in the development, the writer must ask these crucial questions:
the hero going to emerge from this victor or vanquished?
the atmosphere one of comedy, tragety, or both mixed?
it is a kind of flat reporting of events and cruel fate for the reader to make
of what he wishes?”
for life’s little difficulties, they are myriad.
when I had everything settled about a new apartment in Manhattan—advance rent
paid, the lease signed, the movers ready—I was informed that I could not have it
because it was a professional apartment. Writers are not professionals, because
‘their clients do not come to them.’ I thought of writing to the Department of
Housing or whoever made this law, ‘You have no idea how many characters ring my
doorbell and come to me every day and I absolutely need them for my existence,’
but I never wrote this, only reflected that prostitutes could probably qualify,
but writers couldn’t.”
yourself and the reader
is a cheap and trick merely to surprise and shock the reader, especially at the
expense of logic. And a lack of invention on the writer’s part cannot be
covered up by sensational action and clever prose. It is also a kind of
laziness to write the obvious, which does not entertain really.
ideal is an unexpected turn of the events, reasonably consistent with the
characters of the protagonists. Stretch the reader’s credulity, his sense of
logic, to the utmost—it is quite elastic—but don’t break it. In this way, you
will write something new, surprising and entertaining both to yourself and the
is a way of organizing experience and life itself
think the majority of writers, living a Robinson Crusoe existence with no hope
of seeing another human being as long as they lived, would still write poems,
short stories and books with whatever material there was at hand. Writing is a
way of organizing experience and life itself, and the need of this is still
present through an audience may not be.
I think most painters and writers like to think of their work being seen and
read by lots of people, and emotionally this sense of contact is of great importance
to their morale.”
you know where your inspiration really comes from, you will never run out of
rational writer can stoke his subconscious just as one puts fuel in a machine.
If you keep on storing things in your mind for your future writing and keep
integrating your choice of theme to your general knowledge, allowing the scope
of your writing to grow as your knowledge widens, then you will always have
something to say, and you will find ever better ways to say it. You will not
coast downhill after one outbreak of something valuable.”
wider a novel’s theme, the better it is as a work of art.
a novel presents a marvelous philosophical message but has no plot, miserable
characterization, and a wooden style full of bromides, it is a bad work of art.
today’s literature, many books do not have any abstract theme, which means that
one cannot tell why they were written. An example is the kind of first novel
that relates the writer’s childhood impressions and early struggle with life.
If asked why the particular events are included, the author says: ‘It happened
to me.’ I warn you to write such a novel. That something happened to you is of
no importance to anyone, not even to you (and you are now hearing it from the
archapostle of selfishness). The important thing about you is what you choose
to make happen—your values and choices.”
hang a gun on the wall in the first act if you don’t intend to have it go off
in the third.
resolve a smaller issue after the climax. In a story with multiple threads, the
problems of the lesser characters, if not involved in the climax, have to be
solved before the climax.
annoying aspect of badly constructed novels is that the author poses minor
problems and then leaves them hanging in the air, as if he has forgotten all
about them. (Of course, in really bad novels, even the major issues are not
writer has to project his abstractions in specific concretes. That he knows
something inwardly is not enough; he has to make the reader know it; and the
reader can grasp it only from the outside, by some physical means. Concretize
to yourself: If a man and a woman are in love, how do they act? What do they
say? What do they seek? Why do they seek it? That is the concrete reality, for
which ‘love’ is merely a wide abstraction.”
write well, express yourself like the common people,
think like a wise man”
The Little Red Writing Bookis about what you have to do to hear
just the right words at just the right time to speak them in just the right rhythm.
sentence is just like a walk
the morning tells me is that a sentence is just like a walk—like this one in
particular. A good sentence is a gravel path through a forest. It’s a track,
not a road; it’s a trail, not a footpath. You want it to feel finished, but not
mass-produced. You don’t want it to be anonymous. You want it to have a bit of
personality, preferably its own, which will resemble yours. You want it to have
topography, to rise and fall. And you want it to take a sensible, and
reasonably straight, path to wherever it’s meant to be going.”
grew up with Polish and English. On the second morning of a business writing
workshop she raised her hand and said this: ‘I came to this course thinking I
would learn how to use words like “facilitate” and “maximisation.” What I have
learned is to have the courage to avoid words like that.’
the break she said to me, ‘Bach is what you’re talking about here, not?’ All
that simple and beautiful intelligence, she meant.
may be, for all I know, the only student I’ve ever had who got hold of my
meaning so clearly.
music, for me, is brilliant but not showy; spare but not slight. Its simplicity
is deceptive but not false, for the music is complex but never opaque. It is
mathematics and art in equal measure. Bach is a perfect metaphor, thanks Ellie,
for writing well.”
your eye on your verbs
verbs. Husband them. Breed them. Fledge them lovingly. Keep the best and make
them ready and, when the time comes, set them to work. You’re going to need at
least one per sentence, so start your collection today. Don’t let the thesaurus
suggest them. Go out and find your own. Then they’ll sound like yours.
for verbs on the radio and in the conversations on the bus. Steal them, adopt
is next to godliness
clear,’ commands EB White.
has two dimensions:
1.What is it that I mean? That is
sometimes the hardest part. Too much writing I see is either an unsuccessful
search for what it is one meant to say, or it is an attempt to avoid saying it