Sunday, February 19, 2006

Words to the wise

A recent post by Amos linked to the mighty 43folders, where Merlin mentioned Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing. These made me think of Kurt Vonnegut’s own Writing 101, which reminded me of a couple of paragraphs from Stephen King’s On Writing, which put me in mind (for some reason, probably because I read the two at the same time) of a section from James Hawes’ Dead Long Enough.

Writing 101

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist.  No matter sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person.  If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible.  To heck with suspense.  Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
        Kurt Vonnegt

On Writing
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness. Excitement, hopefulness, or
even despair - the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.

Don't wait for the muse. As I've said, he's a hardheaded guy who's not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering…just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you're going to be every day from nine 'til noon or seven 'til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he'll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.

The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.

        Stephen King

Dead Long Enough

We are all trained to lie. We are so used to being pummeled with bright things we cannot afford and lives we can never have and beautiful people we can never touch, that our whole lives have become, have had to become, one vast exercise in lying to ourselves. Medieval peasants may have looked up at the bright lights in the castle and told themselves it was all nothing to do with them. But medieval peasants did not see their God-like betters poncing around in Hello! magazine every month. We all dig this deep dark ditch between what we want and what we dare admit to wanting. So there was nothing easier for me than to close the door and say no, not my type really. Not for me.
        And even to believe it myself.

        James Hawes

Today’s message to you all is to fill that ditch. Admit, commit, and submit.

Category: Writing

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