The best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received


12th February 2022


Leigh-Ann Hewer

Reading time

5 minutes

As you may know, if you’re regular followers of the team here at Carnsight Communications, we’re all incredibly passionate about the written word. We love to write and writing is a huge part of what we do on a day to day basis.

We write all sorts of things. If you’d like to hear more about the specifics of that, then you can go check out our post ‘A day in the life of a PR’ in which I explain in more detail what the day to day looks like for us at Carnsight and what kinds of writing we get up to.

But for now, I want to focus in on the craft of writing. Writing is a skill to hone and practice. We’ve all been studying, learning and practising the craft of writing in various ways for a while now. As you can imagine, we’ve heard a lot of different writing advice over time.

Today I’ve compiled some of the best writing advice I’ve ever come across. A lot of these were given in the context of fiction writing, however, I assure you that they apply to writing across the board. I’ll go into a bit more detail about what I took away from each quote and how I think it applies to other forms of writing too.

In no particular order, here they are.

“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance.”

Richard Price

Wow. Powerful, right? This really solidified the power of simplicity for me. I have a tendency to over-write and over-explain but this quote reminds me that the simpler I keep it, the stronger the emotional resonance and the clearer the key message.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

– Toni Morrison

I love the agency in this one. I think it’s an agency that creatives and entrepreneurs and thought leaders all share. It can be easy to get wrapped up in trying to nail down your audience but if you write, or create, to solve a problem that you’ve experienced or seen first hand, you’ll create something that will inevitably ring true with others.

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

– Robert Frost

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing about, you’ve got to be all in. If you’re excited, the reader is excited. If you’re having fun the reader is having fun. Equally, if you’re bored, then the reader is definitely bored. There will always be things that you love to write about and things that don’t spark that same enthusiasm, however, you have to bring that energy and that willingness to convey what’s great about something to every piece of writing you do.

“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.”

– Annie Proulx

I’ve not always been a lover of the rules when it comes to writing. But over time, I’ve really fallen in love with the craft of writing, right down to the tiniest details. I love how moving just a few words around or taking a comma from one place to another can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

If you’re a journalist, or a novelist, or a poet, or a business writer, or a speaker, or a leader, or anything of the sort, then you need to learn story structure. Story structure is history and science and philosophy all wrapped into one. If you want to know how to evoke a feeling or make an effective call to action, you have to know how to tell a story and you have to know how to tell it in just the right way.

“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”

– Ernest Hemingway

Hemmingway had a lot to say about writing and out of all of the authors I’ve listed in this blog, I’ve read and heard the most advice from Hemmingway. Though ‘write drunk and edit sober’ is one of my favourites, I think this may be his best. I also think it’s just great life advice.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Elmore Leonard

Simple. Effective. It’s something I try to keep in mind when editing my work, particularly when it comes down to how the piece flows. Read your work aloud. If it sounds like writing, try again.

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

– Madeleine L’Engle

So I know I said there was no particular order, but this might actually be my favourite writing quote of them all.