Below are some tips I’ve collected over the years about what good writers do. There is nothing wrong with modelling your practice after the writers who have met with great success. Here are some timeless quotes from a few of the greats.
- Good writers respect the reader. Lack of courtesy may be the chief fault that distinguishes unsuccessful writing from the most successful…The reader of fiction is primarily seeking an experience different from and greater than his or her daily experiences in life. How to Grow a Novel—Sol Stein
- Good writers do not simply describe a barn. Good writers describe a barn as seen by someone in a particular mood, because only in that way can the barn—or the writer’s experience of barns combined with whatever lies deepest in his feelings—be tricked into mumbling its secrets. The Art of Fiction—John Gardner
- Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies his master. Read! –William Faulkner.
- According to George Orwell, the “scrupulous writer” will ask himself at least four questions in every sentence: “What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?”
- The Iceberg theory of good writing. If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. –Ernest Hemingway
Write an alternate history for your life. What about that time when you made a pretty big decision? What if you took the road less travelled at that fork in the road, or the road more travelled, depending on what choice you originally made? Change that one decision and explore the possibilities of how your life would be different. I’m willing to bet there’s at least one decision you would like to rewrite in your history!
Have fun and maybe try out one or two of the tips above.
Tuesday through Friday I will post an inspirational quote, sometimes a tip or two, and a writing prompt for practice, in case you get stuck. On Monday, I will continue my series How To Write A Novel: Step By Step. Click the link if you’d like to start at the beginning of the series.