Words on writing: skills & craft

Writing secrets. Number 1: the skills & craft. 

Sadly, there are no quick-fixes to producing a wonderful story that zings off the page with captivating prose. But there are some ground-rules to getting things right – being prepared to work at it being the most important.

I’ve been learning the craft of writing novels for over 20 years, and teaching the skills of storytelling for more than 10. I’ve distilled some of my material into mini-tutorials if you’d like to study aspects of the craft such as plot, character creation, narrative & voice, dialogue etc.

My crash course in creative writing can be found in the Creative Writing category of this website.

Meanwhile, read on for some wise words from writers also prepared to lend a helping hand. There are clues aplenty on the things to focus on if you want to master the skills & craft of writing. I’ve thrown in a few comments of my own here and there.


I’m always telling my students the real work of a writer comes in the rewriting. Bernard Malamud gives an explanation as to why that should be:
Writing secrets. A writer's first draft. G.K. Chesterton. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

J.B. Priestley
Writing secrets. Quote from J.B. Priestley. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

May Sarton was a poet and a novelist. Disciplines requiring oceans of stamina:
Writing secrets. Writing a novel. May Sarton. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

 Robert Frost on narrative
Writing secrets. Quote from Robert Frost. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

Truman Capote conjuring up a heartwarming picture:
Writing secrets. Narrative & voice. Truman Capote. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

Writing secrets. Quote from May Sarton. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

May Sarton

I think Virginia Woolf is being a tad simplistic but her point about the importance of language is well made:
Writing secrets. Writing style and rhythm. Virginia Woolf. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

Writing secrets. Creating characters. Elizabeth George. Writing skills & craft by Ruth WadeElizabeth George

Hemingway had something to say about virtually every aspect of the craft of writing. Terse and opinionated, he often put his finger on it:
Writing secrets. Creating characters. Hemingway. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

Writing secrets. Creating characters. Arthur Miller. Writing skills & craft by Ruth WadeArthur Miller

Elizabeth Bowen is often known as ‘the writers’ writer’ mainly due to her sage advice on the craft: Writing secrets. Plot movement. Elizabeth Bowen. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

Sound advice here from Simenon:
Words on writing. Quote from Simenon. Skills & craft by Ruth Wade

 Writing secrets. Creating characters. Claude Lewis. Writing skills & craft by Ruth WadeClaude Lewis

Doris LessingWriting secrets. Creating characters. Doris Lessing. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade

Writing secrets. Creating characters. Flaubert. Writing skills & craft by Ruth Wade                                         Flaubert

You can find some more wise words and inspiration here:

Writing secrets number 2: tough love

Writing secrets number 3: the writer as artist

Writing secrets number 4: the deep stuff 

Creativity quotes to inspire