Tips from Other Writers

I saw an interesting article in The Atlantic by Romy Oltusky.  He gathered advice from some of the most prolific (and speedy) authors.  Here are a few gems I thought were especially useful.

Pulitzer nominee Joyce Carol Oates starts by creating character and setting (which she also considers to be a character).  She gives her Princeton students the assignment to begin with a conversation between two characters.  Because as in real life, over time you will see the personalities develop.  She also advises, “The first sentence cannot be written until the last sentence has.”  (More advice from Oates here.)

Belgian writer Georges Simenon published nearly 200 novels as well as short works in his lifetime.  He also started by developing a character, rather than a plot.  He even went so far as to use the method-actor technique of becoming the protagonist for eleven days.  Simenon also said that you must edit and edit again, even the parts you love.  “It’s what I do when I write, the main job when I rewrite… Adjectives, adverbs, and every word which is there just to make an effect. Every sentence which is there just for the sentence. You know, you have a beautiful sentence — cut it. Every time I find such a thing in one of my novels it is to be cut.”

Author and journalist Christopher “Hitch” Hitchens said that you should write the way you talk.  Always read aloud what you’ve written.

And Stephen King says read a lot, even bad things.  Bad writing will give you the confidence to get better.


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  1. Pingback: Emily McDonald » Post Topic » Starting with Characters

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