Sherman Alexie’s Top 10 Tips for Writers

Sherman Alexie Writing Tips

Sherman Alexie is the author of 24 books including Reservation Blues which received an American Book Award in 1996. His first young adult fiction novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has sold over one million copies.  

In the September 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest magazine Alexie shared the following advice for writers.

1. Don’t Google search yourself.

2. When you’ve finished Google searching yourself, don’t do it again.

3. Every word on your blog is a word not in your book.

4. Don’t have any writing ceremonies. They’re just a way to stop you from writing.

5. Turn your readings into events. Perform and write with equal passion.

6. Read 1,000 pages for every one you try to write.

7. In fiction, research is overrated. But that means readers will write you correcting all of your minor biographical, geographical and historical errors. If you like, make those corrections in the paperback, but don’t sweat it too much.

8. Don’t lose the sense of awe you feel whenever you meet one of your favorite writers. However, don’t confuse any writer’s talent with his or her worth as a human being. Those two qualities are not necessarily related.

9.  Subscribe to as many literary journals as you can afford.

10. When you read a piece of writing that you admire, send a note of thanks to the author. Be effusive with your praise. Writing is a lonely business. Do your best to make it a little less lonely.

Read more writing tips from Paulo Coelho, Meg Rosoff, Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman.

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9 Comments

  1. 17 June 2014 / 11:22 pm

    This is great advice! I follow it almost verbatim and didn’t even know it! Passed it on to dear friends that spend a lot of time on busy work. <3 xo

  2. F. Armstrong Green
    18 June 2014 / 12:28 am

    Number ten may develop into a lasting correspondence with a kindred soul that may lead to wonderful things.
    Number nine is extremely important but don’t bother with minor ones, though what you may regard as minor is not always so minor. Read only the very best. If your budget is limited, subscribe to two the first year and then change or add. A major editor says she subscribes to more than a hundred lit mags and reads them all.
    Number six is no exaggeration. A writer reads–and reads and reads. Every day you must read a poem, an essay in a literary journal, at least a page in a short story or a novel, something about the craft of writing, something in depth psychology or myth, and some point of grammar or usage.

  3. 18 June 2014 / 1:39 am

    Great words of wisdom here. Love the first two. 😉 Write on and read on, writers!

  4. 26 January 2016 / 7:23 am

    I’d be very interesting in knowing the thinking on #9. The benefits.

  5. F. Armstrong Green
    26 January 2016 / 10:13 am

    No better advice. That’s where new writers pay their dues and get discovered. Read only the very best. Sewanee Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Paris Review, Shenandoah, Black River, Hudson, Virginia Quarterly, Southwest Quarterly . . .
    One will lead to another. Read the list contributors and see where else they’ve published.

  6. 27 January 2016 / 5:05 pm

    Thanks, Sherman. Great advice, especially the last one. I did that with William Zinsser and he freaking wrote me back! I was so thrilled. It’s particularly special now since he passed away. Write on!

  7. 25 August 2016 / 6:37 am

    Number ten is my favorite and one I follow with dedication. Thank you!

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