As writers, we all have influences, idols, and people whose work inspired us to want to become writers. Many highly successful and talented writers inspire not only through their fiction but also through non-fiction work on writing and quotes. Today, I’ll present 31 quotes by famous authors to improve and inspire your writing.
Some quotes are more logistical and pertain to writing principles, others are more motivational, and some are other things entirely. However, they all share the common theme of coming from an accomplished writer and being something you probably need to hear. So, without further ado, let’s get into them.
31 Famous Author Quotes (About Writing)
1. “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour
Acclaimed Western author Louis L’Amour encourages aspiring writers to begin writing, emphasizing that creativity starts with action. Several authors preach this wholeheartedly. So, if you want to start a new writing endeavor, there’s no time like now.
2. ” When I am working on a book or a story, I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.” – Ernest Hemingway
Many authors, including Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath, preferred writing in the morning when the mind was fresh and creative. If you’re a morning person, try getting to work soon after getting up and see if you notice improved workflow.
And if you’re not a morning person, consider flipping your night owl schedule around and see how your writing feels. After a trial period, you can always go back to writing in the afternoon or evenings if it suits you better.
3. “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” – Roald Dahl
This is one of the hardest-hitting quotes on this list and one that requires some thought. We’re writers, and so was Roald Dahl. How can he call writing foolish? To me, this quote reflects the paradoxical nature of choosing a writer’s path.
Dahl may suggest that becoming a writer may seem foolish due to its inherent challenges. But the ultimate reward lies in the complete freedom it offers. Unlike many professions, a writer answers only to their own soul, finding liberation in expressing thoughts and stories. In essence, this dichotomy is a driving force behind being a writer.
After all, everything worth doing is hard.
4. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King
With this quote, Stephen King emphasizes the importance of consistently reading and writing to develop one’s skills. This is another common theme among quotes from famous authors – They all read.
Perhaps Sir Richard Steele said it best, “Reading is the whetstone that we use to sharpen our abilities.” Most writers naturally enjoy reading, which is good because it is essential to becoming better. Reading allows you a window into how others do things.
And perhaps more importantly, how much of something to do. So, get out there and read those novels, my friends.
5. “When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat.” – Arthur Quiller-Couch
Arthur Quiller-Couch (best known for Beauty and the Beast) stresses the importance of being concise and trimming the unnecessary stuff when you edit your stories. While this is a crucial step for quality fiction, it’s hard sometimes to do well.
LivingWriter’s writing analysis tools can help identify areas for conciseness and clarity. And help identify areas of the story that aren’t necessary. Highlight a portion of the text and ask the AI any questions about the selected passage.
6. “If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.” – John Steinbeck
Author of The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962 “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception.” His quote above shows how he injected his stories with so much realism into his dialog.
Speaking your dialog aloud ensures that it sounds natural. In my experience, this helps not only spot “bad” dialog but goes a long way in finding ways to bring life to ok dialog. If you’ve never tried this, give it a shot; It’s a great, free, convenient tip to improve your writing.
7. “You have to resign yourself to wasting lots of trees before you write anything really good. That’s just how it is. It’s like learning an instrument. You’ve got to be prepared for hitting wrong notes occasionally, or quite a lot. That’s just part of the learning process.” – J.K. Rowling
Isn’t this the truth? Deep down, I think we all know it’s ok to write bad things, especially at first. However, it’s still nice to hear. And her analogy with the instrument drives the point home quite a lot. The idea that you could pick up a saxophone for the first few times and write a great song (without ever writing a bad one first) doesn’t seem realistic.
And yet, that’s precisely the standard we often hold ourselves to as writers.
8. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, encourages you to embrace uniqueness and originality in your work and probably in life in general. Instead of following the well-trodden path that others have taken, it suggests exploring uncharted territories and creating one’s trail.
In other words, It’s a call to be bold, take risks, and pursue one’s passions, even if it means venturing into the unknown. In writing and creativity, this can mean breaking away from conventional norms, exploring innovative ideas, and crafting narratives that stand out and resonate with readers.
9. “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” – Neil Gaiman
I choose this quote to be under the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote above for a reason. Emerson encourages writers to be unique in their work.; Neil Gaiman reminds us that we all have that uniqueness within us. No other person has experienced things exactly like you have.
Even if the events are similar, your mind, voice, perception, storytelling, etc, can be unlike anything someone else is capable of doing. Keeping this in mind as I write has been a great help for me personally, and I’m happy to pass it on to others as Neal has so eloquently done.
10. “Write drunk; edit sober.” – Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway lived a pretty wild life, and I’m sure he had his fair share of intoxicated writing sessions. However, this is Hemingway we’re talking about, and the words have a deeper meaning. This advice suggests that the initial creative process benefits from a liberated mindset, while the editing requires a more focused and “sober” approach.
In other words, sit back, relax, and have some fun writing. Once you’re done with your initial drafts, then it’s time to get strict and polish up your work in a “matter-of-fact” way.
11. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov
Russian author Anton Chekhov is known for his gripping narratives and is considered one of the greatest writers ever. With this quote, he encourages writers to use vivid and evocative language to create a more sensory experience for the reader.
If you’ve read his work, you’ll know he’s terrific at painting a picture with his words. If you haven’t, I suggest you check out books by Anton Chekhov.
12. “The first draft of everything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway
A blunt but practical reminder from Ernest Hemingway that initial drafts are often imperfect and require revision. In truth, being a great writer and being a great editor are often two different skill sets you’ll need.
If you struggle to edit, LivingWriter supports the revision process with features like version history and collaborative editing, facilitating seamless revisions.
13. “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” – Saul Bellow
1970 Pulitzer Prize winner Saul Bellow speaks the truth here. If you’ve ever woken up with an idea, they’re usually bangers. Beyond the statement’s truth, the quote encourages writers to trust their instincts and the ideas that come to them in moments of inspiration.
You May Also Like: How To Get Ideas For Writing – 6 Must-Know Tips
14. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it, and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain
Mark Twain suggests avoiding unnecessary modifiers and letting the strength of the writing speak for itself. Rely on powerful verbs and nouns rather than excessive adverbs and adjectives. If you successfully heed this advice, you’ll find your writing strong and precise.
An example of a sentence with weak modifiers could be “She spoke softly and looked intensely at him.” A stronger way to write the sentence would be, “She whispered and fixed her gaze on him.”
As Stephen King famously said, “The adverb is not your friend.”
15. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
Crime novelist Elmore Leonard emphasizes the importance of maintaining a natural and engaging flow in writing. If you’ve read his works, this is something he does exceptionally well. His work rarely feels like you’re reading at all.
A great general rule is if it doesn’t sound right coming out of your mouth, you may want to change or omit it. Beyond that test, the LivingWriter AI rewrite tool allows you to highlight sections and give simple instructions like “Make this sound more natural” and puts the rewrites directly into your manuscript after a preview.
16. “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” – Natalie Goldberg
Natalie Goldberg is an American author perhaps best known for her works on writing, such as Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, and more.
Her quote here encourages writers to explore and confront personal emotions in their writing. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it undoubtedly elevates your writing. If a topic is emotionally charged and important to you, it’ll likely have the same effects on those who read it.
While it can be a hard, draining writing process, the ability to touch people with your experiences and writing is one of the greatest accomplishments we can achieve as writers.
17. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” – Stephen King
This quote by Stephen King is very interesting; Essentially, it shows the collaborative nature of storytelling. While a writer creates vivid images and details in their mind, the real power of description is realized when it effectively transfers from the writer’s imagination to the reader’s.
To achieve this, you’ve got to plant enough seeds in your work that the reader is able to grow a finished product. You provide the essential elements, details, and clues but leave room for interpretation too.
18. “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut emphasizes the importance of genuine passion in writing, urging writers to choose subjects that truly matter to them. It’s a simple enough concept, but most of us could probably use this reminder in practice. The best story we could write about a topic we aren’t into will likely fall short of work done on something we’re intensely passionate about.
19. “The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.” – Stephen King
Stephen King’s (a) and (b) sections are accurate. We’re the product of everything that’s ever happened to us, and characters need that, too. Good characters need backstory in certain parts of the narrative to explain how they got to be the way they are.
Sometimes, readers will experience things along with the character, and that’s great. But most of the time, you’ll probably want to provide insights into how your character’s past dictates their motivations. As King points out in the (b) section, not everything is important. So, you’ve got to strike a balance here.
I like to use flashbacks for the most crucial backstory.
20. “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” – W. Edwards Deming
Deming emphasizes the importance of understanding the steps and considerations involved in any activity, including writing for a specific audience. Some readers may feel like quotes from famous authors go one way or another in this regard.
Some seem to advise you to jump into writing and let things flow. Others, like the one above, seem to beg for an idea, a structure, or a plan. In truth, both are ok. If you try to map every last detail out before you start, you’ll never get around to actually starting.
Jump in and get started. However, at some point in the process, you’ll want to get a clear path for the story you want to tell. LivingWriter helps in this regard by providing features for outlining and plotting. As well as manual and AI manuscript outlines for you to write within.
21. “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” – Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson (Yep, the president) promotes concise and impactful writing. Using only the necessary words to convey a message is a skill that enhances clarity and impact. The best way to make his point is with some examples:
The sentence “She was very happy about the news” could be written with fewer words and convey the same message more straightforwardly. You could do this by writing something like, “She was ecstatic about the news.” In this example, you remove the redundant word “very.”
22. “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So, write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can.” – Neil Gaiman
Here, we have our second quote by Neil Gaiman. While the quote is pretty straightforward, it’s very important to remember when you write. We’re all unsure or self-conscious about our work at times. Neil highlights the significance of authenticity and self-assurance in the creative process.
Essentially, it’s an empowering reminder to trust your voice and craft your narrative with conviction.
23. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou
American poet Maya Angelou received well-deserved acclaim, mainly for her many autobiographies. You can’t have a list of quotes by famous authors without this quote. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” What a powerful statement!
24. “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank
For Anne Frank, writing became a refuge where she could unburden her heart and find a sense of renewal. Despite the dire circumstances surrounding her, putting words on paper allowed her to escape the harsh realities of her situation momentarily
This quote is a testament to the cathartic nature of writing and its ability to provide solace for the writer, even in the darkest moments. The fact that Anne Frank, a symbol of resilience and hope in the face of adversity, expressed these words adds depth to the quote.
25. “The most important thing when constructing a novel is to keep a sense of tension.” – Graham Greene
Graham Greene, best known for his 1951 novel “The End of the Affair,” outlines a fundamental aspect of storytelling – Tension.
Suspense keeps the audience invested in the unfolding tale, whether it’s a mystery, romance, or thriller. Greene’s insight is a guiding principle for writers, reminding them that a well-crafted novel maintains a palpable tension. Of course, tension isn’t solely about action; it’s about creating anticipation, conflict, and a constant desire to know what happens next.
If you struggle with this, LivingWriter’s outlining and plot management features help maintain a gripping narrative tension throughout their work.
26. “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald (author of The Great Gatsby and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) advises against the excessive use of exclamation marks in your writing. If a sentence won’t be taken as exclamatory based on language and context, the exclamation point probably won’t help much.
If the sentence does convey the point based on context and language, the exclamation point isn’t exactly needed. I like the comparison to laughing at your joke, too. It suggests that too many exclamation marks can come across as forced or overly dramatic, and with a diminished impact.
27. “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” – Anne Lamott
I love this quote by author Anne Lamott. The idea emphasizes the writer’s ownership of their life, which is incredible. Furthermore, the quote encourages writers to embrace their personal experiences and use them as material for storytelling.
And even suggesting that honesty and authenticity in writing are more important than trying to please others. It carries a sense of empowerment for writers to share their truths, even if it involves portraying people or events in a less flattering light.
28. “I’ve always said there are — to oversimplify it — two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running, and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.” – George R.R. Martin
In classic GRRM style, this is very well said. The quote highlights two approaches to writing: the “architects,” who meticulously plan and outline their work before starting. And the “gardeners” who prefer a more organic and spontaneous process, allowing the story to develop as they write.
It speaks to the varied and individualistic nature of the writing process, acknowledging that different writers find success through various methods. I naturally lean more toward a gardener, but I try to play architect and can 100% see the appeal.
If you write, which are you?
29. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London
Jack London was a pioneer in his day and was one of the first writers to make a fortune writing fiction. With this quote, he reminds us that inspiration often comes from actively engaging with the writing process. We often like to have motivation and inspiration before we start to write.
Sadly, that’s rarely the case. Instead, we must be disciplined and get to work even without the motivation and inspiration. When you do this, you’ll often find the ideas and the will to write flowing more freely. Many famous authors set a daily word count that they stick to help with this.
30. “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them, then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are far apart.” – Mark Twain
We touched on not using too many adverbs and things with the Mark Twain quote above. And here we are again, but this time, Twain concedes that some adjectives can be positive. He still suggests “killing” or removing most adjectives, not necessarily all.
This works to enhance the impact of those that do remain. The idea is that adjectives lose effectiveness when used excessively or close together. By using them sparingly and with sufficient distance, writers can ensure that each adds more significant value and strength to the writing.
31. “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth
Poet William Wordsworth (his name destined him to be a writer) encapsulates the importance of sincere writing. It’s an invitation to infuse one’s writing with genuine emotions, personal experiences, and authentic feelings.
The quote serves as a reminder that impactful writing goes beyond mere technicality. Words that come from your heart, so to speak, are no less valid than ones that come from the mind. If you can pour a bit of yourself into your work, it will likely impact those who read it.