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  • 1177 days, 23 hours, 42 minutes, 27 seconds ago

Writers Writing About Writing

I am currently in the throes of audit blitz number two (Cincinnati down; Bakersfield to go), but thought I would share some literary advice I’ve collected from people who know what they are talking about.  For instance:

Kurt Vonnegut

    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 how 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 hell 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.

Henry Miller

    1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
    2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
    3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
    4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
    5. When you can’t create you can work.
    6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
    7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
    8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
    9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
    10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
    11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Jack Kerouac

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

And here are many many lists via The Guardian inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules.

And if that doesn’t satiate you, here is What 50 Famous Authors Want Us to Know About the Writing Process.”  (unlinked at the behest of site owner)

Have fun with all that.  Back soon.

D

*     *     *

You know what?  Here’s one more list that I might as well publish here for safe-keeping:  rules from Pixar story artist Emma Coates.

    1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
    2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
    3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
    4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
    5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
    6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
    7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
    8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
    9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
    10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
    11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
    12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
    13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
    14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
    15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
    16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
    17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
    18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
    19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
    20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
    21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
    22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.