This Business of Writing

Tips from the Masters

In The Craft of Writing on October 24, 2009 at 9:13 am

We’ve all heard to emulate the successful should we seek success. Well, here’s what the successful say of writing.

One of my favorite writing tips comes from Mark Twain. He said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Can you say, “Find Feature?”

Mr. Twain also spoke to me with this one, “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.” Amen to that! Or, as my wife says, “Follow your muse, Patrick. Write for the love of it.”

We’ve all heard authors are supposed to prune their writing to say more with less. Elmore Leonard found a way to say this in such a way as to eliminate all possibility of argument. “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” To that end, William Strunk Jr. told us, “Vigorous writing is concise.”

Another maxim with which authors are familiar is to write with emotion. It’s a simple idea put into great words by William Wordsworth. I like this one. “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Sounds like there’s a good title for a blog or romance novel hidden in those words, doesn’t it?

Anton Chekhov, I think he was on Star Trek, spoke of how we should paint pictures with our words when he said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Have you read articles about how to accept and learn from whatever criticism you receive? Ray Bradbury, advises us to, “…accept rejection and reject acceptance.” Tough, but good advice.

Mr. Bradbury also tells us we should write as much as we can for, “If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.” Clever guy, Ray is.

As authors we write about what we have experienced within our own lives. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said it best. “If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.”

How much of our lives should we put into our craft? John Irving suggests, The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.”

Something I learned from my mother and apply to my writing is to trust my instincts. (Smart woman that Margaret!) AS G. K. Chesterton put it, “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” A related quote I found is again from our friend, Ray Bradbury. “Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto.”

Has a writing mentor ever told you to write in a fashion the rest of the world has not? Try Oscar Wilde’s though on for size. “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

Whew! That’s a lot to master. If you’re successful what do you reap? (Besides that elusive book deal?)  One will, “Learn as much by writing as by reading.” So says Lord Acton.

Best of luck in making these ideas a part of your writing life.

May all your books be best-sellers.

Patrick

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