Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Now you tell me! After writing 105,000 words the hard way, this chump comes along and suggests the money is in short paragraphs. Okay.

There is plenty of advice out there for writers, from the man on the street with a great story idea to the professional novelist running a workshop. Some of the best advice can be found in John Gardner's books on writing (Gardner, a novelist, taught for many years) and Oakley Hall's book is also quite good. Nothing, however, beats writing itself. Like playing the piano or driving a car, reading about it just isn't enough. One must practice it, on a daily basis if possible, until it becomes second nature. Imagine thinking you can drive a car simply because you've read the driver's manual!

All agree that clarity is vital, as well as a love of language (without going overboard into flowery, distracting purple prose), and that, essentially, something must happen to someone who wants something. That's simplifying it, but that's the nut. Oh, and read a lot. Don't waste your time reinventing the wheel when familiarity with good writing will place you further along your creative path.

Advice comes from a variety of places. Playwright and TV writer David Mamet had some advice for his writers in an infamous, leaked memo. Mamet shouts in caps, EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE. Of course, he's right.

Interviews with writers can be helpful, and the Paris Review collections are the very best. They date back to the 1950s and are all conveniently online. From Mailer to Franzen, these chats are indispensable.

Now write.

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