Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Success Is A Finished Book

Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Must Write Every Single Day of Your Life

To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.

     You must write every single day of your life.

     You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next.

     You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.

     I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime.

     I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you.

     May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories—science fiction or otherwise.

     Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.


Monday, June 27, 2011

The test of any good fiction

The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail. The trouble with most fiction is that you want them all to land in hell, together, as quickly as possible.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Nothing is More Satisfying Than to Write A Good Sentence

Nothing is more satisfying than to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises. This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work, a good ear, and continued practice.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Try to Be Alive

The most solid advice . . . for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Plotting is Like Sex

Plotting is like sex. Plotting is about desire and satisfaction, anticipation and release. You have to arouse your reader’s desire to know what happens, to unravel the mystery, to see good triumph. You have to sustain it, keep it warm, feed it, just a little bit, not too much at a time, as your story goes on. That’s called suspense. It can bring desire to a frenzy, in which case you are in a good position to bring off a wonderful climax.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Always Stop When You Know What Is Going to Happen Next

When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day next you hit it again.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Creative Incubation

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Move On

One of the great writer’s myths is the one about papering the walls with rejection slips. There are stories of proposals and manuscripts that were rejected twenty-five or thirty times and went on to become published books and even, in rare case, bestsellers. But these stories are so exceptional that when they do happen they immediately become part of publishing lore.
     Part of playing the publisher’s game is knowing when you have lost. If you have been flatly rejected by ten well-chosen editors then you will almost certainly be turned down by the next hundred. It would be far better to spend your time rethinking your idea, reworking your proposal, or maybe even abandoning that particular idea and moving on to something else.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writing Is Like Sculpture

Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Avoid All Prepositions and Conjunctions That Consist of More Than One Word

Avoid all prepositions and conjunctions that consist of more than one word. Aside from inasmuch as, this includes with regard to, in association with, in connection with, with respect to, in the absence of, with a view to, in an effort to, in terms of, in order to, for the purpose of, for the reason that, in accordance with, in the neighborhood of, on the basis of, and so on. There’s not a single one of these word combinations that can’t be replaced by a simple word like if, for, to, by, about or since.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Don't Dress Up Your Vocabulary

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Limit Your Vocabulary

Upon mature consideration I advise you to go no farther with your vocabulary. If you have a lot of words they will become like some muscle you have developed that you are compelled to use, and you must use this one in expressing yourself or in criticizing others. It is hard to say who will punish you the most for this, the dumb people who don't know what you are talking about or the learned ones who do. But wallop you they will and you will be forced to confine yourself to pen and paper.
     Then you will be a writer and may God have mercy on your soul.

     No! A thousand times no! Far, far better confine yourself to a few simple expressions in life, the ones that served billions upon countless billions of our forefathers and still serve admirably all but a tiny handful of those at present clinging to the earth's crust....

     So forget all that has hitherto attracted you in our complicated system of grunts and go back to those fundamental ones that have stood the test of time.
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD, in a letter to Andrew Turnbull

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Finish Your First Draft

The best advice on writing was given to me by my first editor, Michael Korda, of Simon and Schuster, while writing my first book. "Finish your first draft and then we'll talk," he said. It took me a long time to realize how good the advice was. Even if you write it wrong, write and finish your first draft. Only then, when you have a flawed whole, do you know what you have to fix.


Monday, June 6, 2011

That. Which.

That is the defining, or restrictive pronoun, which is the nondefining, or nonrestrictive. . . .

     The lawn mower that is broken is in the garage. (Tells which one)

     The lawn mower, which is broken, is in the garage. (Adds a fact about the only lawn mower in question)

The use of which for that is common and written and spoken language (“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass.”) Occasionally which seems preferable to that, as in the sentence from the Bible. But it would be a convenience to all if these two pronouns were used with precision. The careful writer, watchful for small conveniences, goes which-hunting, removes the defining whiches, and by so doing improves his work.

William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cut like crazy

Cut like crazy. Less is more. I've often read manuscripts–including my own–where I've got to the beginning of, say, chapter two and have thought: "This is where the novel should actually start." A huge amount of information about character and backstory can be conveyed through small detail. The emotional attachment you feel to a scene or a chapter will fade as you move on to other stories. Be business-like about it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Force Yourself to Write Non-Stop

[If you have writer's block] force yourself to write non-stop for twenty or thirty minutes: no deletions, no erasures, no pauses. If that doesn't work, take a break. Take a walk. Pack up your writing supplies and go someplace new. Sit in a coffee shop, find a cozy spot in a library, go to a park. If you're truly desperate, go away for a few days. Take a train to a distant city and write onboard (on Amtrak, you can actually plug in your computer. But coffee is essential: without it, the train will rock you to sleep.) It often helps to do something entirely nonverbal, like making a collage or playing music. And it always helps to understand that writer's block is a widespread malady. To strengthen your feeling of solidarity with the scribbling classes, watch these movies: The Shining, Misery, Barton Fink, Deconstructing Harry, all of which explore the consequences of writer's block.


You Expect Far Too Much of a First Sentence

You expect far too much of a first sentence. Think of it as analogous to a good country breakfast: what we want is something simple, but nourishing to the imagination. Hold the philosophy, hold the adjectives, just give us a plain subject and verb and perhaps a wholesome, nonfattening adverb or two.