copies, and Blume has written over 25 novels. She's also the recipient of the 2004 National Book Foundation medal for distinguished contribution to American letters, as well as numerous other awards.

The course: With a focus on writing for young readers, Blume's course dives into developing ideas, creating plot structure, and even pitching book ideas to editors, and even dealing with issues like rejection or censorship. The price: $180 ($15 per month) for an annual MasterClass membership.

N.K. Jemisin's MasterClass on Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: NK Jemisin, a Hugo Award winner for three consecutive years for her " Broken Earth " trilogy, is an an acclaimed science fiction and fantasy author. The course: Jemisin's course, geared towards sci-fi/fantasy writing, teaches students how to build a believable world from scratch (including macro and micro details), create characters that truly feel relatable even in fantastical settings, and find a literary agent. The price: $180 ($15 per month) for an annual MasterClass membership.

Creative Nonfiction: Write Truth with Style

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992 and is the author of eight books, including New York Times bestseller " Rin Tin Tin " and " The Orchid Thief ," which was later adapted into Spike Jonze's "Adaptation," (in which Meryl Streep portrayed Orlean). The course:  The best nonfiction makes facts compelling and interesting to read, but it's not easy to do this. This course takes students through Susan Orlean's writing process, from finding a topic to making final edits, and helps them polish their own creative processes. The class project is a 1,000-word profile on someone you find mysterious.  The price: Free with 14-day Skillshare trial; $8.25 per month or $19 per month after trial ends.

Malcolm Gladwell's MasterClass on Writing

creative writing famous authors

The teacher:  Malcolm Gladwell has written for "The New Yorker" since 1996. His fascinating books, which include " The Tipping Point ," " Blink ," and " Outliers " reveal the most unexpected insights into our world. "The Tipping Point" was named as one of the best books of the decade by Amazon customers, The A.V. Club, and The Guardian, and was Barnes & Noble's 5th bestselling nonfiction book of the decade. 

The course: In 24 lessons, you'll learn how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas. This is Gladwell's first-ever online class, where he analyzes his own works to reveal his unique creative process. He also answers select student questions during virtual office hours. 

Roxane Gay's MasterClass on Writing for Social Change and Creative Writing: Crafting Personal Essays with Impact

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: On top of writing bestselling memoirs like " Bad Feminist " and " Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body ," Roxane Gay is a professor and New York Times columnist , making her as experienced an author as she is an educator. The course: If you want to see change in the world, strong storytelling skills can help you get there. Gay's MasterClass teaches you how to tap into your identity, figure out your voice, and write about emotionally hard subjects with care, so that you can get people on board with the broader visions you have for improving the world.

Roxane Gay also teaches a short Skillshare class on crafting impactful personal essays from start to finish. You can read a review of it here .

The price: $180 ($15 per month) for an annual MasterClass membership. Free with 14-day Skillshare trial; $8.25 per month or $19 per month after trial ends.

Daniel José Older's Storytelling 101: Character, Conflict, Context, Craft

creative writing famous authors

The teacher:  Daniel José Older is the bestselling author of the " Bone Street Rumba " urban fantasy series and the YA novel " Shadowshaper ." "Shadowshaper" was a "New York Times" Notable Book of 2015 and named one of Esquire's "80 Books Every Person Should Read." Older's short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, and a number of other sites.  The course:  This short 40-minute class breaks down the fundamentals of narrative storytelling and what makes a story different from a mere anecdote. Learn the "4 C's" of storytelling and see them in action in one of the teacher's own short stories. The fun final project is to write a short story about something that happened on a single block in your hometown over the course of one hour.

The price: Free with 14-day Skillshare trial; $8.25 per month or $19 per month after trial ends

Steven Heller's The Designer's Guide to Writing and Research

creative writing famous authors

The teacher:  Steven Heller writes the Visuals column for the "New York Times Book Review" and is the editor of the AIGA Journal of Graphic Design. A former "New York Times" art director , he is the author, co-author, or editor of over 170 books on design and popular culture , and also regularly contributes to design publications.  The course:  Geared towards designers, this course illuminates the parallels between writing and design. You'll learn about the professional importance of research and writing to designers today, best practices for developing your voice, and creative ways to communicate. The final project is a 500-word essay on an object in your wallet, bag, or pocket. 

David Sedaris’s MasterClass on Storytelling and Humor

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: If you want to inject your writing with a dash of comedy, David Sedaris — "The New Yorker" essayist and author of " Me Talk Pretty One Day ," " Calypso ," and " The Best of Me " — is one of the best people to teach you how to do it.

The course: Beyond covering tips and tricks for writing eye-grabbing openings and endings with huge payoffs, Sedaris also gives his advice on finding humor in the darkest moments of our lives.

Amy Tan's MasterClass on Fiction, Memory, and Imagination

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: Most known for her bestselling novel " The Joy Luck Club " (which spent 40 weeks on the "New York Times" bestseller list), Amy Tan is an inspiration to anyone who's started exploring their writing voice later in life — she started at age 33 and published her famed debut novel a mere few years later. Tan went on to write many other books, including " The Bonesetter's Daughter " and " The Kitchen God's Wife: A Novel ." The course: With a focus on utilizing your most powerful memories, this course teaches you how to find your voice as well as sharpen your story with compelling beginnings and endings. The price: $180 ($15 per month) for an annual MasterClass membership.

Shani Raja's Writing With Flair: How To Become An Exceptional Writer

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: Shani Raja  is a former Wall Street Journal editor who has written for The Economist, Financial Times, and Bloomberg News. He has also taught advanced writing skills to professionals and edited for leading global companies like Microsoft, IBM, and PwC. The course:  Another bestseller from Shani Raja, this course promises to "dramatically improve the quality of your writing in as little as days or weeks" through a few key principles. Both new students and experienced writers have benefitted from the course, which teaches you how to sharpen your words and command the reader's attention.

Raja also has a Udemy course on the four levels of writing mastery .

The price: Both of Raja's Udemy courses are $109.99 each.

Margaret Atwood's MasterClass on Creative Writing

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: Of " The Handmaid's Tale " fame, Margaret Atwood has been titled the "Prophet of Dystopia" for works such as " Oryx and Crake " and the "Handmaid's Tale" sequel, " The Testaments: A Novel ." The course: Atwood's MasterClass "covers the general points of interest for writers — how to get started, handle the middle of a story, develop characters, craft dialogue, and address writers' block — as well as more specific queries, like research and maintaining historical accuracy," according to Insider senior reporter Mara Leighton. You can read her full review of the course here . The price: $180 ($15 per month) for an annual MasterClass membership.

Simon Van Booy's The Writer's Toolkit: 6 Steps to a Successful Writing Habit

creative writing famous authors

The teacher:  Simon Van Booy's short story collection " Love Begins in Winter " won the 2009 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. He has written two other short story collections as well as three anthologies of philosophy, and his work has been translated into over a dozen languages throughout the world. In 2013, he founded Writers for Children, a project that helps young people build confidence in their storytelling abilities through annual awards. The course:  Writing should be approachable and fun, not torturous. By optimizing your space for your writing style, creating a daily writing routine, and acting on inspiration, you can build a long-term writing process to rely on for years to come. This short video course teaches you how.

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's Finding Your Writing Voice: How to Express Your Unique Self in Your Work

creative writing famous authors

The teacher:  Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is a former Entertainment Weekly writer and current TV columnist for BBC Culture who has also written for The New York Times Book Review, Fast Company, New York's Vulture, and The Verge. She wrote the New York Times bestseller " Seinfeldia: The Secret World of the Show About Nothing that Changed Everything ." The course: You don't have to lose your unique personality when you write; in fact, it's what will make your writing stand out in the crowd. Using pop culture icons like Beyoncé and Britney Spears, the class discusses different voices and explores ways to take chances with your writing. 

The price: Free with 14-day Skillshare trial; $8.25 per month or $19 per month after trial ends.

Salman Rushdie’s MasterClass on Storytelling and Writing

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: Winner of the Man Booker Prize, Salman Rushdie is known for his mystical world-building and genre-bending plotlines as seen in books like " Quichotte ," " Midnight's Children ," and " Shame ."

The course: Rushdie provides tips on creating fleshed-out characters, believable surrealist worlds, and an air-tight plot. This is a great course for those who have lots of fantastical ideas but struggle to ground them into a cohesive story.

Clare Lynch's Writing With Confidence: Writing Beginner To Writing Pro

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: Dr. Clare Lynch is a former Financial Times journalist who teaches academic writing and professional communication at the University of Cambridge. She has written for organizations like Deutsche Bank, Microsoft, and UBS and is the author of the business-writing blog Good Copy, Bad Copy .  The course: Learn powerful principles that can be applied to all types of writing, including emails, speeches, news writeups, and even presentations. The course takes you through fundamentals from techniques to beat writer's block to lessons on getting readers hooked and creating a clear, persuasive angle. 

The price: $109.99.

Joyce Maynard's Writing Your Story

creative writing famous authors

The teacher: The author of 17 books (including novels and memoirs), Joyce Maynard has worked as a "New York Times" reporter and a contributor to outlets like NPR and "Vogue." Her books include " Labor Day ," " The Good Daughters ," and " Under the Influence ."

The course: Focusing on memoir writing, Maynard explains the difference between simply retelling events that happened to you and exploring your journey as a protagonist. She also covers some of the biggest questions that come up when writing about yourself, from what to cut to dealing with fears of judgment so that you can present a narrative that's authentic to readers.

The price: $89 for the course, or $11 per month for a CreativeLive membership.

Wesleyan University's Creative Writing Specialization

creative writing famous authors

The teachers :   Salvatore Scibona was named one of "The New Yorker's" "20 under 40: Fiction Writers to Watch" and is the author of 2008 National Book Award finalist " The End ," the research for which he conducted while on a Fulbright Fellowship. 

Amy Bloom , author of two "New York Times" bestsellers and three collections of short stories, has written for "The New Yorker," "The New York Times Magazine," and "Vogue," among many other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award for Fiction. Her work has been translated into fifteen languages.

Brando Skyhorse is an Associate Professor of English at Indiana University in Bloomington who won the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2011 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction for his debut novel " The Madonnas of Echo Park ." 

Amity Gaige is the author of three novels, " O My Darling ," " Sea Wife ," and " Schroder ," which was shortlisted for The Folio Prize in 2014. To date, "Schroder" has been published in eighteen countries.

The course:  This specialization created by Wesleyan University consists of four courses (each taught by a teacher listed above) and covers elements of three major creative writing genres: short story, narrative essay, and memoir. It culminates in a challenging capstone project in which you'll draft, rewrite, and complete a substantial original story in the genre of your choosing.  The price: Free with 7-day Coursera trial; $49 per month to keep learning after trial ends.

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creative writing famous authors

  • Writing Tips

15 Writing Tips From Famous Authors That You Need To Know

Writing Tips From Famous Authors

Every famous author who made it in the writing world was asked this one burning question – ‘ do you have any writing tips for aspiring authors? ’ We have compiled 15 best writing tips that were shared by famous authors over the years.

Write the story inside of you, bursting to come out

Writing Tips From Toni Morrison

The best advice that an author has given to aspiring writers is this. Often times, we are discouraged from writing our stories because we are terrified of doing a bad job. But if there is a story that you really, really want to read and no one has written it yet – you will be the best person to write it.

Tell your stories

Advice From Famous Authors

Neil Gaiman’s advice follows on the heels of Toni Morrison’s advice. There is only one person who can tell the story brewing in your head. That is you. The worlds you create in your head, the little details, the quirks of the characters – no one knows it better than you do. Why would you deny the world of knowing the delicious tale brewing inside your head?

And tell the version that belongs to you

Writing Tips From Anne Lamott

If you want to tell a deeply personal story, go right ahead. Nothing should get in the way of you wanting to speak your truth. When you are writing, do not second guess. It shows up in the way you write your stories. Thus, Anne Lamott’s advice is important. If you are writing an unpleasant character who gave you a hard time in fiction, it is okay to paint them as the villain. J.K. Rowling admitted Gilderoy Lockheart was inspired by someone truly unpleasant in her life – and we completely understand that!

Writing anything is better than a blank page

Writing Tips From Katherine Mansfield

One of the most common pieces of advice that have come our way is that you should try to write something every day. After all, you can edit a poorly written piece and make it better. But you cannot edit a blank page.

Plot your novel first – especially if it’s a crime thriller

Writing Tips From P.D James

Modern writers have abandoned plot in favor of craft, it seems. However, if you are writing a crime thriller or a murder mystery – you need to know where your story is headed in order to avoid writing yourself into a plothole. While a lot of writers have adopted a ‘go-with-the-flow’ approach, having the plot mapped out does decrease a lot of the rework.

Protect your writing time

Writing Tips From J.K Rowling

Most people do not seem to understand how serious writing might be for someone aspiring to become an author. The days that you have set aside for writing, ensure that those days are well-protected. Do not give in if people insist on meeting you by saying you can reschedule your writing time. You wouldn’t ask someone to reschedule a ‘work thing’ – so why should they ask the same from you?

Set aside a time for writing. Everyday.

Writing Tips From Haruki Maurakami

Once he has the inspiration, Haruki Murakami’s “writing mode for a novel” translates to waking up at 4 am, working 5-6 hours, running 10 kilometers or swimming 1500 meters (or both), reading or listening to music for the rest of the day, and going to bed promptly at 9 pm.

This goes to show he treats writing as a full-time job. Honestly, we need to accept that writing is a serious business. And if you are a writer, let the people in your life know how serious this is for you.

Remember to be ruthless towards your writing too

Writing Tips From Stephen King

It is hard. Perhaps a lot harder than you originally imagined it to be. But you have to let go of of a few lines that might not add up in your story. Even if they are the most perfect sentences in the world to you. Save it in another file, and use it for another story.

Creativity exists even when you think it doesn’t

Writing Tips From Maya Angelou

You might convince yourself that you are tapped out and that there are no good ideas. But as Maya Angelou believed, creativity is a constant thing. It is a magical well and it does not run dry. In fact, the more you use it, the more of it you have.

You don’t know the difference you can make

Advice From Malala Yousafzai

As our young friend had once said, that only in silence does one realize the power of their voices. If there is a story that needs to be told, tell it. You have no idea the impact your story could have on even one person. If your words could help even one soul – isn’t the story worth telling then?

Are there any rules? No one can confirm or deny the claim.

Writing Tips From W.S Maugham

No one really knows what works when it comes to writing a novel. What is a good writing tip for one writer, could be terrible advice for another. Find out what works best for you and eventually, little by little, one page after another, a new story will be born into the world.

Advice From Tina Fey

At some point, you will have to shoot your shot. It will be time to take a step back and see what people think of your writing.

It’s not necessary to write what you know

Advice From Lisa Kleypas

A popular belief is that one should write what they know. However, Lisa Kleypas has a point. Instead, focus your energy on writing what you would love to read. If you enjoy the content that you are creating, chances are so would other people.

Write complicated characters

Writing Advice From Marlon James

While we tend to view the world as black and white, the truth is that the world is shades of grey. Therefore, characters in books need to be the same way. People relate to villains more than the heroes because in reality none are larger than life. Marlon James rightly advices that the characters in stories need to be believable first of all to inspire any kind of emotion.

Please go offline!

Writing Advice From Zadie Smith

Finally, we live in modern times. Our attention spans have only decreased over the years. So, it is easy to be distracted and check our social media, get engrossed in pointless conversations, etc. when we are supposed to be writing. Once your research is done for the piece of your writing, Zadie Smith’s advice comes in handy. Turn off the internet and as William Wordsworth had said – fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.

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Looking for a little advice or motivation to inspire your creativity? Below, we have put together a list of 25 quotes from famous authors, mentors, and other wise individuals to help you on your writing journey. #write #creativewriting #writers #writerslife #writer #writerscommunity #writing #aspiringauthor #writers #quotes #quote #inspirationalquotes #Inspirationalquote #writingquotes

Looking for a little advice or motivation to inspire your creativity? Below, we have put together a list of 25 quotes from famous authors, mentors, and other wise individuals to help you on your writing journey.

1) “There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.” – Albert Einstein

“There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.” – Albert Einstein

2) “Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” – David Foster Wallace

“Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” – David Foster Wallace

3) “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

4) “The good ideas come first. The skill to communicate them brilliantly in a way that appeals to readers or to an audience takes years of practice.” – Robin Mizell

“The good ideas come first. The skill to communicate them brilliantly in a way that appeals to readers or to an audience takes years of practice.” – Robin Mizell

5) “The key to all story endings is to give the audience what it wants, but not in the way it expects.” – William Goldman

“The key to all story endings is to give the audience what it wants, but not in the way it expects.” – William Goldman

6) “Description begins in the writer’s imagination but should finish in the readers’s.” – Stephen King

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination but should finish in the readers’s.” – Stephen King

7) “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.” – Mark Twain

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.” – Mark Twain

8) “Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.” – C.S. Lewis

“Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.” – C.S. Lewis

9) “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” – Anne Lamont

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” – Anne Lamont

10) “Don’t ‘be a writer.’ Be writing.” – William Faulkner

“Don’t ‘be a writer.’ Be writing.” – William Faulkner

11) “A writer never finds the time to write. A writer makes it. If you don’t have the drive, the discipline, and the desire, then you can have all the talent in the world, and you aren’t going to finish a book.” – Nora Roberts

“A writer never finds the time to write. A writer makes it. If you don’t have the drive, the discipline, and the desire, then you can have all the talent in the world, and you aren’t going to finish a book.” – Nora Roberts

12) “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” – E.B. White

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” – E.B. White

13) “When all else fails, write what your heart tells you. You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

“When all else fails, write what your heart tells you. You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

14) “You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, ‘This is me, this what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I’m doing the best I can – buy me or not – but this is who I am as a writer.” – David Morrell

“You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, ‘This is me, this what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I’m doing the best I can – buy me or not – but this is who I am as a writer.” – David Morrell

15) “Ideas come from curiosity.” – Walt Disney

“Ideas come from curiosity.” – Walt Disney

16) “To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself.” – Anne Rice

“To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself.” – Anne Rice

17) “Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It’s a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.” – J.K. Rowling

“Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It’s a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.” – J.K. Rowling

18) “Voice is not just the result of a single sentence or paragraph or page. It’s not even the sum total of a whole story. It’s all your work laid out across the table like the bones and fossils of an unidentified carcass.” – Chuck Wendig

“Voice is not just the result of a single sentence or paragraph or page. It’s not even the sum total of a whole story. It’s all your work laid out across the table like the bones and fossils of an unidentified carcass.” – Chuck Wendig

19) “Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself.” – Mark Twain

“Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself.” – Mark Twain

20) “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour

21) “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner

22) Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” – Isaac Asimov

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” – Isaac Asimov

23) “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” – Virginia Woolf

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” – Virginia Woolf

24) “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott

25) “You can only write by putting words on a paper one at a time.” – Sandra Brown

“You can only write by putting words on a paper one at a time.” – Sandra Brown

If you have enjoyed these 25 Quotes to Inspire Your Creative Writing, you may want to visit for additional writing advice or download our free First Steps Guide for Aspiring Writers.

If you have any questions or would like to leave a comment below, we would love to hear from you!

Our Goal for   Aspiring Writer Academy is to help people learn how to write quality fiction, teach them to publish and promote their work, and to give them the necessary tools to pursue a writing career.

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We all know the struggle of staring at a blank page, waiting for motivation or inspiration to strike. That's why we've put together this handy list of 25 Quotes Every Writer Needs to Overcome Writer’s Block. Consider it your virtual pep talk, delivered straight to your screen, to kick that writer's block to the curb and get you back in the zone!

25 Quotes Every Writer Needs to Overcome Writer’s Block

A flashback in a fictional novel is a scene that happened in the past to show characterization, motivation, or explain a facet of the present story. But how do you transition in and out of a flashback scene? How many are too many? Are there rules to writing flashbacks? In 10 Tips for Using Flashbacks in Your Fictional Novel, we discuss how to write clear, concise, plot-driven flashback scenes that will strengthen the story and hook your reader.

10 Tips for Using Flashbacks in Your Fictional Novel

The term ‘Framing’ or using ‘Bookends’ refers to a technique in novel writing where the author creates similar passages at the start and finish of a story, or individual chapter or scene. Similar, but different. It is the tiny changes that give your story that exciting twist, satisfying closure, or added meaning. In How to Use Framing Technique in Your Fictional Novel, we show you how to use framing on three levels to improve your writing skills, enhance your story, and thrill readers.

How to Use Framing Techniques in Your Fictional Novel

The difference between a goal and a dream is that a goal has a deadline, a targeted finish date. Is it your goal to write and finish a book? Do you have an action plan? Or does the whole process feel overwhelming? Even if you do not have a book contract you should aim for a date of completion to help keep you on track. In our post, How to Create a Deadline for Your Fictional Novel, we show you how to calculate your finish date and set up milestones to mark your progress toward a finished book.

How to Create a Deadline for Your Fictional Novel

The best way to learn story structure is to analyze good stories. Can you readily identify each plot point in every movie you see or book you read? Or do terms like ‘inciting incident,’ ‘midpoint reversal,’ and ‘black moment’ leave you confused? In our Learn to Plot Fiction Writing Series: Story Analysis of the movie “Jurassic World” we show you how to recognize each element and provide a Free Plot Template so you can draft satisfying, high-quality stories of your own.

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How to create antagonists & villains workbook.

Do you find it difficult to create compelling antagonists and villains for your stories? Do your villains feel cartoonish and unbelievable? Do they lack motivation or a specific game plan? Discover the secrets to crafting villains that will stick with your readers long after they finish your story, with our  How to Create Antagonists & Villains Workbook.

This 32-page instructional workbook is packed with valuable fill-in-the-blank templates and practical advice to help you create memorable and effective antagonists and villains. Whether you're a seasoned writer or just starting out, this workbook will take your writing to the next level.

How to Create Antagonists & Villains Workbook Do you find it difficult to create compelling antagonists and villains for your stories? Do your villains feel cartoonish and unbelievable? Do they lack motivation or a specific game plan? Discover the secrets to crafting villains that will stick with your readers long after they finish your story, with our How to Create Antagonists & Villains Workbook.

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Blog • Perfecting your Craft

Last updated on May 31, 2022

The 40 Best Books About Writing: A Reading List for Authors

For this post, we’ve scoured the web (so you don’t have to) and asked our community of writers for recommendations on some indispensable books about writing. We've filled this list with dozens of amazing titles, all of which are great — but this list might seem intimidating. So for starters, here are our top 10 books about writing:

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig
  • Dreyer’s Englis h by Benjamin Dreyer
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk, White, and Kalman
  • The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
  • A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison
  • How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser

But if you're ready to get into the weeds, here are 40 of our favorite writing books.

Books about becoming a writer

1. on writing by stephen king.

creative writing famous authors

Perhaps the most-cited book on this list, On Writing is part-memoir, part-masterclass from one of America’s leading authors. Come for the vivid accounts of his childhood and youth — including his extended "lost weekend" spent on alcohol and drugs in the 1980s. Stay for the actionable advice on how to use your emotions and experiences to kickstart your writing, hone your skills, and become an author. Among the many craft-based tips are King’s expert takes on plot, story, character, and more.

From the book: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

2. The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

If you haven’t checked out Wendig’s personal blog, head over there now and bookmark it. Unfiltered, profane, and almost always right, Wendig’s become a leading voice among online writing communities in the past few years. In The Kick-Ass Writer , he offers over 1,000 pearls of wisdom for authors, ranging from express writing tips to guidance on getting published. Written to be read in short bursts, we’re sure he’d agree that this is the perfect bathroom book for writers.

From the book: “I have been writing professionally for a lucky-despite-the-number 13 years. Not once — seriously, not once ever — has anyone ever asked me where I got my writing degree… Nobody gives two ferrets fornicating in a filth-caked gym sock whether or not you have a degree… The only thing that matters is, Can you write well? ” 

3. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas

Taking advice from famous authors is not about imitation, but about finding your own voice . Take it from someone who knows: Thomas is the New York Times #1 Bestselling author of The Hate U Give , On the Come Up , and Concrete Rose . While she’s found her calling in YA literature , she has plenty of insight into finding your own voice in your genre of choice. Written in the form of a guided journal, this volume comes with step-by-step instructions, writing prompts, and exercises especially aimed at helping younger creatives develop the strength and skills to realize their vision.

From the book: “Write fearlessly. Write what is true and real to you.” 

4. The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

Since its publication in 2000, The Forest for the Trees has remained an essential resource for authors at various stages in their careers. As an editor, Lerner gives advice not only on producing quality content, but also on how to build your career as an author and develop a winning routine — like how writers can be more productive in their creative process, how to get published , and how to publish well . 

From the book: “The world doesn't fully make sense until the writer has secured his version of it on the page. And the act of writing is strangely more lifelike than life.”

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5. How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen

creative writing famous authors

From the book: “Great writers can be inhibiting, and maybe after one has read a Scott Fitzgerald or Henry James one can’t escape imitat­ing them; but more often such writers are inspiring.”

6. Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Smith is well-known for her fiction, but she is also a prolific essay writer. In Feel Free , she has gathered several essays on recent cultural and political developments and combined them with experiences from her own life and career. In “The I Who Is Not Me”, she explores how her own lived experience comes into play in her fiction writing, and how she manages to extrapolate that to comment on contemporary social contexts, discussing race, class, and ethnicity.

From the book: “Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial sense; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two.”

Books about language and style 

7. dreyer’s english by benjamin dreyer.

A staple book about writing well, Dreyer’s English serves as a one-stop guide to proper English, based on the knowledge that Dreyer — a senior copy editor at Random House — has accumulated throughout his career. From punctuation to tricky homophones, passive voice, and commas, the goal of these tools should be to facilitate effective communication of ideas and thoughts. Dreyer delivers this and then some, but not without its due dosage of humor and informative examples. 

From the book: “A good sentence, I find myself saying frequently, is one that the reader can follow from beginning to end, no matter how long it is, without having to double back in confusion because the writer misused or omitted a key piece of punctuation, chose a vague or misleading pronoun, or in some other way engaged in inadvertent misdirection.”

8. The Elements of Style (Illustrated) by William Strunk, Jr., E. B. White, and Maira Kalman

creative writing famous authors

A perfect resource for visual learners, this illustrated edition of The Elements of Style has taken the classic style manual to a new, more accessible level but kept its main tenet intact: make every word tell. The written content by Strunk and White has long been referred to as an outline of the basic principles of style. Maira Kalman’s illustrations elevate the experience and make it a feast for both the mind and the eye. 

From the book: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

9. Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

If you’re looking to bring a bit of spunk into your writing, copy editor Constance Hale may hold the key . Whether you’re writing a work-related email or the next rap anthem, she has one goal: to make creative communication available to everyone by dispelling old writing myths and making every word count. Peppered with writing prompts and challenges, this book will have you itching to put pen to paper.

From the book: “Verbose is not a synonym for literary.”

10. The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

Combining entertainment with intellectual pursuit, Pinker, a cognitive scientist and dictionary consultant, explores and rethinks language usage in the 21st century . With illustrative examples of both great and not-so-great linguistic constructions, Pinker breaks down the art of writing and gives a gentle but firm nudge in the right direction, towards coherent yet stylish prose. This is not a polemic on the decay of the English language, nor a recitation of pet peeves, but a thoughtful, challenging, and practical take on the science of communication. 

From the book: “Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing—and why should we care?”

11. Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

creative writing famous authors

From the book: “A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. "I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Books about story structure

12. save the cat by blake snyder.

Best known as a screenwriting manual, Save the Cat! is just as often named by authors as one of their most influential books about writing. The title comes from the tried-and-true trope of the protagonist doing something heroic in the first act (such as saving a cat) in order to win over the audience. Yes, it might sound trite to some — but others swear by its bulletproof beat sheet. More recently, there has been Save the Cat! Writes a Novel , which tailors its principles specifically to the literary crowd. (For a concise breakdown of the beat sheet, check this post out!)

From the book: “Because liking the person we go on a journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story.” 

13. The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

Shawn Coyne is a veteran editor with over 25 years of publishing experience, and he knows exactly what works and what doesn’t in a story — indeed, he’s pretty much got it down to a science. The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know outlines Coyne’s original “Story Grid” evaluation technique, which both writers and editors can use to appraise, revise, and ultimately improve their writing (in order to get it ready for publication). Coyne and his friend Tim Grahl also co-host the acclaimed Story Grid podcast , another great resource for aspiring writers.

From the book: “The Story Grid is a tool with many applications. It pinpoints problems but does not emotionally abuse the writer… it is a tool to re-envision and resuscitate a seemingly irredeemable pile of paper stuck in an attack drawer, and it can inspire an original creation.”

14. Story Structure Architect by Victoria Schmidt

For those who find the idea of improvising utterly terrifying and prefer the security of structures, this book breaks down just about every kind of story structure you’ve ever heard of. Victoria Schmidt offers no less than fifty-five different creative paths for your story to follow — some of which are more unconventional, or outright outlandish than others. The level of detail here is pretty staggering: Schmidt goes into the various conflicts, subplots, and resolutions these different story structures entail — with plenty of concrete examples! Suffice to say that no matter what kind of story you’re writing, you’ll find a blueprint for it in Story Structure Architect .

From the book: “When you grow up in a Westernized culture, the traditional plot structure becomes so embedded in your subconscious that you may have to work hard to create a plot structure that deviates from it… Understand this and keep your mind open when reading [this book]. Just because a piece doesn’t conform to the model you are used to, does not make it bad or wrong.”

15. The Writer's Journey  by Christopher Vogler

Moving on, we hone in on the mythic structure. Vogler’s book, originally published in 1992, is now a modern classic of writing advice; though intended as a screenwriting textbook, its contents apply to any story of mythic proportions. In The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers , Vogler takes a page (literally) from Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces to ruminate upon the most essential narrative structures and character archetypes of the writing craft. So if you’re thinking of drawing up an epic fantasy series full of those tropes we all know and love, this guide should be right up your alley.

From the book: “The Hero’s Journey is not an invention, but an observation. It is a recognition of a beautiful design… It’s difficult to avoid the sensation that the Hero’s Journey exists somewhere, somehow, as an external reality, a Platonic ideal form, a divine model. From this model, infinite and highly varied copies can be produced, each resonating with the essential spirit of the form.”

16. Story Genius by Lisa Cron

creative writing famous authors

From the book: “We don't turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.”

17. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

More than just a New York Times bestseller and the winner of the Booker Prize, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a distillation of the MFA class on Russian short stories that Saunders has been teaching. Breaking down narrative functions and why we become immersed in a story, this is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand and nurture our continued need for fiction.

From the book: “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?”

Books about overcoming obstacles as a writer

18. bird by bird by anne lamott .

Like Stephen King’s book about writing craft, this work from acclaimed novelist and nonfiction writer Anne Lamott also fuses elements of a memoir with invaluable advice on the writer’s journey. Particularly known for popularizing the concept of “shitty first drafts”, Bird by Bird was recently recommended by editor Jennifer Hartmann in her Reedsy Live webinar for its outlook take on book writing. She said, “This book does exactly what it says it will do: it teaches you to become a better writer. [Lamott] is funny and witty and very knowledgeable.”

From the book: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

19. Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker 

creative writing famous authors

From the book: “When it comes to the eternal quandary of pantsing or plotting, you can keep a foot in each camp. But if your goals will require you to write with speed and confidence, an effective outline will be your best friend.”

20. Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith 

And for those who eschew structure altogether, we’ll now refer you to this title from profile science fiction author Dean Wesley Smith . Having authored a number of official Star Trek novels, he definitely knows what he’s talking about when he encourages writers to go boldly into the unknown with an approach to writing books that doesn’t necessarily involve an elaborate plan. It might not be your action plan, but it can be a fresh perspective to get out of the occasional writer’s block .

From the book: “Imagine if every novel you picked up had a detailed outline of the entire plot… Would you read the novel after reading the outline? Chances are, no. What would be the point? You already know the journey the writer is going to take you on. So, as a writer, why do an outline and then have to spend all that time creating a book you already know?”

21. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty

If you’re procrastinating to the point where you haven’t even started your novel yet, NaNo founder Chris Baty is your guy! No Plot, No Problem is a “low-stress, high-velocity” guide to writing a novel in just 30 days (yup, it’s great prep for the NaNoWriMo challenge ). You’ll get tons of tips on how to survive this rigorous process, from taking advantage of your initial momentum to persisting through moments of doubt . Whether you’re participating in everyone’s favorite November write-a-thon or you just want to bang out a novel that’s been in your head forever, Baty will help you cross that elusive finish line.

From the book: “A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life. If you have a million things to do, adding item number 1,000,001 is not such a big deal.”

22. The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

And for those who think 30 days is a bit too steam cooker-esque, there’s always Alan Watt’s more laid-back option. In The 90-Day Novel , Watt provides a unique three-part process to assist you with your writing. The first part provides assistance in developing your story’s premise, the second part helps you work through obstacles to execute it, and the third part is full of writing exercises to unlock the “primal forces” of your story — aka the energy that will invigorate your work and incite readers to devour it like popcorn at the movies.

From the book: “Why we write is as important as what we write. Grammar, punctuation, and syntax are fairly irrelevant in the first draft. Get the story down… fast. Get out of your head, so you can surprise yourself on the page.”

23. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

If you feel like you’re constantly in the trenches of your “inner creative battle,” The War of Art is the book for you. Pressfield emphasizes the importance of breaking down creative barriers — what he calls “Resistance” — in order to defeat your demons (i.e. procrastination, self-doubt, etc.) and fulfill your potential. Though some of his opinions are no doubt controversial (he makes repeated claims that almost anything can be procrastination, including going to the doctor), this book is the perfect remedy for prevaricating writers who need a little bit of tough love.

From the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

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Books about writing as a lifestyle and career

24. steal like an artist by austin kleon.

As Kleon notes in the first section of Steal Like an Artist , this title obviously doesn’t refer to plagiarism. Rather, it acknowledges that art cannot be created in a vacuum, and encourages writers (and all other artists) to be open and receptive to all sources of inspiration. By “stealing like an artist,” writers can construct stories that already have a baseline of familiarity for readers, but with new twists that keep them fresh and exciting .

From the book: “If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

25. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison

creative writing famous authors

From the book: “A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

26. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones will help you write more skillfully and creatively. With suggestions, encouragement, and valuable advice on the many aspects of the writing craft, Goldberg doesn’t shy away from making the crucial connection between writing and adding value to your life. Covering a range of topics including taking notes of your initial thoughts, listening, overcoming doubt, choosing where to write, and the selection of your verbs, this guide has plenty to say about the minute details of writing, but excels at exploring the author life.

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

27. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

What does it take to become a great author? According to the beloved writer Ray Bradbury , it takes zest, gusto, curiosity, as well as a spirit of adventure. Sharing his wisdom and experiences as one of the most prolific writers in America, Bradbury gives plenty of practical tips and tricks on how to develop ideas, find your voice, and create your own style in this thoughtful volume. In addition to that, this is also an insight into the life and mind of this prolific writer, and a celebration of the act of writing. 

From the book: “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!”

28. The Kite and the String by Alice Mattison

One of the most common dilemmas an author faces is the struggle between spontaneity and control. Literary endeavors need those unexpected light-bulb moments, but a book will never be finished if you rely solely on inspiration. In The Kite and the String , Mattison has heard your cry for help and developed a guide for balancing these elements throughout the different stages of writing a novel or a memoir. Sure, there may be language and grammar rules that govern the way you write, but letting a bit of playfulness breathe life into your writing will see it take off to a whole new level. On the other hand, your writing routine, solitude, audience, and goal-setting will act as the strings that keep you from floating too far away. 

From the book: "Don’t make yourself miserable wishing for a kind of success that you wouldn’t enjoy if you had it."

29. How to Become a Successful Indie Author by Craig Martelle

This one’s for all the indie authors out there! Even if you’ve already self-published a book , you can still learn a lot from this guide by Craig Martelle , who has dozens of indie books — “over two and a half million words,” as he puts it — under his belt. With patience and expertise, Martelle walks you through everything you need to know: from developing your premise to perfecting your writing routine, to finally getting your work to the top of the Amazon charts.

From the book: “No matter where you are on your author journey, there’s always a new level you can reach. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s time to get to work.”

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30. How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet 

creative writing famous authors

From the book: “Here’s the thing: authors don’t find readers; readers find books . [...] Marketing is not about selling your book to readers. It’s about getting readers to find it.”

31. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

The full title of Handley’s all-inclusive book on writing is actually Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content — which should tell you something about its broad appeal. Not only does Handley have some great ideas on how to plan and produce a great story, but she also provides tips on general content writing, which comes in handy when it’s time to build your author platform or a mailing list to promote your book. As such, Everybody Writes is nothing like your other books on novel writing — it’ll make you see writing in a whole new light.

From the book: “In our world, many hold a notion that the ability to write, or write well, is a gift bestowed on a chosen few. That leaves us thinking there are two kinds of people: the writing haves — and the hapless, for whom writing well is a hopeless struggle, like trying to carve marble with a butter knife. But I don’t believe that, and neither should you.” 

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Books on writing poetry 

32. madness, rack, and honey by mary ruefle.

With a long history of crafting and lecturing about poetry, Ruefle invites the reader of Madness, Rack, and Honey to immerse themselves into its beauty and magic. In a powerful combination of lectures and musings, she expertly explores the mind and craft of writers while excavating the magical potential of poetry. Often a struggle between giving and taking, poetry is, according to Ruefle, a unique art form that reveals the innermost workings of the human heart.

From the book: “In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single lifespan, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again”

33. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya, and Bhanu Kapil

If you’re looking for something that explores the philosophical aspects of writing, Threads asks big questions about writing and the position of the writer in an industry that has largely excluded marginalized voices. Where does the writer exist in relation to its text and, particularly in the case of poetry, who is the “I”? Examining the common white, British, male lens, this collection of short essays will make it hard for you not to critically consider your own perceptions and how they affect your writing process.

From the book: “It is impossible to consider the lyric without fully interrogating its inherent promise of universality, its coded whiteness.”

34. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner

Despite its eye-catching title, this short essay is actually a defense of poetry . Lerner begins with his own hatred of the art form, and then moves on to explore this love-hate dichotomy that actually doesn’t seem to be contradictory. Rather, such a multitude of emotions might be one of the reasons that writers and readers alike turn to it. With its ability to evoke feelings and responses through word-play and meter, poetry has often been misconceived as inaccessible and elitist; this is a call to change that perception. 

From the book: “All I ask the haters — and I, too, am one — is that they strive to perfect their contempt, even consider bringing it to bear on poems, where it will be deepened, not dispelled, and where, by creating a place for possibility and present absences (like unheard melodies), it might come to resemble love.”

35. Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge

If you’ve ever felt that the mysterious workings of poetry are out of your reach and expressly not for you, Wooldridge is here to tell you that anyone who wants to can write poetry . An experienced workshop leader, she will help you find your inner voice and to express it through the written word. Giving you advice on how to think, use your senses, and practice your writing, Wooldrige will have you putting down rhyme schemes before you know it. 

From the book: “Writing a poem is a form of listening, helping me discover what's wrong or frightening in my world as well as what delights me.”

36. Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

creative writing famous authors

From the book: “Don't be afraid to write crap — it makes the best fertilizer. The more of it you write, the better your chances are of growing something wonderful.”

Books about writing nonfiction

37. on writing well by william zinsser.

Going strong with its 30th-anniversary edition, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction is an evergreen resource for nonfiction writers which breaks down the fundamental principles of written communication. As a bonus, the insights and guidelines in this book can certainly be applied to most forms of writing, from interviewing to camp-fire storytelling. Beyond giving tips on how to stay consistent in your writing and voice, how to edit, and how to avoid common pitfalls, Zinsser can also help you grow as a professional writer, strengthening your career and taking steps in a new direction. 

From the book: “Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.”

38. Essays by Lydia Davis

Ironically enough, this rather lengthy book is a celebration of brevity. As one of the leading American voices in flash-fiction and short-form writing, Davis traces her literary roots and inspirations in essays on everything, ranging from the mastodonic work of Proust to minimalism. In both her translations and her own writing, she celebrates experimental writing that stretches the boundaries of language. Playing with the contrast between what is said and what is not, this collection of essays is another tool to the writing shed to help you feel and use the power of every word you write.

From the book: “Free yourself of your device, for at least certain hours of the day — or at the very least one hour. Learn to be alone, all alone, without people, and without a device that is turned on. Learn to experience the purity of that kind of concentration. Develop focus, learn to focus intently on one thing, uninterrupted, for a long time.”

39. Essayism by Brian Dillon

In this volume, Dillon explores the often overlooked genre of essay writing and its place in literature’s past, present, and future. He argues that essays are an “experiment in attention” but also highlights how and why certain essays have directly impacted the development of the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages until the present day. At its heart, despite its many forms, subject areas, and purposes, essayism has its root in self-exploration. Dip in and out of Dillon’s short texts to find inspiration for your own nonfiction writing.

From the book: “What exactly do I mean, even, by 'style'? Perhaps it is nothing but an urge, an aspiration, a clumsy access of admiration, a crush.”

40. Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara

creative writing famous authors

From the book: “Write it down. Whatever it is, write it down. Chip it into marble. Type it into Microsoft Word. Spell it out in seaweeds on the shore. We are each of us an endangered species, delicate as unicorns.”

With a few of these books in your arsenal, you’ll be penning perfect plots in no time! And if you’re interested in learning more about the editing process, check these books on editing out as well!

ZUrlocker says:

11/03/2019 – 19:46

I'm familiar with several of these books. But for new authors, I urge you caution. It is very tempting to read so many books about writing that you never get around to writing. (I did this successfully for many years!) So I will suggest paring it down to just two books: Stephen King on Writing and Blake Snyder Save the Cat. Snyder's book is mostly about screenwriting, so you could also consider Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. Best of luck!

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  • 23 Writing Tips by Famous Authors

23 Writing Tips by Famous Authors

Table of Contents 

  • Key Takeaways 
  • Conclusion 

If you want pointers for becoming a stronger writer, it is only intrinsic to look at those who could attain a great deal of success before you in literature. We can say with assurance that the work of the initial authors has brought to light many newer authors. 

Jane Austen, an outstanding author from the 19th century, was a contemporary feminist and motivated thousands of women of more recent generations to come out and write about their lives. Mary Shelley, the pioneer of early science fiction, paved the way with Frankenstein–The Modern Prometheus . The Lord of the Rings series by JRR Tolkien has been a source of inspiration to JK Rowling for her famous Harry Potter series! So, it’s clear that excellent writing inspires good writing. So, here are some great creative writing tips from some of our favorite authors to help you become a fantastic writer!

creative writing famous authors

23 Writing Tips given by Famous Authors

Jane Austen is an outstanding example for budding writers. Her stories give us innumerable and valuable tips. 

  • Create human characters: Even if you’re not writing about humans, keep in mind that your characters should be complex.
  • Use subplots and use them well: Readers adore Jane Austen’s use of numerous themes throughout her novels. We witness characters dealing with similar problems and issues and responding differently.
  • Strengthen your story continuously: You have a tale to tell, and each page of your work should advance the storyline.
  • Tiny details may make a great difference in a tale: When they’re utilized correctly – which is, unsurprisingly, another skill Austen possessed – they add subtlety to the characters.
  • Ensure that your dialogue is sharp: Natural dialogue is essential. Austen’s speech does seem a little strange to 21st-century ears, but it works!
  • Now and again, we all need someone to give us a good nudge! As you begin or continue on your writing journey – a path that you will not abandon – there may be moments where you will require someone to motivate you in some manner. The following quote is by Paul Laurence Dunbar. 

“What Joe Hamilton was missing, more than anything else in the world, was someone to kick him. Many men who may have lived decently and become fairly respectable citizens have gone to the dogs for someone to administer a good resounding kick at the right time. It is corrective and clarifying.” – Paul Laurence Dunbar.

  • MJ McGrath is the Pan Macmillan-published author whose most recent book is The Bone Seeker . Create a motive, she advises! Hear it in her own words: 

“Because the wants of its characters drive every story, the first question to ask when creating a character isn’t what they do or where they live, but what they want.’ Knowledge? Power? Forgiveness? Often, the character doesn’t realize what they want, making it more difficult for them to achieve it and drive the plot. The writer, on the other hand, is constantly aware. The writer continually keeps the characters’ deepest goals in mind and creates internal and external roadblocks.” – McGrath, MJ.

  • In 1993, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Toni Morrison. Morrison compares “dead language,” which “thwarts the intellect, delays conscience, and inhibits human potential,” with the language used with knowledge and care in her Nobel talk. Morrison implies that it is preferable to approach great themes without attempting to make a definite statement without expressing “everything.” Tell the one genuine tale that has a significant impact on you or A story that delves into the topics and concepts vital to you. Later in the same lecture, Morrison says something that reminds us not to use dead language in our writing:

“Language can not live up to life once and for all. It shouldn’t, either. Language can never pin down slavery, genocide, and war. It should not yearn for arrogance to be able to do so. Its power, its joy, lies in its grasp for the ineffable.”- Toni Morrison.

  • Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish poet who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996, wrote a column for the Polish Journal, Literary Life, in which she offered guidance to aspiring authors. Szymborska gave an aspiring poet the following piece of writing advice (which also applies to fiction writers):

“You’ve crammed more high words into three short poems than most poets accomplish in a lifetime: ‘Fatherland,’ ‘truth,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘justice,’ such words don’t come cheap.’ They have real blood flowing through them, which ink cannot mimic.” – Wislawa Szymborska

  • Gabriel Garcia Márquez, a Colombian novelist, is known for works like One Hundred Years of Solitude , full of fascinating characters. Márquez offered some writing tips. “My grandmother’s storytelling style inspired the tone I finally employed in One Hundred Years of Solitude . She spoke things that seemed otherworldly and wonderful, yet she did it in an entirely normal way. When I eventually figured out what tone I needed to employ, I got down and worked every day for eighteen months. I learned that I needed to believe in them myself and write them down with the same attitude that my grandmother had when she recounted them: a brick face.” – Gabriel Garcia Márquez.
  • A chat with the Paris Review in 1994 revealed that the late Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe spoke powerfully about the importance of representation and stating your truth via your writing:

“When I started school and learned to read, I came across stories about other people and places. I recall the kinds of things that intrigued me in the beginning. Strange things fascinated me since they were far away and somewhat ethereal. When I grew up, I learned about the dangers of not having your tales. There’s an adage that says- The history of the hunt will always praise the hunter until the lions have their own Historians” – Chinua Achebe.

  • If you think about when your manuscript will be done, it’s easy to become impatient or overwhelmed. Instead, concentrate on the work at hand. According to John Steinbeck’s counsel, write just one page today: it’s one more page than you had yesterday. In the 1975 issue of the Paris Review , Steinbeck wrote (excerpted by The Atlantic here):

“Abandon the idea that you’ll ever finish. It helps to lose track of the 400 pages and write one page every day. Then you’re always surprised when it’s completed.” – John Steinbeck.

  • Arundhati Roy is an Indian novelist well recognized for her poetry books and bold activism on environmental and social concerns. So, it was all the more fascinating when she responded to the somber interview question, “When did you know your childhood was over?”

“It’s not yet over! For authors, it should never be over. The folks I dread the most are those I can’t picture what type of child they were as a youngster. I had to be a fairly grownup child in certain respects because of the conditions in which I was raised and how I lived, and I’d prefer at least some part of me to be a quite childlike adult.” – Arundhati Roy.

  • Putting one foot in front of the other, as Neil Gaiman says, “How do you complete them?” Gaiman advised a young writer when he was asked how to take the last steps toward finishing his works. “You’re the one who finishes them.” Many prizes have been bestowed onto Gaiman’s work, including the Newbury and Carnegie Medals.

“This is how you do it, you take a seat at the keyboard, and you put word after word until it is done. It is that easy, and that hard.” – Nei Gaiman 

creative writing famous authors

  • As writers, we must safeguard our personal space from the numerous distractions we experience daily, says Zaidie Smith. Roommates, friends, family, and jobs may all make producing your best work challenging. You will feel depleted and exhausted if you are open to everyone and everything. When it comes to your job, protecting your personal space is not a bad idea.

“Preserve the time and place in which you write. Keep everyone away from it, even the people who are most important to you” – Zaidie Smith.

  • Hundreds of writers choose to communicate their ideas using more precise language. We often believe that having a more extensive vocabulary equates better writing, but this is not the case. Hear it from Leonardo da Vinci- 

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

  • Similarly, Ernest Hemingway talks about finding the state of flow and staying there. He says: 

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is take a seat at a typewriter and bleed.”

  • Another example of keeping it simple is from George Orwell. He talks about simplicity in writing by saying.

“Never use a lengthy word where you can use a short one!”

  • Stephen King talks about the significance of reading. After all, writers read; writers read all the time!

“If you don’t have a time period in which you read, you don’t have the time or the device to become a writer”- Stephen King. 

  • Writers often stop writing because they are afraid of going wrong or being unsuccessful. For this exact reason, it’s essential to keep in mind Nora Roberts’ saying, 

“You can repair anything but a blank page.”

  • Jhumpa Lahiri, the author of The Namesake , has given plenty of quotes to inspire writers. About books, she wrote,

“That’s the thing about books, and they let you travel without moving your feet.”

  • A solid motivation to create a novel, play, or short story is to improve your talent — to learn how to write better and more efficiently. In an open letter to NaNoWriMo dreamers, Australian author Peter Carey offered the following advice:

“You don’t need inspiration; all you need is a consistent practice of writing daily, even when you’re ill, depressed, or bored. Nothing, not even your precious children, can stop you. You should write in the hours before they wake up if you have children, as Toni Morrison did. You’ll need exceptional willpower if you want to be like the champion who swims for four hours every day of the year. You either possess it, or you do not, but the only way to find out is to try.”

  • And lastly, let us hear from James Patterson, “Don’t think about articles; think about the story. Write the story down.”

Key Takeaways

  • If you want pointers for becoming a stronger writer, it is only intrinsic to look at those who could attain a great deal of success before you in literature. 
  • Late Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe spoke powerfully about the importance of representation and stating your truth via your writing.
  • Ernest Hemingway talks about finding the state of flow and staying there. 

creative writing famous authors

In this blog, we have dived the inspiring words of several famous authors. These writers overcame prejudice, stereotypes, and more to reach the places their works came from. The Bronte sisters wrote under pseudonyms of men, and JK Rowling went with her initials to not be identified as a woman! We have made considerable strides to achieve the heights we have achieved in the writing industry. So get started on yours today and reach new heights!

Listening to the words may inspire you, but paying attention to how people speak can help you create conversation. You could make up a narrative based on an odd conversation or a hilarious line you overhear. Keep your ears to the ground. Being nosy entails paying close attention to what is going on around you.

1. Be direct 2. Choose your words well. 3. Short sentences are more powerful.  4. Write short paragraphs.  5. Always use the active voice.

1. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation. 2. Concise language.  3. Research capabilities 4. Knowing the audience  5. Organization and structure. 

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Language » Writing Books

The best books on creative writing, recommended by andrew cowan.

The professor of creative writing at UEA says Joseph Conrad got it right when he said that the sitting down is all. He chooses five books to help aspiring writers.

The best books on Creative Writing - Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

The best books on Creative Writing - On Becoming a Novelist by John C. Gardner

On Becoming a Novelist by John C. Gardner

The best books on Creative Writing - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

The best books on Creative Writing - The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

The best books on Creative Writing - Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett

Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett

The best books on Creative Writing - Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

1 Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

2 on becoming a novelist by john c. gardner, 3 on writing: a memoir of the craft by stephen king, 4 the forest for the trees by betsy lerner, 5 worstward ho by samuel beckett.

How would you describe creative writing?

But because it is in academia there is all this paraphernalia that has to go with it. So you get credits for attending classes. You have to do supporting modules; you have to be assessed. If you are doing an undergraduate degree you have to follow a particular curriculum and only about a quarter of that will be creative writing and the rest will be in the canon of English literature . If you are doing a PhD you have to support whatever the creative element is with a critical element. So there are these ways in which academia disciplines writing and I think of that as Creative Writing with a capital C and a capital W. All of us who teach creative writing are doing it, in a sense, to support our writing, but it is also often at the expense of our writing. We give up quite a lot of time and mental energy and also, I think, imaginative and creative energy to teach.

Your first choice is Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer , which for someone writing in 1934 sounds pretty forward thinking.

Because creative writing has now taken off and has become this very widespread academic discipline it is beginning to acquire its own canon of key works and key texts. This is one of the oldest of them. It’s a book that almost anyone who teaches creative writing will have read. They will probably have read it because some fundamentals are explained and I think the most important one is Brande’s sense of the creative writer being comprised of two people. One of them is the artist and the other is the critic.

Actually, Malcolm Bradbury who taught me at UEA, wrote the foreword to my edition of Becoming a Writer , and he talks about how Dorothea Brande was writing this book ‘in Freudian times’ – the 1930s in the States. And she does have this very Freudian idea of the writer as comprised of a child artist on the one hand, who is associated with spontaneity, unconscious processes, while on the other side there is the adult critic making very careful discriminations.

And did she think the adult critic hindered the child artist?

No. Her point is that the two have to work in harmony and in some way the writer has to achieve an effective balance between the two, which is often taken to mean that you allow the artist child free rein in the morning. So you just pour stuff on to the page in the morning when you are closest to the condition of sleep. The dream state for the writer is the one that is closest to the unconscious. And then in the afternoon you come back to your morning’s work with your critical head on and you consciously and objectively edit it. Lots of how-to-write books encourage writers to do it that way. It is also possible that you can just pour stuff on to the page for days on end as long as you come back to it eventually with a critical eye.

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Good! Your next book, John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist , is described as comfort food for the aspiring novelist.

This is another one of the classics. He was quite a successful novelist in the States, but possibly an even more successful teacher of creative writing. The short story writer and poet Raymond Carver, for instance, was one of his students. And he died young in a motorcycle accident when he was 49. There are two classic works by him. One is this book, On Becoming a Novelist , and the other is The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers . They were both put together from his teaching notes after he died.

On Becoming a Novelist  is the more succinct and, I think, is the better of the two. He talks about automatic writing and the idea, just like Dorothea Brande, of the artist being comprised of two people. But his key idea is the notion of the vivid and continuous dream. He suggests that when we read a novel we submit to the logic of that novel in the same way as we might submit to the logic of a dream – we sink into it, and clearly the events that occur could not exist outside the imagination.

What makes student writing in particular go wrong is when it draws attention to itself, either through bad writing or over-elaborate writing. He suggests that these faults in the aspirant writer alert the reader to the fact that they are reading a fiction and it is a bit like giving someone who is dreaming a nudge. It jolts them out of the dream. So he proposes that the student writer should try to create a dream state in the reader that is vivid and appeals to all the senses and is continuous. What you mustn’t do is alert the reader to the fact that they are reading a fiction.

It is a very good piece of advice for writers starting out but it is ultimately very limiting. It rules out all the great works of modernism and post-modernism, anything which is linguistically experimental. It rules out anything which draws attention to the words as words on a page. It’s a piece of advice which really applies to the writing of realist fiction, but is a very good place from which to begin.

And then people can move on.

I never would have expected the master of terror Stephen King to write a book about writing. But your next choice, On Writing , is more of an autobiography .

Yes. It is a surprise to a lot of people that this book is so widely read on university campuses and so widely recommended by teachers of writing. Students love it. It’s bracing: there’s no nonsense. He says somewhere in the foreword or preface that it is a short book because most books are filled with bullshit and he is determined not to offer bullshit but to tell it like it is.

It is autobiographical. It describes his struggle to emerge from his addictions – to alcohol and drugs – and he talks about how he managed to pull himself and his family out of poverty and the dead end into which he had taken them. He comes from a very disadvantaged background and through sheer hard work and determination he becomes this worldwide bestselling author. This is partly because of his idea of the creative muse. Most people think of this as some sprite or fairy that is usually feminine and flutters about your head offering inspiration. His idea of the muse is ‘a basement guy’, as he calls him, who is grumpy and turns up smoking a cigar. You have to be down in the basement every day clocking in to do your shift if you want to meet the basement guy.

Stephen King has this attitude that if you are going to be a writer you need to keep going and accept that quite a lot of what you produce is going to be rubbish and then you are going to revise it and keep working at it.

Do you agree with him?

He sounds inspirational. Your next book, Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees , looks at things from the editor’s point of view.

Yes, she was an editor at several major American publishing houses, such as Simon & Schuster. She went on to become an agent, and also did an MFA in poetry before that, so she came through the US creative writing process and understands where many writers are coming from.

The book is divided into two halves. In the second half she describes the process that goes from the completion of the author’s manuscript to submitting it to agents and editors. She explains what goes on at the agent’s offices and the publisher’s offices. She talks about the drawing up of contracts, negotiating advances and royalties. So she takes the manuscript from the author’s hands, all the way through the publishing process to its appearance in bookshops. She describes that from an insider’s point of view, which is hugely interesting.

But the reason I like this book is for the first half of it, which is very different. Here she offers six chapters, each of which is a character sketch of a different type of author. She has met each of them and so although she doesn’t mention names you feel she is revealing something to you about authors whose books you may have read. She describes six classic personality types. She has the ambivalent writer, the natural, the wicked child, the self-promoter, the neurotic and a chapter called ‘Touching Fire’, which is about the addictive and the mentally unstable.

Your final choice is Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett .

This is a tiny book – it is only about 40 pages and it has got these massive white margins and really large type. I haven’t counted, but I would guess it is only about two to three thousand words and it is dressed up as a novella when it is really only a short story. On the first page there is this riff: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’

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When I read this I thought I had discovered a slogan for the classroom that I could share with my students. I want to encourage them to make mistakes and not to be perfectionists, not to feel that everything they do has to be of publishable standard. The whole point of doing a course, especially a creative writing MA and attending workshops, is that you can treat the course as a sandpit. You go in there, you try things out which otherwise you wouldn’t try, and then you submit it to the scrutiny of your classmates and you get feedback. Inevitably there will be things that don’t work and your classmates will help you to identify those so that you can take it away and redraft it – you can try again. And inevitably you are going to fail again because any artistic endeavour is doomed to failure because the achievement can never match the ambition. That’s why artists keep producing their art and writers keep writing, because the thing you did last just didn’t quite satisfy you, just wasn’t quite right. And you keep going and trying to improve on that.

But why, when so much of it is about failing – failing to get published, failing to be satisfied, failing to be inspired – do writers carry on?

I have a really good quote from Joseph Conrad in which he says the sitting down is all. He spends eight hours at his desk, trying to write, failing to write, foaming at the mouth, and in the end wanting to hit his head on the wall but refraining from that for fear of alarming his wife!

It’s a familiar situation; lots of writers will have been there. For me it is a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is something I have to keep returning to. I have to keep going back to the sentences, trying to get them right. Trying to line them up correctly. I can’t let them go. It is endlessly frustrating because they are never quite right.

You have published four books. Are you happy with them?

Reasonably happy. Once they are done and gone I can relax and feel a little bit proud of them. But at the time I just experience agonies. It takes me ages. It takes me four or five years to finish a novel partly because I always find distractions – like working in academia – something that will keep me away from the writing, which is equally as unrewarding as it is rewarding!

September 27, 2012

Five Books aims to keep its book recommendations and interviews up to date. If you are the interviewee and would like to update your choice of books (or even just what you say about them) please email us at [email protected]

Andrew Cowan

Andrew Cowan is Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Creative Writing programme at UEA. His first novel, Pig , won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the Betty Trask Award, the Ruth Hadden Memorial Prize, the Author’s Club First Novel Award and a Scottish Council Book Award. He is also the author of the novels Common Ground , Crustaceans ,  What I Know  and  Worthless Men . His own creative writing guidebook is  The  Art  of  Writing  Fiction .

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The Pen Company Blog

Famous authors and their writing habits

Have you ever wondered how your favourite books came into existence? Writing a book takes much more than a good idea — many popular authors repeatedly practice the same writing habits when coining their creations. Discover the writing rituals of famous writers and adopt some of their unusual routines.

Best known for his Robert Langdon series featuring the famous Da Vinci Code (2003), Dan Brown has one of the more strange habits of famous writers.

In an interview with The Sunday Times , he revealed he often hangs upside down from an exercise frame , wearing a pair of gravity boots to clear his head. He claimed that letting go and relaxing helped fine-tune his ideas — unsurprising, considering his complex plots of cryptography and symbology.

Brown also shared he sets his computer to freeze every hour for 60 seconds and takes a minibreak of sit-ups and push-ups. Combined with an early 4 am start, Brown’s writing routine may sound gruelling, but it certainly works.

Maya Angelou

Early starts were also a favourite of memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. Like Brown, she started the day at 4 am too, and began writing within an hour of getting up.

Angelou also adopted Virginia Woolf’s advice of having a ‘room of one’s own’ to write in and rented a hotel room away from home to pen her creations. This distinction between work and home helped cement her as one of the world’s most influential writers.

When she returned home in the afternoon, she would busy herself with household chores and making her family dinner before reading what she’d written that day to her husband. A healthy work/life balance, if we ever did see one.

Barack Obama

Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, makes a campaign stop

Barack Obama may be best known for being the 44 th President of the United States. However, he’s also written three books about his life and time in the political spotlight.

Unlike the previous early risers on our list, Obama was famously a night owl, retreating to his office after his wife and kids were asleep to write. His 750+ page memoir, A Promised Land (2020), was mostly penned between 10 pm and 2 am. More surprisingly, Obama wrote the entire first draft by hand on yellow legal pads , using a black Uni-ball Vision Elite rollerball pen .

Thankfully, his efforts and late nights weren’t in vain, as the book became the best-selling presidential memoir in modern times .

Susan Sontag

Writing down our resolutions can be an excellent way to manifest change in our daily routines, something novelist and essay writer Susan Sontag understood.

In her 1977 diary , Sontag shared her resolutions that helped form her daily writing habits:

“Starting tomorrow — if not today:

  • I will get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)
  • I will have lunch only with Roger [Straus]. (‘No, I don’t go out for lunch.’ Can break this rule once every two weeks.)
  • I will write in the Notebook every day. (Model: Lichtenberg’s Waste Books.)
  • I will tell people not to call in the morning, or not answer the phone.
  • I will try to confine my reading to the evening. (I read too much — as an escape from writing.)
  • I will answer letters once a week. (Friday? — I have to go to the hospital anyway.)”

If her achievements are anything to go by, it appears these are some of the more successful writing habits of famous writers — worth adopting.

Stephen King

The father of modern thrillers, Stephen King has published an astounding 65 novels, 11 collections, four non-fiction books, and over 200 short stories. It’s no wonder people are itching to replicate his writing routine.

His ritual involves four hours of writing followed by an afternoon nap, and he claims his creative sweet spot is between 8:30 am and 12:30 pm . He’s also a big believer in light exercising before writing, doing push-ups and using his treadmill before starting the day.

King’s desk set-up also sounds cosy and inviting — he works with the blinds down to ease distractions, shuts his office door, and writes with his dog at his feet. These small yet impactful changes have a significant impact on his productivity, as he writes around six pages per day.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison a Nobel Prize-winning American author editor and professor during the autograph session in the L'arbre a Lettres bookstore on May 12 2009 in Paris France

Toni Morrison was a Nobel Prize-winning author whose commitment to the literary community influenced generations of writers. Best known for her groundbreaking works The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), and Beloved (1987), Morrison was also a teacher and editor.

Her busy life meant this famous writer’s writing habits were formed out of pockets of snatched time when she learned how to use every spare moment. Morrison would solve literary problems while on the train or in other everyday situations, claiming ‘ there was no blank time. ’

As Morrison’s success grew, she was able to finesse her routine and, like many writing rituals of famous writers, found she was more productive in the morning. Before starting work, she enjoyed watching the sunrise with a cup of coffee and wrote longhand on yellow legal pads with a number two pencil.

This routine served her well — Morrison was writing a novel when she died in 2019 , and her latest essay collection was published that year.

How to form a good writing habit

If we’ve learnt anything from famous writers’ writing habits, establishing and sticking to a routine is essential. Incorporating advice from these popular authors, here are some actions to consider.

  • Set up a separate writing space where distractions are minimised
  • Set aside a particular time to write every single day, without exception
  • Set a word count or page goal for each day
  • Keep an orderly daily routine, such as making a hot drink, exercising, or getting dressed by a specific time
  • Brainstorm or read during every spare moment you have

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The 500+ Best Writers of All Time

The 500+ Best Writers of All Time

Ranker Books

The pen is truly mightier than the sword, and if you’re a book enthusiast you know that to be true. Some of history’s most influential people were authors, writing the most important literature and political works of all time. Writers have shaped human history, capturing some of the most important historical events and reflecting the culture of a changing world around us in a profound way. Who are the best writers of all time? Vote up the authors you think are the best and see how they rank! 

The famous writers on this list are the best in history, writing books, plays, essays, and poetry that has stood the test of time and make up the world's canon of literature and written work. No matter what type of writing you like to read, you can't go wrong with a book by one of these best writers of all time. Simply put, they're easily some of the most famous authors of all time.

This list of authors features the best writers ever, including, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Geoffrey Chaucer, Homer, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, Herman Melleville, William Faulkner, and Edgar Allan Poe. Vote up the best authors of all time below or add the writer you think is the best who isn't already on the list.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky, a towering figure in literature, delved into the depths of the human psyche through his novels. His exploration of existentialism and the moral struggles within society earned him a place among the most influential novelists of all time.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, transformed the English language with his timeless plays and sonnets. His profound exploration of the human condition, love, power, and tragedy has left an indelible mark on literature and theater worldwide.

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy, a Russian literary giant, is best known for epic novels like War and Peace and Anna Karenina . His intricate narratives, philosophical depth, and incisive analysis of societal issues cement his legacy as a master of realistic fiction.


Homer, the semi-legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey , stands at the dawn of Western literature. His epic tales of heroes, gods, and warfare have laid the foundation for much of Western narrative tradition and continue to inspire today.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, with his keen observation of Victorian society, brought to life some of literature's most memorable characters and stories. His novels, rich in social commentary and imbued with humor and pathos, remain enduring classics that captivate readers across generations.

J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, the father of modern fantasy literature, created the unparalleled Middle-earth universe. His The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit not only ignited the genre's popularity but also set a high bar for world-building and linguistic creativity.

George Orwell

George Orwell

George Orwell, renowned for 1984 and Animal Farm , masterfully wielded his pen against totalitarianism and social injustice. His sharp, prescient narratives explore the themes of surveillance, freedom, and the manipulation of truth, remaining profoundly relevant in today's world.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe, the master of the macabre, revolutionized the horror and detective genres. With his gothic tales of mystery and the supernatural, Poe delved into the human psyche's darkest corners, leaving a lasting impact on literature and popular culture.

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo, a luminary of French literature, is celebrated for classics like Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame . His works, blending social criticism with rich storytelling, highlight the struggles of the marginalized, earning him a revered place in literary history.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain, the pen name of Samuel Clemens, is hailed as the father of American literature. With his signature wit and keen observations of society, Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remain quintessential American novels.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Jane Austen, renowned for her sharp wit and keen social commentary, masterfully dissected the British landed gentry's trials and tribulations. Her novels, including Pride and Prejudice and Emma , offer timeless insights into love, class, and women's roles in society.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, known for his economical and understated style, profoundly influenced 20th-century fiction. Author of The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms , Hemingway's themes of courage, loss, and existentialism resonate deeply with readers worldwide.


Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, was a student of Socrates and teacher to Aristotle. Founding the Academy in Athens, his dialogues explored justice, beauty, and equality, laying the groundwork for much of Western philosophical thought.

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov, a Russian playwright and master of the short story, is celebrated for his intricate character development and concise narrative form. His works, blending humor and tragedy, cast a keen eye on the complexities of the human condition and social dynamics.

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck, a Nobel laureate, captured the American spirit and landscape through his vivid portrayals of the working class. His masterpieces, such as The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men , explore themes of perseverance, poverty, and human dignity.

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka, the enigmatic Czech writer, explored the absurdity of existence through his surreal and often nightmarish narratives. His works, including The Metamorphosis and The Trial , delve into themes of alienation, existential dread, and the labyrinth of bureaucracy.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, the epitome of wit and eloquence, used his sharp tongue and flamboyant style to critique Victorian society. Famous for The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest , Wilde's works blend satire, beauty, and moral questioning.

Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes, hailed as the father of the modern novel, immortalized himself with Don Quixote . This groundbreaking work, blending realism with fantasy, satire, and humor, delves into the adventures of a delusional knight and his loyal squire, Sancho Panza.

Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas, with his flair for high adventure and action-packed narratives, penned some of literature's most thrilling tales. The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo showcase Dumas' skill in weaving intricate plots and vibrant characters.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle, best known for creating the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes, revolutionized the mystery genre. His stories, featuring Holmes' unparalleled deductive reasoning and the loyal Dr. Watson, have captivated readers for generations with their intricate plots and enduring appeal.

Jules Verne

Jules Verne

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

James Joyce

James Joyce

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Brothers Grimm

Brothers Grimm

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson

Herman Melville

Herman Melville

Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley

Lists about novelists, poets, short story authors, journalists, essayists, and playwrights, from simple rankings to fun facts about the men and women behind the pens.

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Famous English Authors and Their Contributions to Literature

Published on: May 2, 2024

The vast scope of literature includes entertaining and enlightening works that span numerous geographic locations, cultural traditions and historical periods. Every category presents its own unique flavor and holds strong literary merit, but English literature has long captivated readers with its compelling themes and vivid descriptions.

It’s difficult to appreciate the true scope and power of English literature without paying homage to the myriad of literary geniuses who have contributed to this impressive body of work. Keep reading for an overview of the most famous English authors, ranging from Middle English poets to contemporary English writers.

The Foundation of English Literature

The term “English literature” is often described as the body of works penned by those living in the British Isles — beginning during the 7th century and extending to the present day. The poem  Beowulf  is often highlighted as the earliest verifiable work of English literature, but it is challenging to date and attribute the works of the 1st millennium.

Middle English helped usher in the literary formats and themes we take for granted today. The transition from Middle English to Early Modern English was marked by two literary masters who were clearly ahead of their time: Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare.

Geoffrey Chaucer and the Middle Ages

Often referred to as the father of English literature,  Geoffrey Chaucer  is best known as the creative force behind  The Canterbury Tales . That said, he penned many other poems and was also a philosopher, an astronomer and a civil servant.

Chaucer’s works were as eclectic as his numerous interests and professional pursuits. Philosophical quandaries were integrated into many of his poems, along with plenty of humor.

During the 1390s, Chaucer set to work on his magnum opus, The Canterbury Tales . Primarily written in verse, these tales center around a group of storytelling pilgrims who engage in a contest as they travel on horseback to a shrine in Canterbury. In addition to being wonderfully entertaining and thought-provoking, this series of stories popularized the use of Middle English in literature.

William Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Era

No discussion of famous English authors would be complete without a deep dive into the fascinating life of  William Shakespeare . Arguably history’s most famous poet and playwright, Shakespeare deserves credit for creating some of the most iconic characters not only in Elizabethan era literature, but of all time. Many of his concepts and even his phrases remain relevant to this day.

Highly prolific, Shakespeare is believed to have penned 38 plays. These include many noteworthy works that remain popular on the stage, in high school classrooms, on the silver screen and beyond:

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Evolution of the Novel

As one of the most significant literary formats of the last few centuries, the novel has the unique power to transport us to different worlds while helping us form close connections with compelling characters.

While the novel seems like the quintessential form of English literature, its history is rather short compared to English literature as a whole. The origins of the English novel are believed to lie with early works such as  Robinson Crusoe  and  Pilgrim’s Promise . Talented female writers are believed to have brought extra emotional intensity to this format.

Jane Austen and the Rise of Realism

Featuring compelling heroines who seek both romance and self-actualization, Jane Austen’s novels are rife with social commentary. She is, perhaps, best known for the relatable novel Pride & Prejudice . This is one of the world’s most consistently popular novels and is believed to have sold over  200 million copies .  Pride and Prejudice themes like social class and reputation blend with a page-turning plot to achieve almost universal appeal.

But Pride & Prejudice  is just the beginning. Austen wrote many other novels that felt just as relatable, including  Sense & Sensibility ,  Mansfield Park  and  Emma . Readers are still drawn to her work, in part, because her characters feel so realistic. This stems from one of her primary writing techniques, which is weaving characters’ thoughts into the narrative. While common today, this was unusual for the time.

Charles Dickens and Social Commentary

Like Jane Austen,  Charles Dickens  had a knack for creating memorable characters who left a deep impression on readers. Also, like Austen, Dickens incorporated social commentary into his work, although he was more likely to discuss issues such as poverty and inequality.

Dickens was celebrated in his time and has consistently remained among the most popular novelists since his death in 1870. His most noteworthy works include:

  • Oliver Twist
  • A Christmas Carol
  • David Copperfield
  • Great Expectations

Through his compassionate work, Dickens introduced readers to the tragic struggles of street children and the infuriating corruption underscoring their plight. It is due to this frequent exploration of poverty and other social ills that similarly themed works are now referred to as “Dickensian.” Beyond this, he was influential simply because he helped to solidify the novel as a popular source of entertainment.

Romanticism and Gothic Literature

The 18th and 19th centuries were dominated by two closely aligned literary movements, Romanticism and Gothic literature. The former represented a clear rejection of order and harmony, instead bringing imaginative and spontaneous attitudes to the forefront.

Creating an atmosphere of terror, Gothic literature delivered a uniquely foreboding feel using fascinating plots involving curses and revenge. The settings were often gloomy with supernatural beings, and often, passionate romances built into these alluring works.

Mary Shelley and the Birth of Science Fiction

When most people think of science fiction, contemporary works involving space or advanced technology come to mind. However, this genre has fascinated readers for centuries. As one of the most notable Gothic literature authors,  Mary Shelley  helped usher in an appreciation of the weird and wonderful through her iconic novel  Frankenstein .

Capturing the still-relevant fear that modern science could usher in destructive forces,  Frankenstein  delved into the potentially horrific consequences of humans playing god. The novel’s writing style was also unique as an epistolary form, featuring a series of letters that functioned as narrative.

The Brontë Sisters and the Exploration of the Psyche

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë enjoyed writing from a young age. While each presented distinct writing styles, they were linked not only as sisters, but also by their use of emotions to bring their characters to life.

Among the best-known works from this amazing sisterhood includes  Charlotte Brontë’s  Jane Eyre , which emphasized the search for love, independence and self-control. Featuring an intimate first-person style and a surprisingly revolutionary subtext, this novel was ahead of its time.

The destructive power of passion dominated Emily Brontë’s  Wuthering Heights , which featured wonderfully complex characters. A typical  Wuthering Heights analysis will also highlight a setting so gloomy, yet compelling, it feels like a character in and of itself.

Anne Brontë, while not as well-known today, penned one of the earliest works that could arguably be classified as feminist, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It detailed the effects of abuse while defying social conventions of the time.

The Modernists

Spanning a period beset with huge social and economic changes (between 1890 and World War II), the Modernist era fostered experimental writing styles while integrating then cutting-edge philosophical and psychological concepts. Feelings such as disillusionment pervaded many of these works, although there was also frequently an undercurrent of optimism.

Virginia Woolf and the Stream of Consciousness

Virginia Woolf pioneered the stream of consciousness, emphasizing non-linear writing techniques to capture the nuances of the mind and the unique flow of characters’ thought processes. By focusing on the power of the interior monologue, this approach played a significant role in her well-known novel, Mrs. Dalloway , revealing how memories can influence current perceptions and tackling important themes such as isolation and privilege.

Woolf also wrote many essays on women’s history and politics, including  A Room of One’s Own . Critiquing the patriarchal system and its stifling of female creativity, this impactful essay argued that women could only achieve their full creative potential if they also achieved financial independence.

James Joyce and the Reimagining of the Novel

Irish author  James Joyce  also relied on stream of consciousness techniques while experimenting with absurdism and integrating numerous points of view. With the short story collection  Dubliners,  he hoped to hold up a “nicely polished looking-glass” in the Irish community so that readers could finally recognize (and hopefully address) what the writer regarded as a troubling paralysis.

Joyce took his penchant for experimental writing to a new level with  Ulysses . Structured to align with Homer’s  Odyssey ,  Ulysses  featured a wide array of narrative styles. Over the years,  Ulysses  has gained what  The New Yorker  regards as a “fearsome reputation for difficulty.” Still, there is no denying its status as one of the most influential works of the 20th century.

Post-War British Literature

It is impossible to overstate the influence of World War II on British literature. This was used as a backdrop for many powerful novels and the conceptual framework for both dystopian sagas and historic fiction. There was a distinct bleakness to this period’s most acclaimed works, which decades later, continue to feel hauntingly relevant.

George Orwell and Dystopian Fiction

George Orwell’s initial breakthrough came with the allegorical novella  Animal Farm , which used anthropomorphic animals to reveal the struggle to achieve a free and just society. This novella was inspired by the Bolshevik revolution, with characters representing Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin.

Today, Orwell is best known for the  dystopian novel   1984 , set in an imagined future involving three totalitarian states constantly at war. One of these is known as Oceania, in which the brainwashed population shows obedience and reverence for the leader Big Brother. Featuring a direct writing style and bleak language,  1984  had a huge impact on the dystopian genre and contains compelling themes that still resonate.

Doris Lessing and the Exploration of Identity

A true visionary and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Doris Lessing was an outspoken novelist who discussed everything from environmentalism to race relations. She was inspired by her childhood in Africa, with several of her early works set in what was then known as Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

While she penned a variety of poems, essays and short stories, Lessing’s most acclaimed work is easily the novel  The Golden Notebook , which told the story of the divorced writer Anna Wulf and her mental breakdown. Featuring a fragmented style meant to reflect the similar fragmentation of society,  this saga  aimed to reveal how “any kind of single-mindedness, narrowness, obsession, was bound to lead to mental disorder, if not madness.”

Contemporary Voices

During the last few decades, contemporary writers have demonstrated a clear desire to explore social themes such as inequality and racial tension. There is an ongoing effort to push boundaries while playing with unreliable narrators, non-linear timelines and self-conscious formats such as metafiction.

Zadie Smith and the Multicultural Novel

Zadie Smith took the literary scene by storm when she released her much-anticipated debut novel  White Teeth  in 2000. An ambitious multicultural work and an immediate bestseller, this satirical family story played heavily with themes that would continue to prove popular in the decades to come. This includes the often-significant gaps between expectations and reality.

A tale of an accidental friendship between a Bengali Muslim and an Englishman,  White Teeth  is chock full of sass and beautiful storytelling. Smith has since published several other novels and short stories, along with the play  The Wife of Willesden . Many of these works continue to feature culturally diverse characters and reflections on concepts such as identity and authenticity.

Ian McEwan and the Psychological Novel

Initially devoted to Gothic stories,  Ian McEwan  quickly scored the nickname “Ian Macabre” with his bleak writing style. His efforts to shock were found both in his early novels and in the infamous suspension of his play  Solid Geometry . He earned critical acclaim with thought-provoking works such as  Amsterdam  and especially  Atonement , which was later adapted into an award-winning film.

While he often addresses broad themes by examining the impact of social events on private lives, McEwan’s work involves an intimate glimpse at the human psyche, bringing the interior worlds of his detailed characters to life. He has described one of his central goals in vivid terms, to “incite a naked hunger in readers.”

Discover a Wealth of Inspiration From English Literature

If you find the titles highlighted above compelling, consider taking a deeper dive as you pursue a  Bachelor of Arts in English . As you find inspiration, you can develop your own writing skills with Park University’s  Bachelor of Arts in English and Professional Writing . Request more information  about our English degree programs today.

Park University is accredited  by the  Higher Learning Commission .

Park University is a private, non-profit, institution of higher learning since 1875.

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Writers Find Inspiration At A Panchgani Retreat


A friend once asked me about the process writers go through to produce a piece of creative writing.

“Do you just sit down at your laptop and words flow, abracadabra ?” 

The question made me laugh and I could hear the echo of generations of storytellers and writers behind me. “ Sometimes,” I replied,” one tortured paragraph is extracted after hours of agonizing, while at others, pages spill out like a waterfall in a rainforest .” 

Writing is a lonely business, and often the room closes in on me, stifling my thoughts—or so I believe. When that happens, I go to my local Starbucks or open café, where a buzz of background noise reaffirms my connection to humanity and a cup of coffee reinforces it. Then I try to shut out the noise and write. 

A space to write

The inherent loneliness of the writing profession, especially if you freelance or are working on a book, has led to the growth of the phenomenon of writing retreats. These are places writers travel to, where they connect with others of their species, enjoy a change of pace from the hectic clamor and demands of their daily lives, and, hopefully, unclog their writer’s block. 

Usually, the retreats are in scenic locations, with enough time balanced between isolation in your own writing space and interaction with other writers, to stimulate productivity. As a bonus, meals are often included, freeing the potential Hemingways from the plebian chore of cooking. 

And an added perk—retreats are often heavily subsidized because of the enduring belief that writers on the whole if they aren’t James Patterson or Margaret Atwood (of The Handmaid’s Tale fame), are an impoverished lot.

The Panchgani Writer’s Retreat

While the U.S. has a large collection of writing retreats, often associated with creative writing programs at major universities, India is just beginning to sprout these communities as writing and publishing have become economically viable industries. The Panchgani writer’s retreat is an early pioneer in this world of nurturing restless, creative minds. The name itself evokes romantic imaginings—it means nestled between five mountains. This charming hill station with its closeness to Pune, used to be a familiar destination for the British during the Raj, and many colonial-style bungalows still exist, scattered around the hills. 

The retreat is author Shabnam Samuel’s inspiration. It officially started in 2015. In 2018 Shabnam published a memoir, a Fractured Life, about her abandonment at age three and about her adult journey to the United States with an almost estranged husband and a three-year-old son. Her book is a testament to the strength of hope and love in overcoming despair. Its publication began her journey into the complex, often bewildering, savannah of authorship, often filled with varieties of writers—including professional hunters and gatherers, amateur dabblers, and the occasional word grazers. 

When Shabnam became a published author who had worked on her own trauma through the medium of writing, she began toying with the idea of a retreat, where writers at any stage of their careers, published or not, could come together to scribble and celebrate the joys of being alive.

A holistic experience

The Panchgani retreat is unique in promoting a physical and spiritual wellness routine, which is braided throughout its program.

“ We begin with yoga by the poolside and move on to our writing workshops. But we also include meditation and Ayurveda as part of the retreat,” says Shabnam.

The central philosophy of the retreat is that wellness comes first in all our lives,” she adds. “In many ways, writing and self-expression is also about wellness. We can’t produce anything meaningful or creative unless we are well.” 

Shabnam recalls how she began writing for therapy. In 2009 she went through a traumatic experience and found that writing about it seemed to exorcise her pain. That therapeutic exercise culminated in ‘A Fractured Life’ and, eventually, in the Panchgani writer’s retreat. 

Getting there

Panchgani is a six-hour drive from Lonavala, Mumbai’s more famous hill station. Here, rich green forests undulate over rolling hills and melt into rushing waterfalls. Writers live on the grounds of a 102-year-old boarding school run by a charitable trust.

Four guest cottages on the grounds house a maximum of 7-9 writers. Panchgani’s first informal and unofficial inauguration was in 2014, with six writers who were Shabnam’s friends. An official kickoff in 2016, drew attendees through word of mouth, or posts on Twitter and Facebook. Since then, word has spread rapidly: the retreat is booked to capacity every year, and inquiries about Panchgani arrive from all over the world .

Since the Pandemic shut down the world, 2024 is the first retreat being offered. Over a weeklong stay, writers will attend workshops conducted by established, authors. This year they have introduced two new workshops on screenwriting and self-publishing.

Time will be set aside for personal, solitary work, and group exercises. Food and housing are included in the cost, and free time away from the workshops will offer opportunities to explore the surroundings or take sightseeing trips around the hill station. 

“ I hope to continue expanding and accommodating more writers,” says Shabnam. “There is a great deal of demand for retreats like Panchgani, which include a wellness component that supplements the literary focus and provides a holistic experience of the writing process.”

The post Writers Find Inspiration At A Panchgani Retreat appeared first on India Currents .

Abracadabra A friend once asked me about the process writers go through to produce a piece of creative writing. “Do you just sit down at your laptop and words flow, […]

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Book News & Features

Ai is contentious among authors. so why are some feeding it their own writing.

Chloe Veltman headshot

Chloe Veltman

A robot author.

The vast majority of authors don't use artificial intelligence as part of their creative process — or at least won't admit to it.

Yet according to a recent poll from the writers' advocacy nonprofit The Authors Guild, 13% said they do use AI, for activities like brainstorming character ideas and creating outlines.

The technology is a vexed topic in the literary world. Many authors are concerned about the use of their copyrighted material in generative AI models. At the same time, some are actively using these technologies — even attempting to train AI models on their own works.

These experiments, though limited, are teaching their authors new things about creativity.

Best known as the author of technology and business-oriented non-fiction books like The Long Tail, lately Chris Anderson has been trying his hand at fiction. Anderson is working on his second novel, about drone warfare.

He says he wants to put generative AI technology to the test.

"I wanted to see whether in fact AI can do more than just help me organize my thoughts, but actually start injecting new thoughts," Anderson says.

Anderson says he fed parts of his first novel into an AI writing platform to help him write this new one. The system surprised him by moving his opening scene from a corporate meeting room to a karaoke bar.

Authors push back on the growing number of AI 'scam' books on Amazon

"And I was like, you know? That could work!" Anderson says. "I ended up writing the scene myself. But the idea was the AI's."

Anderson says he didn't use a single actual word the AI platform generated. The sentences were grammatically correct, he says, but fell way short in terms of replicating his writing style. Although he admits to being disappointed, Anderson says ultimately he's OK with having to do some of the heavy lifting himself: "Maybe that's just the universe telling me that writing actually involves the act of writing."

Training an AI model to imitate style

It's very hard for off-the-shelf AI models like GPT and Claude to emulate contemporary literary authors' styles.

The authors NPR talked with say that's because these models are predominantly trained on content scraped from the Internet like news articles, Wikipedia entries and how-to manuals — standard, non-literary prose.

But some authors, like Sasha Stiles , say they have been able to make these systems suit their stylistic needs.

"There are moments where I do ask my machine collaborator to write something and then I use what's come out verbatim," Stiles says.

The poet and AI researcher says she wanted to make the off-the-shelf AI models she'd been experimenting with for years more responsive to her own poetic voice.

So she started customizing them by inputting her finished poems, drafts, and research notes.

"All with the intention to sort of mentor a bespoke poetic alter ego," Stiles says.

She has collaborated with this bespoke poetic alter ego on a variety of projects, including Technelegy (2021), a volume of poetry published by Black Spring Press; and " Repetae: Again, Again ," a multimedia poem created last year for luxury fashion brand Gucci.

Stiles says working with her AI persona has led her to ask questions about whether what she's doing is in fact poetic, and where the line falls between the human and the machine.

read it again… — Sasha Stiles | AI alter ego Technelegy ✍️🤖 (@sashastiles) November 28, 2023

"It's been really a provocative thing to be able to use these tools to create poetry," she says.

Potential issues come with these experiments

These types of experiments are also provocative in another way. Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger says she's not opposed to authors training AI models on their own writing.

"If you're using AI to create derivative works of your own work, that is completely acceptable," Rasenberger says.

Thousands of authors urge AI companies to stop using work without permission

Thousands of authors urge AI companies to stop using work without permission

But building an AI system that responds fluently to user prompts requires vast amounts of training data. So the foundational AI models that underpin most of these investigations in literary style may contain copyrighted works.

Rasenberger pointed to the recent wave of lawsuits brought by authors alleging AI companies trained their models on unauthorized copies of articles and books.

"If the output does in fact contain other people's works, that creates real ethical concerns," she says. "Because that you should be getting permission for."

Circumventing ethical problems while being creative

Award-winning speculative fiction writer Ken Liu says he wanted to circumvent these ethical problems, while at the same time creating new aesthetic possibilities using AI.

So the former software engineer and lawyer attempted to train an AI model solely on his own output. He says he fed all of his short stories and novels into the system — and nothing else.

Liu says he knew this approach was doomed to fail.

That's because the entire life's work of any single writer simply doesn't contain enough words to produce a viable so-called large language model.

"I don't care how prolific you are," Liu says. "It's just not going to work."

Liu's AI system built only on his own writing produced predictable results.

"It barely generated any phrases, even," Liu says. "A lot of it was just gibberish."

Yet for Liu, that was the point. He put this gibberish to work in a short story. 50 Things Every AI Working With Humans Should Know , published in Uncanny Magazine in 2020, is a meditation on what it means to be human from the perspective of a machine.

"Dinoted concentration crusch the dead gods," is an example of one line in Liu's story generated by his custom-built AI model. "A man reached the torch for something darker perified it seemed the billboding," is another.

Liu continues to experiment with AI. He says the technology shows promise, but is still very limited. If anything, he says, his experiments have reaffirmed why human art matters.

"So what is the point of experimenting with AIs?" Liu says. "The point for me really is about pushing the boundaries of what is art."

Audio and digital stories edited by Meghan Collins Sullivan .

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Book launch set for Tuesday for Walnut Elementary creative writing program

Book launch set for Tuesday for Walnut Elementary creative writing program

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