‘On Writing Well’ – 10 Quotes from the Excellent Book

‘On Writing Well’, a book written by William Zinnser, is an excellent resource for writers in general, and non fiction writers in particular. This book is an ‘informal guide to writing non fiction’, but read the quotes below to decide if it is also inevitable. Even if you just write emails, it is essential to write them well.

After reading this book, I feel that all my conceptions about writing were misconceptions and there is much to learn. One hard-hitting fact is, I have always thought that I was a good writer – that stopped me from learning the craft. Now I have been shaken out of it.

“Readers want a writer who believes in himself and what he is saying. Don’t diminish that belief. Don’t be kind of bold. Be bold.”

“Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. That idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 percent that it wasn’t.”

“Writing is thinking on paper. Anyone who thinks clearly can write clearly, about anything at all.”

“Writers who write interestingly tend to be men and women who keep themselves interested. That’s almost the whole point of becoming a writer. I’ve used writing to give myself an interesting life and a continuing education. If you write about subjects you think you would enjoy knowing about, your enjoyment will show in what you write.”

“If you would like to write better than everybody else, you have to want to write better than everybody else.”

“You must find some way to elevate your act of writing into an entertainment. Usually this means giving the reader an enjoyable surprise. Any number of devices will do the job: humor, anecdote, paradox, an unexpected quotation, a powerful fact, an outlandish detail, a circuitous approach, an elegant arrangement of words.”

“Be yourself and your readers will follow you anywhere. Try to commit an act of ‘writing’ and your readers will jump overboard to get away.”

“Whatever place you write about, go there often enough to isolate the qualities that make it distinctive. Usually this will be some combination of the place and the people who inhabit it.”

“If you master the tools of the trade – the fundamentals of interviewing and of orderly constructions – and if you bring to the assignment your general intelligence and your humanity, you can write about any subject. That’s your ticket to an interesting life.”

“Perfect taste, like perfect pitch, is a gift from God. But a certain amount can be acquired. The trick is to study writers who have it.”

  • You can buy ‘On Writing Well’ by William Zinsser from Flipkart or Amazon.in in India. [Disclaimer: These are affiliate links. I may get a small commission if you buy the product after clicking on this link. Your price will not change.]

Destination Infinity

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28 Replies to “‘On Writing Well’ – 10 Quotes from the Excellent Book”

  1. Thanks for telling me about Writing Well, I will check it on Amazon. I am a big fan of James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel workbook (which has exercises in it).

    As for giving you reading tips, my advice would be borrow the books from a library, that way you can’t delay not reading it as the due date will be looming large. And if the book is 250 pages long, make sure that you read atleast 25 pages everyday that way you can finish in ten days and there will be continuity in reading the book (so that you will remember the plot and characters).

    1. I will definitely check the authors recommended by you, Rachna. I need as much help as possible, with fiction writing!

      Lending library is a good idea, but since I got the Kindle on my hands, I became very lazy. I want the world’s literature in my hands, delivered over wireless. Blame the Kindle πŸ˜›

      Destination Infinity

    1. Thanks Mahesh, that article was good but unnecessarily long. The author doesn’t seem to know the difference between fiction and non fiction writing! πŸ™‚

      Destination Infinity

  2. Very good tips, D.I. I have realised that I write well if I am interested/involved in the subject I write about. I read it again too. If I write for the sake of writing, then, I don’t re-read and when I read it after a few days, I am able to find out how bad a writer I am!

    Thanks for the tips, D.I.

  3. The post is very interesting DI….most of the quotes kind of intimidated me save one β€œBe yourself and your readers will follow you anywhere. Try to commit an act of β€˜writing’ and your readers will jump overboard to get away.”

    I’d like to think that’s why people still come to read me. I cd be wrong ofcourse :-P.
    But that’s what I’m going to think πŸ˜€

    1. Yes, that’s why people come to read you. I guess readers like certain personalities and certain limited no. of people might have (accidentally) liked yours. Your blog is not all that frank – think about that ‘placed’ resort review for a min πŸ˜›

      Destination Infinity

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