22 of the Best Single Sentences on Writing

22 of the Best Single Sentences on Writing (Reblogged from LitReactor)

There have been entire articles and books devoted to the craft of writing. And while you should definitely read at least a few of them (I personally recommend Stephen King’s On Writing and Robert McKee’s Story), you’ll likely never find the time to read them all. Fortunately, some of the best tips out there can be whittled down to a single sentence, easily consumed and memorizable. Here are some of my favorites (22 in all, to be exact) culled from some of the biggest names in the world of fiction writing.


Will Self

The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement—if you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply. —The Guardian

Anton Chekhov

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. (Technically a misquote, but solid advice nonetheless.)

Neil Gaiman

The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. —The Guardian

Helen Simpson

The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’ —The Guardian

Billy Wilder

The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer. —Conversations with Billy Wilder

Elmore Leonard

Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. —New York Times

George Orwell

Never use the passive where you can use the active. —“Politics and the English Language”

Henry Miller

Work according to the program and not according to mood. —Henry Miller On Writing

Joyce Carol Oates

Write your heart out. —Brain Pickings

Robert McKee

The finest writing not only reveals true character, but arcs or changes that inner nature, for better or worse, over the course of the telling. —Story

Kurt Vonnegut

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. —Bagombo Snuff Box

Chuck Palahniuk

Write something that people might not “enjoy” but will never forget. —Flavorwire

Jeff VanderMeer

If you are drawn to write what’s uncomfortable, it may help to recognize that you are allowed to write for yourself, and that any decisions about seeking publication are separate from that first, fundamental decision (and freedom). —Wonderbook

P.D. James

Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell. —The Guardian

Harper Lee

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. —Writer’s Digest

Ray Bradbury

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ―Zen in the Art of Writing

Joe Hill

Just about everything I learned about writing a good book I learned from reading lots and lots of good books. —Writer’s Bone

Stephen King

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time—or the tools—to write. —On Writing

Vladimir Nabokov

Literature was not born the day when a boy crying ‘wolf, wolf’ came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying ‘wolf, wolf’ and there was no wolf behind him. —Lectures on Literature

Sylvia Plath

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.—The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

G.K. Chesterton

I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. —The Autobiography of GK Chesterton

Michael Moorcock

Ignore all proffered rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say. —The Guardian

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