Thursday, February 25, 2010

Writers Rules to Live By? Or just a go-by?

I recently was sent a great link to great advice for writers by a good friend.
Thought you all might appreciate it as well.

The advice is by many different authors. Some interesting. Some thought-provoking. Some like this -

Roddy Doyle
1 Do not place a photograph of your ¬favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

Just very good to know. Right?

I admit I did not recognize some of the names but that didn’t keep me from finding things to think about or appreciate in their list. Even if I didn’t know them to respect them as this one advised –

Jeanette Winterson
2 Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether.
6 Take no notice of anyone you don't respect.

I thought her 2-advice was very good even if I didn’t know her to follow her #6 one.
I have tried to do what she has suggested even before I saw her advice.

I liked a lot of insight here…. That description is hard, and to remember that all description is an opinion about the world. I’ll have to mull over that but it seems pretty profound. But maybe that has something to do with the late hour and lack of sleep?
The rest of her advice was …interesting as well. Or maybe it had something to do with the whiskey reference. Although I don’t whiskey and rarely even drink a glass of wine. So maybe it is the late hour. So moving along now….

Anne Enright
2 The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.
3 Only bad writers think that their work is really good.
4 Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.
5 Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn't matter how "real" your story is, or how "made up": what matters is its necessity.
6 Try to be accurate about stuff.
7 Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ¬finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.
8 You can also do all that with whiskey.
9 Have fun.
10 Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ¬counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.

Okay, so what about PD James – there’s a name I know. Have read a lot of her books. Not necessarily my favs. but obviously are of a lot of people. Including a dear friend. But there is some good advice here I think.
I especially thought #2 was interesting. Although I’m not sure what I think about it. I often learn more from books I don’t like than ones I do since it’s easy to get caught up in a good book and miss the ‘mechanisms’ behind it. But bad writing? I don’t know. How is that determined? From what I can tell it’s all just a matter of opinion of whether a book is good or bad. And even sitting a table with a bunch of I’m sure very good writers, they all had very different opinions on good and bad books, and were very often talking about the same book.

PD James
1 Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more ¬effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.
2 Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.
3 Don't just plan to write – write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.
4 Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.
5 Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other ¬people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.

I do follow this advice – at least #1 and #2. And will keep #3 in mind.
Diana Athill
1 Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out – they can be got right only by ear).
2 Cut (perhaps that should be CUT): only by having no ¬inessential words can every essential word be made to count.
3 You don't always have to go so far as to murder your darlings – those turns of phrase or images of which you felt extra proud when they appeared on the page – but go back and look at them with a very beady eye. Almost always it turns out that they'd be better dead. (Not every little twinge of satisfaction is suspect – it's the ones which amount to a sort of smug glee you must watch out for.)

I’m not sure I know who this is either but he sure has some good advice. Especially #8. I was talking with a writer friend and mentioned that I think that’s one reason I for some unfathomable reason feel absolutely compelled to complete the long-drawn struggle of a story I’ve been working on. It’s been teaching me to face my fears. She nodded as I was speaking so I asked her if it ever got any better. With many books under her belt, she would have confidence if anyone would. She looked at me and laughing said, no, it’s that way every time, like an actor and stage fright, but you get on with it and you’re okay. Until the next time.

AL Kennedy
1 Have humility. Older/more ¬experienced/more convincing writers may offer rules and varieties of advice. ¬Consider what they say. However, don't automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else – they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.
2 Have more humility. Remember you don't know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.
3 Defend others. You can, of course, steal stories and attributes from family and friends, fill in filecards after lovemaking and so forth. It might be better to celebrate those you love – and love itself – by writing in such a way that everyone keeps their privacy and dignity intact.
4 Defend your work. Organisations, institutions and individuals will often think they know best about your work – especially if they are paying you. When you genuinely believe their decisions would damage your work – walk away. Run away. The money doesn't matter that much.
5 Defend yourself. Find out what keeps you happy, motivated and creative.
6 Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.
7 Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and ¬irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won't need to take notes.
8 Be without fear. This is impossible, but let the small fears drive your rewriting and set aside the large ones ¬until they behave – then use them, maybe even write them. Too much fear and all you'll get is silence.
9 Remember you love writing. It wouldn't be worth it if you didn't. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.
10 Remember writing doesn't love you. It doesn't care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on.

So to follow his #10 advice. Since I can’t do #9. I don’t love writing. I come to it kicking, screaming and flailing. Yeah, it’s too loud sometimes, huh. And I have no idea why I’m compelled to continually try to put the perfect words on paper to translate what is playing out in my head out of there into a different form to play around in other people’s heads. Yeah, rather annoying sometimes, huh. But it is what it is. And to get to his 10 advice, writing is a tool and good writing can take you out of where you are and who you are. It can give you the world. Maybe this is a way to give back.

So don’t give up on who you are. Or on what you want to do. No matter what it is. Don’t let your dream die, whatever it is. Or dry up. Cause maybe a something in you dries up at the same time.

Read the ‘rules’ here and take away what means something to you.

And come back and talk to me about it, okay?
After all, you’re supposed to be encouraging and pass it on as well. So…I’m waiting. Here. Now. Okay, so I need to take a break and get some sleep. But I’ll be back to check.


Kris Spisak said...

An interesting reply to all of these hints for writing:

Why is it there are less and less people reading fiction, but more and more people trying to write it?

sgchris said...

oh, I'll have to check this link out - and check out my new post with another link that has comments to it.

Did you check out the comments at the end of that long list of rules? Quite the comments.

As for your question - uhm are you Sure it's true? Data can be skewed any way you want.

Otherwise - well, same reason a Lot more people seem to write poetry than ever read it????

Thanks for the link.