5 Writing Tips From Famous Authors

Ed note: We know November means that we’re approaching the end of the semester and many of you will be working on research projects. In light of this time of the semester, and that November has become known as both National Novel Writing Month and Academic Writing Month, we’re bringing you a couple of posts this month with our favorite research tips to help you get to writing that research paper faster. We’d love to hear your favorite research and writing tips. Please share them with us on Twitter (@AldenLibrary) or Facebook. Be sure to also check out our Writing Tips Pinboard.

Sometimes I write for fun and other times I write for school, but in both cases I am not immune to writer’s block. Even if I do feel like writing, I’m not always inspired. That’s when I look outside of myself for inspiration. Here are five quotes from famous authors that I have found particularly helpful.

As I Lay Dying1. “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” -William Faulkner

You’re going to have days when you really don’t feel like writing. It’s inevitable, even for those who love writing. And sometimes that feeling coincides with a time when you really need to write. Be willing to start well in advance and keep a routine. Even if you aren’t inspired, write anything until you are no longer starting at a daunting, blank screen. You might even become inspired.

Check out Faulkner’s work in our catalog.


The Race2. “Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with a first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.” -Richard North Patterson

While Patterson references the creative writing process, his advice applies to all aspects of writing. Whether you are trying to publish in a journal or just get through the papers for this semester, revision is the most important step. Often when we rush to get our ideas onto the page, we overlook simple typos or our paragraphs don’t have a proper flow. Revision is the time to fix those problems.

Check out Patterson’s work in our catalog.

Captains and the Kings3. “A writer has got to be a cynic. You’ve got to look at life clearly. No rose-colored glasses. The human race is not very admirable.” – Taylor Caldwell

This advice can apply in two distinct ways: First, no one wants to read a story with no problems. It’s unrealistic. So, if you want to write a story people will read, send the characters off on an almost unmanageable obstacle course. Let the reader feel their pain. Second, if you are writing an academic paper, be very aware of the potential bias from your research. Be willing to find problems and point them out. Be critical.

Check out Caldwell’s work in our catalog.


Delirium4. “Don’t worry about what you’re writing or whether it’s good or even whether it makes sense.”  – Lauren Oliver

Sometimes it’s important to just get your words onto the paper (or screen) without fixing each sentence as you write it. You have to let go of your inner editor and let the words flow. Revising during writing can break up your creative process and potentially stifle ideas. 

Check out Oliver’s work in our catalog.


Bag of Bones5. “When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see [it] from space without a telescope.” -Stephen King

In writing, as with many things, it is best to break the larger task into smaller parts. Start with an outline. Next, only focus on writing the introduction. By taking small steps, writing a large paper will be much more straightforward.

Check out King’s work in our catalog.