The Best Advice for Writers

December is the worst month for writers.

NaNoWriMo is over, and if you're like most people, you didn't "win" it despite your best intentions. (In 2013, only 14 percent of participants crossed the finish line.)

Holiday parties and preparations occupy your evenings and weekends, leaving you with little time to write, and the new year beckons with promises of a fresh start. Next year, you say. Next year you'll finally write that book.

Except that you said the same thing last year. What will you do to make 2015 different? Grammarly's informal survey of writing advice from famous authors uncovered a few common threads:

• Eliminate distractions
• Read a lot
• Write first, edit later
• Finish what you start

In their own words, here are five of our favorite authors on the secrets of their success. (Spoiler alert: there is no secret.)

Set the Stage

Stephen King's On Writing is a treasure trove of candid writing advice intertwined with his own life story. Even if you're not a fan of horror, it's still a fascinating and worthwhile read. Among the many nuggets of wisdom, King recommends creating a distraction-free environment: "There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there's a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall."

Read Much, Write Much

YA superstar John Green has three pieces of advice for aspiring writers: "Whenever I'm asked what advice I have for young writers, I always say that the first thing is to read, and to read a lot. The second thing is to write. And the third thing, which I think is absolutely vital, is to tell stories and listen closely to the stories you're being told." 

Don't Edit While You Write

Writing and editing are like to equal but opposite forces; try to do them both at once and your work will grind to a halt. Hugh Howey, the mega-bestselling author of Wool, tells writers to worry polishing the language only after they've finished the first draft. "Stop caring about spelling and sentence fragments and plot holes and grammar. Get the story down. Listen to the dialog and try to keep up with your fingers. Get to the end of your manuscript and THEN worry about the quality."

Don't Give Up

Neil Gaiman, author of the beloved Sandman graphic novels and numerous novels for children and adults, tells aspiring writers to finish what they start: "You have to finish things -- that's what you learn from, you learn by finishing things." Science fiction titan Robert Heinlein echoed that advice in his famous list of "Rules for Writers." Rule #2 is simply "Finish what you start."

Will 2015 be your year? If you stay focused and write every day (even if it's just a page), you can have a finished book in your hands by this time next year. Now quit looking for writing advice on the internet and start writing!

Have your own tip for writers? Share it in the comments!