Advice I should Take Myself

Some snippets now, on how to be a better writer. There are so many people out there writing, it just makes it harder for editors/publishers to sift through the nonsense.

I grew up in a time when it was considered okay to be a winner, and that therefore there would be losers. I studied sculpture at university, but my degree means nothing; who needs artists when we have the TV and cinemas?!

Now, however, everyone can be a bloody artist! We all have the right to be creative and then force our dross onto others. I’m just hoping that my dross is better than other peoples.

So, what do the ‘real’ writers advise us?

  1. Elmore Leonard – “Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.” Sadly, I am guilty of this.
  2. George Orwell – “Never use a long word when a short one will do.” Again, feel the need to impress much?
  3. Stephen King – “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Okay, so I get a gold star for this one.
  4. Michael Moorcock – “I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.” A silver star for this one, beginning to avoid the kind of writing genres I write.
  5. Will Self – “Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”
  6. Anton Chekov – “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Ah, the poetry in prose, I’m rubbish at poetry, I try, but I am aware of how incredibly difficult an art it is. Poetry is the Tai Chi of writing.
  7. Neil Gaiman – “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” I joined a local writers group, very useful for getting this required feedback.
  8. PD James – “Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.”
  9. Paul Theroux – “Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home.” At my age this is not applicable, I left home 33 years ago.
  10. Oscar Wilde – “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

I didn’t want to put too many down here, I’m sure you can go research your own. I just thought I would share some hints and tips I try to work by, try being the operative word.

Now, go out and write!!

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Alexandra

Hates pulses, litter, dog poo, noisy neighbours, our street, spitting, adverts, modern cars, yellow shoes, liver, and people who moan...

9 thoughts on “Advice I should Take Myself”

    1. Morning kevinfrostwriter, thank you for your comments. Although when I write long sections of dialogue, I do get bored of writing ‘said’.

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  1. I love Theroux’s comment. I must disagree with the idea of not reading in one’s own genre. It’s good to see what the competition is creating, especially if this short story or that novel is getting short-listed or receiving awards. Reading The Night Circus blew my mind and got me all excited about possibilities in one of my own works-in-progress.

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  2. The don’t read your genre part…I have mixed feelings. On Tuesday my former creative writing teacher told me TO READ my genre and I’m currently writing my genre. Personally when I was writing in high school I never read while I wrote. I just wrote diligently and read when I was done. Once I had an idea that I wanted to write my need for reading stop. I still feel like I’m that way. I’m working on something but college got way too busy so I’m reading instead of writing right now.

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    1. konnichiwa kikyohatake,

      I agree that you must read something from your own genre. However, I think Moorcock is trying to stop budding authors from getting too immersed in that style as reading a single genre can be as damaging to development as not reading at all.
      It sounds like you’re quite young, kikyohatake – ‘college got in the way’ – so I recommend what J.G Ballard said: Don’t try to write a novel first. You cannot know your own style or genre yet. Write lots of short stories in different styles and see what feels right for you.
      Good Luck with your writing, K.

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      1. Arigatou Gozaimasu. I guess I am young, ha (5th year in college at the moment). A decade of writing isn’t enough practice. I know that. My teacher also said the same thing that J.G. Ballard said. He also said to read in your genre but I don’t think he meant “become immersed”. But then as a young person you think of people like Christopher Paolini who published before 20 and already knew their style and genre and they couldn’t have written for more than a decade. That age thing plagues people of my age (“Tommy works for Disney and he’s only 21. I’m so behind” and “Serena made a movie and she’s 25. I’m not that good.”).

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