Some Authors I’ve Read and What They’ve Taught Me About Writing

PAHLBlog

Every book takes you somewhere. Every book leaves a footprint on our literary souls.

The best way to improve as an author is to read great books. I’ve been reading great books since grade school (I was the geek who adored Great Expectations, while others wanted to scribble in it).

This list of authors and what they’ve taught me is alphabetical and is by no means exhaustive (I plan to enhance this library of wisdom periodically). While I’ve read more books than I can remember, the following list consists of authors from whom I remember learning something important about writing.

Cathy Astolfo

Don’t just write about what you know, but reach deep in your soul and wing memories.

Jeff Bennington

Imagination is our greatest ally; don’t be afraid to explore new ideas.

Eldridge Black

It’s never too late to apply a classic style. To anything.

Ray Bradbury

Don’t just create a world, create a haunting one. Once you do, let the dialogue write itself.

Truman Capote

Stretch your words like taffy. See how far they can go.

Chaucer

A great story never dies. If it does, it was never great to begin with.

Paulo Coelho

Find a story with universality, tell it well, and you can move the whole world.

Elizabeth S. Craig

If you’re going to learn a genre, learn it well. Oh, and help a few authors along the way if you can.

Nora D’Ecclesis

Write to make the world, and yourself, a better place.

Junot Diaz

Every feat of a person is not a small feat. When you write, make every small feat into a big one.

Charles Dickens

Tell a tale … and tell it well.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

There is no greater gift than to infuse every line with strong and fine emotionality.

Jennifer Egan

Don’t just write about what you know, but find it’s secret, universal flow.

William Faulkner

When you write, just throw up. Worry about the editor later. When you get an editor, make sure it’s a good one.

Edmund Fitzgerald

Hope is perhaps the greatest human emotion; find a way to infuse it in your story. When you write, write as craftily as possible.

Eric Flair (a.k.a., George Orwell)

Create a very possible world and let your characters try to escape from it.

Kat Flannery

Don’t makeup characters, make them real. Give them real emotions and let them tell the story. Put your whole, raw heart into a novel.

Sara Gauldin

There is room for spirituality, deep love and wisdom, in a well-told story.

Paul Harding

Be courageous in your writing. Hold off on publishing until you can find that courage.

Ernest Hemingway

Make the words work for you, not against you. If a word doesn’t extend your story, get rid of it. Writing is a life; we are all walking stories. Tell them well.

Chris Hill

Let the prose direct you, not the other way around. Be yourself, and the novel will follow.

Homer

There are adventures and lyricalness in every story. Find them. Use them.

John Irving

Fight for the integrity of the main character, no matter what it takes. Never forsake the voice of the whole novel.

Jaspreet Mann Kanwar

All writers are poets in one fashion or another. Find that voice within you, your “road in the sky,” and invite it in your prose.

Stephen King

Writing’s something you dedicate your life to, or not at all. Put your characters in a situation and let them work themselves out of it.

Oliver La Farge

There is the most beautiful tension in the smallest of words. Find it.

Jack London

There’s no greater book content than personal adventure. And personal angst. Leave what you recorded in your soul with the world.

Man Martin

We all have wisdom to share in our writing. Don’t be afraid to share it.

Cormac McCarthy

The book makes the rules. Write YOUR book, and let the rest follow.

Sue McLeod

There is magic in history. Find a way to bring that into your writing. And love, too. There is love in everything.

Joyce Carol Oates

Celebrate your writing. Let it flow. Let it breathe. Die in the fire, if necessary, to find your own voice.

Flannery O’Connor

We’re all weird. If you don’t let that show in your writing, you’re cheating yourself, and your novel. Edit a book until you’re forced to let it go.

Randy Pausch

There’s no greater story than that which lies deep in our childlike hearts.

Neil Peart

Writing is a journey; we learn about ourselves as we go. Poetry is how to express the soul.

Annie Proulx

When it comes to great writing, you can throw all the rules out the window. If you can, travel to the place where your story happened and soak up its color like a chameleon.

Marilynne Robinson

Writers can, and should, seek out tension in the smallest aspects of existence. Don’t try too hard to tell the story.

Jean Paul Sartre

A novel is a series of reflections based on our encounters with an absurd world.

William Shakespeare

There’s no such thing as tragedy, only the tragedy of a great story of life left untold. Language is like a musical instrument; learn to play it well.

John Steinbeck

The real beauty is in the simple things. Always infuse those things into your story.

Shani Struthers

Understand the history of a character; it’s the main window to his or her essence. There is much we don’t know, but we can learn how to bring it to the world in words.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Never rush a story. Let it unfold like a season, and readers will love that story for seasons. Never be afraid to think big.

Mike Wells

A story has a well-rounded character. Find all those character traits and recruit them as craftily as possible into your novel.

Ellie Wiesel

There is greatness in humanity … in experience, no matter how treacherous. Find it. Capture it in words. And you can change the world.

Oscar Wilde

There is no difference between your life and your novels … except in the words and in the stories.

Yours in literature,
J.G.C.

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5 thoughts on “Some Authors I’ve Read and What They’ve Taught Me About Writing

  1. Kat Flannery September 12, 2014 / 8:35 pm

    I am honoured to be a part of such a talented list of authors, Jesse! Thank you so very much. You have made my day! Your gift of writing is one people will talk about for generations. πŸ™‚ ❀

  2. susanjmcleod September 13, 2014 / 4:17 am

    I never thought I’d be listed in such great company! Thank you Jesse, I’m touched. BTW, my Mom went to school with Flannery O’Connor. Guess what the other students thought? That’s right-that she was weird, lol. (Love the addition of Neil Peart!)

  3. Jesse Giles Christiansen September 13, 2014 / 8:57 am

    Wow, Kat, I hope you’re right. And the honor is all mine. You’re entirely welcome, Susan. Yes, I think many don’t realize Neil is an accomplished novelist. The fact that he’s the drummer of my favorite band of ALL TIME, is really just a beautiful coincidence. πŸ™‚

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