The Best Writing Advice You’ll Ever Get

There is one bit of advice that I have for aspiring authors. And that is, if you want to write well, you must read. Reading to a writer is as medical school is to a doctor, as physical training is to an athlete, as breathing is to life. Think of reading books as taking a writing course. I would suggest reading the classics: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and, of course, Steinbeck, to name but a few. These three authors made up their own rules. Hemingway couldn’t get published at first because his writing was so different from the writing that preceded him.

Below are three examples of Steinbeck’s writing. If you read stuff like this, you can’t help but become a better writer. Please note that the first example is one long sentence that makes up an entire paragraph. That, of course, is a big no-no . . . or so “they” say.

• • • •

“The concrete highway was edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass, and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog’s coat, and foxtails to tangle in a horse’s fetlocks, and clover burrs to fasten in sheep’s wool; sleeping life waiting to be spread and dispersed, every seed armed with an appliance of dispersal, twisting darts and parachutes for the wind, little spears and balls of tiny thorns, and all waiting for animals and the wind, for a man’s trouser cuff or the hem of a woman’s skirt, all passive but armed with appliances of activity, still, but each possessed the anlage of movement.”—The Grapes of Wrath

• • • •

“The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide.”—Tortilla Flat

• • • •

“June is gay—cool and warm, wet and shouting with growth and reproduction of the sweet and the noxious, the builder and the spoiler. The girls in the body-form slacks wander High Street with locked hands while small transistor radios sit on their shoulders and whine love songs in their ears. The young boys, bleeding with sap, sit on the stools of Tanger’s Drugstore ingesting future pimples through straws. They watch the girls with level goat-eyes and make disparaging remarks to one another while their insides whimper with longing.”—The Winter of our Discontent

My first bit of advice is to read. My second: don’t pay too much attention to the “rules” of writing. And my third is, never, ever, ever respond to a bad review.

Thank you for listening to my morning rant,

Andrew Joyce

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32 thoughts on “The Best Writing Advice You’ll Ever Get

    1. if you respond to a negative review, you’re just opening yourself up to a world of trouble. You can’t please everyone. If someone buys one of my books and doesn’t like it, that’s okay with me. They are entitled to their opinion. At least they bought the book. But then there are people (mostly on Goodreads) that go around giving one stars for the hell of it without having read the book. If you engage those people, they’ll get all their friends to jump in and give your book one star. Unmercifully trashing it in the process.
      And I got to tell you … a few times over the years, I got a few three star reviews on Amazon that I had to agree with the reviewer on the point he or she was making. Sometimes negative reviews will make you a better writer.
      Enjoy your travels.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hey Andrew,
    The old classic, huh? It makes sense when you write like Mark Twain (in my humble opinion). Now, why would you count the concrete cracks? You must still be stuck or you followed my advice and are smoking one of the funny cigarettes. Vodka would never do that. 🤭

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were trying to sell me a dime bag. Look, I belong to the Writers Union. And right there, on my membership card, are printed the bylaws. You must be a drunk (like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, London, et al) if you want the protection of the union. Maybe next year, we’ll add “funny cigarettes.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All good advice, Andrew. My addition (oh, you didn’t ask for additions did you? Oh well, here it is anyway.) is don’t let anyone read your stuff until you have finished the first draft. If you do, they will have enough discouraging things to say that the first draft will never get done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I write because the prison officials let me out of my cell only once a day. It gives me something to do during the other twenty-three hours of the day. Did you know there are exactly 4,365 cracks in the concrete walls of my cell? There are.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Terrific advice! Mine would be:
    1. Read everything. Then read some more. It’s not like you’ll ever finish it all.
    2. Read until you know all the rules so you’ll know how and when to break them.
    3. Write the stories you want to read. Then the reviews don’t matter. (Okay, they don’t matter as much.)

    Then there’s Dorothy Parker’s advice for young writers: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

    Liked by 2 people

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