Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing Advice From Great Writers

"When a good writer is having fun, the audience is almost always having fun too."
-- Stephen King
So, so true. If your writing is flowing along well, and every thing seems peachy, more than likely your readers will enjoy it also. This isn't a given, however. Sometimes you're enjoying your writing but you are turning out junk. The best way to tell the difference? Read what you've written. Not immediately. Give it a day or two, at least, so there's some emotional distance between yourself and your words. At that point, if what you're reading still sounds great, it probably is. The tricky part is to be truthful with yourself. Are you really enjoying what you're writing, or are you just liking it because you wrote it. There's a difference. Sometimes it takes experience to tell that difference.

"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else."
-- Gloria Steinem
Another truism. If you truly want to be a professional writer, you must write. Not want to write. Not feel the need to write. Must write. Writing will be like oxygen to your lungs. It might even be the only thing to keep you sane. Believe me, there are a lot of easier ways than writing to earn a living. And if you don't feel that want, that drive, then you might one to consider doing something else. Not that wanting is enough. You've got to work at your craft, too.

"Planning to write is not writing. Outlining… researching… talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing."
-- E.L. Doctorow
If you want to be a writer, get to writing. You've got to get that next article or story or novel written and edited and rewritten and edited and edited again. It's work. It takes time. You're not going to get any of that accomplished by sitting around the coffee house talking to the other poets about how cool it is that all of you are writers. Go write.

"The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book."
-- Mickey Spillane
Start your stories off with a bang. Entice the reader right up front. Don't make them have to wade through a bunch of long-winded paragraphs full of exposition and background and other boring nonsense that either isn't important anyway, or could be worked into the action of the story. This goes for fiction and non-fiction. And wind things up by wowing your readers. Leave them wanting more. Leave them looking for your next writing article or book.

"If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor."
-- Edgar Rice Burroughs
The more you write, the better you will get at it. Your experience will grow. You'll begin to see things in different ways, things such as plotting and characterization and so forth. And the more stories or articles or books you have written, the better chance you will have of getting one of them published. It's simple math.

"Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it."
-- Truman Capote
Capote's quote sounds harsh, but there's some truth to it, especially with writing books. When you're finished with a major project, completely finished, it's emotionally tough. You've put all your heart and soul and time into this thing for perhaps years. Then suddenly ... no more. You have to send your work out into the great, big wide world to be judged on its own. You can't be there to protect, to offer excuses, to suggest improvements. Nothing. Capote was sounding harsh because it is harsh.

"Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first."
-- Groucho Marx
I'm just sticking this one in because I like it. Cheers!

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