The Writing Advice of John Grisham

John Grisham: Photo from Famous Authors

I always try to tell a good story, one with a compelling plot that will keep the pages turning.

LAST WEEK, I wrote about John Grisham fighting and beating impossible odds to become one of the most popular authors in the world.

He had a plan.

He stuck with it.

He scratched his way to the top.

You can read the story HERE.

This week, I wanted to feature the advice John Grisham has provided for writers who, like he once did, are fighting to beat impossible odds in the publishing world.

  • I know what I do is not literature. For me, the essential component of fiction is plot. My objective is to get the reader to feel compelled to turn the pages as quickly as possible. If I want to achieve that, I can’t allow myself the luxury of distracting him. I have to keep him hanging on, and the only way to do that is by using weapons of suspense. If I try to understand the complexities of the soul, people’s character defects, and those types of things, the reader gets distracted.
  • I always try to tell a good story, one with a compelling plot that will keep the pages turning. That is my first and primary goal. Sometimes I can tackle an issue – homelessness, tobacco litigation, insurance fraud, the death penalty – and wrap a good story around it.
  • I give off rather mixed messages about the law. On the one hand, I can honestly say I don’t miss working in a law office. On the other hand, I do enjoy watching the law, and while the profession may have its problems, I have sold zillions of books out of magnifying them.
  • I was a lawyer for ten years – a short time – but it molded me into who I am. My clients were little people fighting big corporations, so it was a natural thing to not only represent the little guy but also to pull for him – it’s the American way.
  • I’m a Christian, and those beliefs occasionally come out in the books.
  • However, one thing you really have to watch as a writer is getting on a soapbox or pulpit about anything. You don’t want to alienate readers.
  • Don’t compromise yourself – you’re all you have.
  • In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard.
  • Over the years, I’ve written two types of books: those that pick up an issue, and what Graham Greene called entertainments.
  • I don’t dare think of the future. The past is still happening.
  • You live your life today, not tomorrow, and certainly not yesterday.
  • If you’re gonna be stupid, you gotta be tough.
  • I have learned not to read reviews. Period. And I hate reviewers. All of them, or at least all but two or three. Life is much simpler ignoring reviews and the nasty people who write them. Critics should find meaningful work.
  • I always do book signings with the same blue pen. That way, if I add a personalized message to a book I’ve already signed, it’ll be the same color as my signature.

John Grisham has reached the top of the writing profession. His books have sold more than three hundred million copies. He has earned more than six hundred million dollars.

Yet, he admits: “Quite often I can be in a bookshop beneath a great big picture of myself and paying for a book with a credit card clearly marked John Grisham, but no one recognizes me.

I often say I’m a famous author in a country where nobody reads.”



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