Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Best writing clinic ever

There is a lifetime’s worth of material here.

The Guardian asked several authors what their rules for writing are. Sure, we’ve heard a lot of this advice before (adverbs and exclamation points, bad; thesaurus, good.) But it’s thrilling to hear some of these suggestions.

I mean, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can explain his skyhook to you 70 times. He can demonstrate it, but you’ll never be able to imitate it. But that doesn’t make the explanations or demonstration any less thrilling.

Some of my favorite tips, though the entire article deserves to be read:

Elmore Leonard — Never open a book with weather. (Leonard’s advice is especially helpful because he notes authors that are exempt from his rules.

Margaret Atwood: Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. (I suspect she’s not being sarcastic.)

Helen Dunmore: Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue.

Geoff Dyer: ­Don’t be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov.

Esther Freud: Cut out the metaphors and similes.

Here’s on for Tricia, from PD James: Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.

Anne Enright gets the best line of all: The first 12 years are the worst.

This may be the best article on writing I’ve read since Tricia and I began this blog. If you are a writer or wish you were a writer or like reading or have 25 minutes to kill at work until your lunch hour, read this.

Laura Miller, a writer for Salon, added five rules of her own. I have nothing to add, though I might reiterate for the 400th time that writers write. If you only think about stories you want to tell, then you are not a writer. You are a thinker.

Finally, MobyLives has a pair of updates on the Google Books settlement.

-Jason Lea,

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