I thought this week I’d share a few one line tips from top writers – just because I think they’re great and are the sort of thing which make us think about what we write. In the end I believe we all find our own best way to get words down on the page, but I also believe it’s a good idea to listen to good advice which comes from experts – so here is some.
Write slowly and by hand only about subjects that interest you.
I’ve always written first drafts by hand in notebooks – I think it gets you in touch with the words and what they mean – also it ensures that when you come to type your work up on a computer later you are effectively doing a second draft. I think it also slows you down and that’s a good thing – there’s no point in writing faster than you can think. As far as writing about what interests you goes – writing a novel is a marathon – if you are writing about something which doesn’t fully engage you then you are running uphill.
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.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr
I always think a book should really be about something – that there should be issues and events in there which are worth the weight of all those words. I suppose that’s what Kurt Vonnegut is saying here in a way – that there‘s not much point having characters just drifting about unchallenged. The awful things of which he speaks can take many forms of course
Try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
This touches on the power and importance of rewriting – which, for me, is a crucial part of writing. I think the ability to self-edit successfully is a hard-won but vital skill and it really does depend on the ability to come to your own work as if it belonged to someone else and view it with a critical eye.
Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
I wrote a blog a while ago about words being in some ways better at describing ideas and emotions than they are at describing things. I believe, as clearly Mr Leonard does, that a good way to bog your book down with detail which could bore and baffle the reader is to describe things in tortuous detail. Often less is more and an impressionistic approach can be more satisfying.
Do you have any favourite writing quotes? Share them with us in the comments!
Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.
You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.