Monday, February 2, 2009

10 Pieces of Writing Advice

Colin Harrison: Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have to write, don’t bother. Do something else. Really. If you do have to write, don’t give up --- ever. Be defiant in the face of rejection and disinterest, yet be humble about the craft. It takes time. Study the masters, learn technique and structure. You only live and write once. In the words of Willy Loman, "the woods are burning."

Susan Isaacs: Avoid writing classes. You have one thing as a writer: that’s your own voice. If you go into a class, the first thing they’ll tell you to do is write in the style of a famous writer. Immediately, you’re being taught to mimic. You’re not doing the one thing you have to do which is tell yourself a story, listen to the sound of your own voice. You’re writing to please the teacher instead of yourself. What comes out of those classes is generic New Yorker short stories, few of them good enough to be in the New Yorker. Did Austen get a Master’s? Did Dostoevsky have a writing workshop? There’s nothing wrong with these 2-day courses where you can get a few pointers on getting published and finding an agent, but no one can teach you how to write. All they can do is make a good writer so self-conscious, she gets into an artistic knot who can’t get untied.

Barbara Hambly: Don’t be afraid to rewrite. Have someone whose judgment you trust read your work, and ask them if it worked for them, and if not, why not? Finish what you start, if not every time, at least most of the time. Tell a story about people --- don’t spend all your time setting up a world or a history or a setting.

Faye Kellerman: To aspiring writers, I say, "Write, write, write" as well as "read, read, read." Not just fiction, but nonfiction as well. You can never get enough information . . . so many stories out there. I just wish I had enough time.

Matthew Kneale: Just write. Don’t worry about seeming clever. If you can find a subject that means something to you, and you can make it mean something to the rest of the world, you’re made. But be sure enough happens.

Jim Harrison: The only advice I can give to aspiring writers is don’t do it unless you’re willing to give your whole life to it. Red wine and garlic also helps.

Billie Letts: Keep writing. Go to writer’s conferences. You never know whom you will meet at these conferences, and they are the best way to get to know agents and publishers. And read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, more than once. And believe in yourself.

Lois Lowry: I always tell aspiring writers that reading is the best way, maybe the only way, to learn to write well.

Greg Mitchell: If you’re going to write a book about managing in Little League make sure you draft a few kids who are real characters, in every sense of the word. And, as Casey Stengel said, you got to get someone to play catcher --- or you’ll get a lot of wild pitches. Finally, keep a diary, every year, in case you get lucky.

Joe Queenan: Do not write anything until you are 30 as you will have absolutely nothing to say. Spend all your time reading the great writers. You can catch up on the writing part of things later, and there will always be plenty of money. At least that has been my experience.

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1 comment:

Aimee said...

I have to respectfully disagree with Ms. Isaacs. Taking some writing workshops did wonders for my confidence. I came in there with my own voice and it was never criticized, but rather it was complimented. I did get helpful advice, though and learned so much from the other writers. Workshops and classes are the only reason I have come out of my shell. I say, go for them!