Archives for posts with tag: Writing Tips

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Every character should want something, even if it’s only a glass of water.  KURT VONNEGUT

Photo: CelloPics

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RAY BRADBURY TALKS REJECTION…

(from Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life)

…starting when I was fifteen I began to send short stories to magazines like Esquire, and they, very promptly, sent them back two days before they got them! I have several walls in several rooms of my house covered with the snowstorm of rejections, but they didn’t realize what a strong person I was; I persevered and wrote a thousand more dreadful short stories, which were rejected in turn.

Then, during the late forties, I actually began to sell short stories and accomplished some sort of deliverance from snowstorms [of rejection slips] in my fourth decade. But even today, my latest books of short stories contain at least seven stories that were rejected by every magazine in the United States and also in Sweden! …The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.

Photo: Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)  at home in Los Angeles

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  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

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1. Write.
2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
7. Laugh at your own jokes.
8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Neil Gaiman is the author of American Gods (2001) and Coraline (2002). 

Illustration: Becky Walker, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  3. Work according to the programand not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  4. When you can’t create, you can work.
  5. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  6. Keep human! See people; go places, drink if you feel like it.
  7. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  8. Discard the program when you feel like it — but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  9. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  10. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

 

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  1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
  2. Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.
  3. Never use the word “then” as a ­conjunction – we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page.
  4. Write in the third person unless a ­really distinctive first-person voice ­offers itself irresistibly.
  5. When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
  6. The most purely autobiographical ­fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto­biographical story than “The Meta­morphosis”.
  7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.
  8.  It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.
  9. Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
  10. You have to love before you can be relentless.

Jonathan Franzen is the author of the bestselling novels The Corrections (2001) and Freedom (2010).

Illustration by Danilo Agutoli, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Find more of Agutoli’s work here.

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INTRODUCTION TO POETRY
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
 
or press an ear against its hive.
 
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
 
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
 
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
 
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
 
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

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In a CNN interview, Stephen King gives concise answers to a variety of subjects — including his writing routine, which he says helps him get into his daily writer’s trance. Here’s the quote:

I have a routine because I think that writing is self-hypnosis and you fall into kind of a trance if you do the same passes over and over.”

Watch the video at youtube.com.

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“You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right – and breaking your train of thought and the writer’s trance in the bargain – or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don’t have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it … but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.”

Source: The Writer’s Handbook (Writer, Inc., 1988), available at Amazon.com.

Illustration: Collage by Pilgrim, Photo by Daniel Salo, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You must simply do things.” RAY BRADBURY

PHOTO: Cuddles the cat finds the perfect place to eye the occupants of a goldfish tank at its home in Simi Valley, California. CREDIT: Mel Melcon, Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1997, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED