I found a website recently with 8 or 10 pieces of advice (or rules?) about writing from several well-known writers, and I've picked out one from each list - usually the one to which I felt I could relate to most, and have added my brief comments about each..
Neil Gaiman: The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
I'm not sure this is absolutely accurate, as there are some 'rules' or at least some 'good practice' advice that we should follow, but to me this advice basically means, 'Don't slavishly follow every rule you find about plotting, characters, or writing.
Elmore Leonard: Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed an author ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.
I agree with this, at least most of the time, although I think there are odd occasions when another verb might be needed.
Kurt Vonnegut: Start as close to the end as possible.
I love this! So often we start our stories too soon - I know I have done so in the past! I've even read advice that says, 'Write your story and then get rid of the first chapter'.
David Ogilvy: Write the way you talk. Naturally. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
I'd amend this to say, 'Write the way your characters talk' although that assumes you can hear their voices in your head. However, I'd certainly agree that most people do use simple words and short sentences when they are speaking.
John Steinbeck: Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
This is intriguing advice which I had not thought about before. In one sense, I think I do write to one person i.e. myself!
Henry Miller: Work on one thing at a time until finished.
I don't always do this. Sometimes I put one story on a backburner while I write another, but I don't usually work on two things at the same time. I need to concentrate one story and one set of characters, and not keep switching to another.
Zadie Smith: Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.
I definitely need to train myself to do this!