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Category: Writing Advice From Famous Authors (Page 1 of 2)

Writing Advice from Famous Authors: David Sedaris

David Sedaris writing advice



In our eighth edition of Writing Advice from Famous Authors, we gain wisdom from the American author and humorist David Sedaris. If you haven’t come across Sedaris’ books, essays, articles, interviews, podcast appearances, this interview will give a small taste of his style. After publishing his first collection of essays, Barrel Fever, in 1994, his next five collections all made the New York Times Bestseller list: (1) Naked, (2) Holidays On Ice, (3) Me Talk Pretty One Day, (4) Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim, and (5) When You Are Engulfed In Flames. Talk about prodigious.

Here is David Sedaris being interviewed by The Atlantic last year:


“When you first start writing you’re going to suck, and so it’s kind of good to keep it to yourself until maybe you don’t suck as much.”

I’m conflicted with this advice. I agree with Sedaris 100% that your writing is going to suck when you first start out. Unless you’re some kind of savant, it’s inevitable. You will not be a good writer in the beginning. That’s why I always encourage my readers to write often and read a lot. That’s the only way you’ll get better.

I agree that there is far too much garbage written and then shared as if everyone in the world should read it even though it sucks, as evidenced by the fact that there’s nearly 500 million blogs in the world. That’s far too many blogs! In my personal writing journey, however, I kept my writing to myself for far too long. I was embarrassed of it and not sure if it was any good. That’s the confliction I have with Sedaris’ advice to keep your writing to yourself. I wish I didn’t keep it to myself as long as I did.


“When you first start writing you're going to suck, and so it's kind of good to keep it to yourself until maybe you don't suck as much.” -David SedarisClick To Tweet

“I did nothing but write in my diary for seven years before I started writing stories.”

I think this is a very interesting anecdote. It dovetails nicely from Sedaris’ first piece of advice of not sharing your writing until it doesn’t suck anymore. Not everything you write should be shared. Whether that means you follow in Sedaris’ footsteps and compile seven years of journal writing before you contemplate sharing your writing with other, or that simply means you’re consistently writing, but showing discretion on what you share with the world, either way, not everything you write is worth sharing. Don’t put every piece of garbage out there for public consumption.


Not everything you write is worth sharing. Don't put every piece of garbage out there for public consumption. Click To Tweet


“There’s a lot to be said for not ‘just getting it out there.’”

Clearly Sedaris has been reflecting on the current age of over-sharing in social media. Everyone seems to think they need to share everything they do with everyone they know, (and even those that they don’t know). If you’re like me and waited almost 15 years before you started to get your writing out there, then by all means, please! Share your writing! However, if you just started writing last week, maybe give yourself some time.


“My advice to a young writer who wants to start a diary or keep one going is to not read over what you wrote yesterday…Do it for a year before you go back. Just give yourself some distance.”

I don’t have anything to add to this advice. I simply want to applaud it. 👏 👏 👏 👏


What do you think? Do you agree with Sedaris’ advice here? Disagree? Let us all know in the comments below.

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Writing Advice from Famous Authors: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury Advice


If you have spent any time at all on Twitter looking at writing quotes, you’ve seen at least one Ray Bradbury quote. In fact, you’ve probably seen dozens. Don’t believe me?


This is just the tip of the iceberg. These quotes go on for days. The one you’ll see over and over and over again is this one:


Confession: I hate this quote. I just think it’s silly and meaningless.

There are so many of these quotes from Bradbury, though, because he is one of the most influential American writers ever and he has, well, very quotable advice for writers. He is probably best known for Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, but has written 27 novels and over 600 short stories. He even has an award in his name for excellence in screenwriting—The Ray Bradbury Award. On his death in 2012, The New York Times called Bradbury “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream.”

For our seventh installment of Advice from Famous Writers, here is Ray Bradbury near the end of his life in 2009. The sound quality is not great, but the advice is. It’s a very short video and I want to call out only two short quotes, although the story that ends the video is fun.



“Do what you love and love what you do.”

This is beautiful. It immediately brings to mind two of my favorite quotes. The first is from John Wooden: “Things turn out best for those who make the best out of the ways things turn out.” The second is a mantra my father has always had: “You can either find a way to do what you love for your job, or learn to love the job that you’re doing.”

If you love writing, do it.


Here, I’ll make it easy for you to add to more Bradbury quotes on the internet.

'Do what you love and love what you do.' -Ray Bradbury #amwritingClick To Tweet


“Don’t do anything for money… You cannot write for people for money. You must write for yourself.'”


All of us aspire to be well-paid, best selling authors. We dream of the day that the royalties will be pouring in. Bradbury’s advice is poignant to this fact.

Yes, while we want to make a good living as authors, that can’t be the reason that we write. You must write first for yourself and no one else. If you don’t write for yourself, your writing will be empty.





Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.



Writing Advice from Famous Authors: SLCC

Famous Writing Advice


It’s been awhile since we’ve had an edition of Writing Advice from Famous Authors. This time, it’s not just one author, but many bestselling authors speaking on a panel at SLCC (Salt Lake Comic Con). Let’s jump right into it with Frank Bedder, Platte F. Clark, James Dasher, Michael Jensen, Shannon Messenger, Jennifer Nielsen, and James A. Owen.

Here they are in late 2016:




“Go out and find your favorite book…that book that you were reading over and over again, the book that made you want to become a writer, get a fresh copy of that book and highlight every single scene that you love… Ask yourself why does this work?”


I love this advice. The key to Nielsen’s is advice is the final question. Why does this work? The goal is to understand why this book is your favorite. The goal is to understand why and how your favorite author did what she did. Once you know that, once you understand why you loved that book in the first place, you’ll know exactly what you want to write in your own book.



“I wrote [my book] thinking ‘I’m just going to write what I think will be funny for me to read to my kids.’ …That served me the best because I wasn’t true to anything other than my own voice and what I wanted to do.”


The hardest and most necessary thing for an author to do, especially one that’s just starting out, is to find his voice. It takes painstaking work and it takes constant vigilance. Like Clark says here, you need to be true to your voice or the reader is going to see right through you.



“When I’m writing and I’m into it and I have a really good scene, I don’t ever finish it. I put it down at the end of the day so the next morning when I start writing again I know exactly what I’m going to start writing.”


I’ve never heard this advice before, but I think it’s a brilliant trick. How many times have you been so excited about a scene that you wrote and wrote and wrote well into the night? It’s amazing when it happens, right? But what about the next morning? It was hard to find that same vigor wasn’t it? Beddor’s advice gives you the perfect place to start your writing day when this happens. Most likely, it will give you renewed energy and excitement when you jump back into that scene the next morning too.


“Finish what you start.”


If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times. The best trait a writer can have is perseverance. Don’t quit. Don’t write just half a book. Don’t write just a chapter. Finish what you start. Owen goes on to say, “No one ever writes a great book. You write a book that you can fix.” His point is that you can’t fix an unfinished book. You can’t get editor and reader feedback on an incomplete work. Finish what you start!


There’s some great tips from the other authors in there as well. Like Shannon Messenger’s reminder that if you’re writing YA, the kids need to be the heroes, not the adults. Or James Dashner’s advice that the characters in your stories are more important than anything else.

What advice did you find the most helpful? What advice did you hear and have that AHA moment?



Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.


Writing Advice from Famous Authors: John Hodgman

John Hodgkin Writing Advice


Our next installment of Writing Advice from Famous Authors comes from the smart, witty, and hilarious John Hodgman. You may have seen Hodgman’s work on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or heard his very funny podcast Judge John Hodgman. If you haven’t, then at the very least, you know him as PC in Apple’s “Get a Mac” advertising campaign back in in 2006. You have probably also seen his writing on countless shows and didn’t even know it.

In addition to television and podcast work, Hodgman has had stories featured in McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, One Story, and The New York Times. He currently has three books available: The Areas of My Expertise (2006), More Information Than You Require (2009), and That Is All (2012).


Here is John Hodgman in 2013:



“People who keep submitting, and keep doing it, and keep making are statiscally much more likely to be successful than the people that are just merely super talented.'”

This advice is spot on. I recall a time about 10 years ago when a close friend of mine was worried about “making it” in his chosen profession. I explained to him that he has a huge leg up because he’s not crazy and he’s educated. That puts him at a huge advantage from the get go. Now just work harder than his peers and he’ll be just fine, which is even easier since many of our peer group seem to recoil from hard work.

Although I don’t think of myself as one, I’m right at that first year of where people say millennials begin. There are a lot of stereotypes about millennials, but stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. I have found many 20-somethings and 30-somethings are afraid to put in the effort required day-in and day-out. That means if you are willing to do that work, you’re at a distinct advantage to be successful. Even if you’re an author in your 40s, 50s, 60s, or even 70s, you still have a distinct advantage if you’re willing to work harder and persevere longer than the next writer.

Hodgman’s advice here sounds strikingly similar to advice we heard from Ta-Nehisi Coates in our first Writing Advice from Famous Authors from last August where he voiced how much he believed writing is about perseverance. Keep working hard; keep writing. If you want to be a successful writer, work harder and write more.



thnkr graph

John Hodgman’s chart on how to be a successful writer.



You already have a leg up on the crazy people and most super talented people (the geniuses) won’t work as hard as you, that leaves you competing with the Medium to Low Talented people. Work harder and work more often than them.

“It’s not enough to write what you know. You have to know interesting things.”

This is a great line. On display with this line is some of Hodgman’s trademark wit. The truth contained within this sentence is that if you want to be a successful writer, you have to continue to experience life. No one wants to read about how you watched the latest episode of This is Us. That’s not interesting.


It's not enough to write what you know. You have to know interesting things. -John HodgmanClick To Tweet



“You also have to know what you know, and I think that’s even the hardest thing.”

I was really struck by this. It sounds obvious, but it’s in fact very complex. Most people don’t actually know what they think they know. They haven’t examined their experiences and their beliefs enough. As a writer, you need to really go to the heart of the matter and challenge those things that you know. That’s when the written word becomes interesting.

I am reminded of the famous line from Socrates at the trial for his life (from Plato’s Apology): “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

As writer’s, we have to examine everything, and then once we’ve finished examining them, challenge what we’ve come to know to be true.



“You have to know what it is that is driving you to do this completely narcissistic and asocial act of creating.”

This is another sentence that puts Hogdman’s wit and humor on display. There’s always truth in his comedy, though.

The comedy, in my mind, is labeling the writer as narcissistic and asocial. Any writer can identify with the humor in that.

The truth, however, is the need to understand what is driving you to write in the first place.

It doesn’t have to be only one thing, and it doesn’t have to be the exact same thing year-in and year-out, but you should always know what that thing that’s driving you is at any given point in time. If you don’t, you’ll become lost in your writing efforts. If you don’t know what’s driving you to write, you will fail to work harder than the next person and put your success in jeopardy.

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.


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