Saturday, February 28, 2009

10 Pieces of Writing Advice

Andre Dubus III: Don’t outline your stories. DO NOT outline your stories. I know some writers do this, but I think the writing process asks us to surrender to the mysteries of the unknown. Nowhere in our culture is this taught. You have to trust your gut, trust your characters to take a story where it’s going to go; and, more often than not, it does that. That’s my two cents.

Elizabeth Evans: Read the best books and write as often as you possibly can. And be respectful of your work. Give it your best shot.

Carolina Garcia-Aguilera: Don’t give up. It’s not a hobby. You can’t be a weekend dabbler. You have to commit. If you can, take a few months off from your job. Writing is not a part-time occupation. And remember that publishing a book is not just writing--you have to promote the book, read the contracts. I didn’t know anything about publishing when I began. I still can’t believe I’ve published books. You know how writers say they don’t really feel like a writer until they see someone on an airplane reading their book. Well, that happened to me recently at the gym. The woman on the bicycle next to me was reading one of my books. I asked her if she liked it. She said yes. And I decided to tell her I was the author.

Olivia Goldsmith: Write every day. Find the hours that suit you. Sit there until something comes. Don’t judge what you write that day--you can do that tomorrow. And if nothing comes, you can edit what you did before. One more thing...your agent does NOT know more than you do, and neither does your editor. I listen to advice, but I don’t always follow it.

Barbara Gowdy: Read everything, especially the classics and poetry. Eavesdrop on real conversations. Don’t watch too much TV, nobody talks like TV people do. Don’t ever be too attached to anything you’ve written; you are the vehicle for the word, not it’s creator. Write what you’re obsessed by.

Beth Gutcheon: My advice to aspiring writers is, of course, read. But more important, and maybe less obvious (though I’ve already said it once) is, if you aren’t constitutionally suited to being alone for really long stretches, and can’t handle the fairly tricky part of the job description which reads paychecks and reality checks may only arrive every three years, it may not be for you. How does any writer know if she’s good or merely deranged? It’s not a small problem.

Kathryn Harrison: Revise.

Mo Hayder: The usual advice: write, write, write. And, when you’ve done that, write some more. Don’t give up. If you’re unclear about where to pitch your voice, whether you’re steering the right course between the obtuse and the condescending, then imagine yourself as the reader. You have to write for yourself--if you start indulging in writing for a market you’re lost.

Alice Hoffman: No one knows how to write a novel until it’s been written.

Craig Holden: Become a long distance runner. Read a thousand short stories and poems, and hundreds of novels. Write every day. Marry some money, but not too much.

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