Archive for the ‘On Writing’ Category

The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.

Walt Whitman

(with thanks to John Winokur’s always excellent Advice to Writers site.)

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…you owe it to your readers to set yourself the most difficult challenge that you have some hope of being equal to. With every book, you have to dig as deep as possible and reach as far as possible. And if you do this, and you succeed in producing a reasonably good book, it means that the next time you try to write a book, you’re going to have to dig even deeper and reach even farther, or else, again, it won’t be worth writing.

Jonathan Franzen, from Farther Away

(and see James Santel’s excellent review of Farther Away)

Tom Bissell talks about the role of luck in “making it” as a writer in this interview in Salon:

…our lives are subject to so many freak accidents and so many completely random occurrences that to be lucky enough to be able to work as a professional writer and get paid for it, and to think that you got there just because you’re so wonderful, that confidence will eventually just make you lazy and uninteresting.

He also talks about the tragedy of Melville’s later years, and names complacency and alcohol as the writer’s two worst enemies. An interesting interview.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. …(It)… is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

— Anne Lamott

(Thanks to Advice for Writers for this fine quotation.)

Film is, arguably, the dominant art of our time. It is also, usually, a narrative form. It makes sense, then, to study film if you are interested in narrative. Good films are often masterpieces of narrative structure and great films always are.

A good start–candycanesammy’s Thoughts on Film website, especially this post: WGA 101 BEST SCREENPLAY LIST RECAP, written on 13 January 2011. In this article, candycanesammy explains what he has learned from watching and analyzing the films on the WGA Best Screenplay list. His analysis is chuck full of  nuggets of writerly goodness. Highly recommended for fictioneers.

Wander

Posted: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 in On Writing
Tags: ,

Writers get paid for what other people get scolded for: daydreaming. We’re supposed to wander. RICHARD WALTER

(Thanks to Jon Winokur at www.advicetowriters.com for posting this.)

Bring It Back to What You Feel

Posted: Saturday, November 26, 2011 in On Writing, Poetics, Poetry
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Almost the whole problem of writing poetry is to bring it back to what you really feel, and that takes an awful lot of maneuvering. You may feel the doorknob more strongly than some big personal event, and the doorknob will open into something you can use as your own.

Robert Lowell

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project has worked through Flannery O’Connor‘s letters and found eight wonderful little gems of advice on writing fiction.Click here.  My favorite:

I know that the writer does call up the general and maybe the essential through the particular, but this general and essential is still deeply embedded in mystery. It is not answerable to any of our formulas.

Literary analysis is a wonderful thing, but if the story is a great story it will always ultimately evade analysis. And it will not be replicable by formula.

Excellent comments, too, after the post. Recommended.

Good advice from Charles Simic, former Poet Laureate and monster poet, on writing poems. Click here.

“Remember, a poem is a time machine you are constructing, a vehicle that will allow someone to travel in their own mind…”

If you’d like to read more about Charles Simic, click here and here and here.

Andrew Miller has a good article on how to create fictional characters in today’s Guardian. Click here. Very smart; well worth reading.

Extracts:

“No one writes for long without understanding that they are entering mystery and will never leave it.”

“At its simplest, its barest, characterisation is about a writer’s grasp of what a human being is. When we set out to write, we do not do so out of a sense of certainty but out of a kind of radical uncertainty. We do not set out saying: ‘The world is like this.’ But asking: ‘How is the world?'”