15 Writing Lessons from Successful Authors (and How to Apply Them)

April 2021 by

 

Everybody is an author these days. And whether you’re writing a report, filling an application form, or crafting your next must-like social media post, readers will judge you on your written eloquence.

But not all writing is done with the thumb or on your work/school computer. We’re smack-bang in the middle of a creative writing boom – and fiction may never be the same again.

Front-line nurses are writing to ease their minds. Locked-down students are producing more fanfiction than ever. And frustrated dating scenesters have even created a new genre to relieve the pain of keeping to the two-metre rule: ‘quarantinica’ – yes, coronavirus-related erotica.

Tempting, eh? But if a boom in new writers tells us anything, it’s that there’s going to be a lot more bad writing out there. The under-published classes are notorious for not doing their homework. Anybody can put one word in front of another – but will you take time to learn how to write with originality, precision, and élan?

Ivory Research wants to help. We’ve found that success happens where passion walks hand-in-hand with hard work. So, we’ve gathered 15 essential writing lessons from successful authors and unpacked them, exploring how to master each tip in the new infographic below.

‘Writing on Foot’

One of our guiding lights warns of the perils of trying to run before you can walk. Nobel Prize winner Wisława Szymborska wrote a poetry column for 13 years offering feedback to unpublished authors. Szymborska witnessed new writers attempting to create works of deep meaning – and saw that in the attempt, many ended up sounding pompous rather than profound.

“The fear of straight speaking, the constant, painstaking efforts to metaphorize everything, the ceaseless need to prove you’re a poet in every line: these are the anxieties that beset every budding bard,” wrote Szymborska to ‘B.L. from Wroclaw.’ “But they are curable, if caught in time.”

To another: “Let’s take the wings off and try writing on foot, shall we?”

For our infographic, we’ve chosen one of the Polish author’s more down-to-Earth responses, alongside writing advice from Haruki Murakami, Octavia E. Butler, Elmore Leonard, and others:

“You’ve managed to squeeze more lofty words into three short poems than most poets manage in a lifetime,” Szymborska told another tormented poet. “‘Fatherland,’ ‘truth,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘justice’: such words don’t come cheap.”

Our writing experts say this means using ‘concrete’ words associated with your “lofty” concept rather than words that sound poetic but leave the reader hungry. Concrete words are ‘tangible.’ They name a quality that can be felt by the body’s sense of smell, taste, sight, hearing, touch, or spatial awareness.

It’s a powerful, transformative lesson that you may only really appreciate once you start to use it. And once you realize there are at least 15 good reasons you haven’t written a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Yet.

15 Writing Lessons from Successful Authors

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