QUOTE OF THE DAY
Don't overwrite. Avoid the redundant phrases, the distracting adjectives, the unnecessary adverbs. Beginners, especially, seem to think that writing fiction needs a special kind of flowery prose, completely unlike any sort of language one might encounter in day-to-day life. This is a misapprehension about how the effects of fiction are produced.
Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have "essential" and "long overdue" meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.
Writing is about hypnotizing yourself into believing in yourself, getting some work done, then un-hypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly.
Writers take words seriously—perhaps the last professional class that does—and they struggle to steer their own through the crosswinds of meddling editors and careless typesetters and obtuse and malevolent reviewers into the lap of the ideal reader.
Writing is self-hypnosis. You fall into a kind of trance if you do the same passes over and over. So I’ll get up, have some breakfast with my wife, watch CNN, then I’ll make my pot of tea and sit down and write for about 3 ½ hours.
Write. Start writing today. Start writing right now. Don’t write it right, just write it –and then make it right later. Give yourself the mental freedom to enjoy the process, because the process of writing is a long one. Be wary of “writing rules” and advice. Do it your way.
At the beginning of their careers many writers have a need to overwrite. They choose carefully turned-out phrases; they want to impress their readers with their large vocabularies. By the excesses of their language, these young men and women try to hide their sense of inexperience. With maturity the writer becomes more secure in his ideas. He finds his real tone and develops a simple and effective style.
JORGE LUIS BORGES
Whatever its psychic origins, tenacity, not to say obstinance—the cluster of qualities that James Joyce called “silence, exile and cunning”—is a valuable asset if you want to write, because it’s not easy to find your way to publication.
1. Dialogue should be brief.
2. It should add to the reader’s present knowledge.
3. It should eliminate the routine exchanges of ordinary conversation.
4. It should convey a sense of spontaneity but eliminate the repetitiveness of real talk.
5. It should keep the story moving forward.
6. It should be revelatory of the speaker’s character, both directly and indirectly.
7. It should show the relationships among people.
Novels are never about what they are about; that is, there is always deeper, or more general, significance. The author may not be aware of this till she is pretty far along with it. A novel’s whole pattern is rarely apparent at the outset of writing, or even at the end; that is when the writer finds out what a novel is about, and the job becomes one of understanding and deepening or sharpening what is already written. That is finding the theme.
At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, training himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance—that is to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is to be—curiosity—to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is —that man does what he does, and if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got it or not.
You leave a big chunk of the work to be done. It’s like a lot of jigsaw pieces, and the reader has got some of them and you’ve got some of them.
Work is style, and there is style without thought; not in theory, only in fact. When I take a sentence in my hand, raise it to the light, rub my hand across it, disjoin it, put it back together again with a comma added, raising the pitch in the front part; when I rub the grain of it, comb the fur of it, re-assemble the bones of it, I am making something that carries with it the sound of a voice, the firmness of a hand. Maybe little more.
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.
Most books about writing are filled with bullshit. Fiction writers, present company included, don’t understand very much about what they do—not why it works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad.
Cross out as many adjectives and adverbs as you can. It is comprehensible when I write: “The man sat on the grass,” because it is clear and does not detain one’s attention. On the other hand, it is difficult to figure out and hard on the brain if I write: “The tall, narrow-chested man of medium height and with a red beard sat down on the green grass that had already been trampled down by the pedestrians, sat down silently, looking around timidly and fearfully.” The brain can’t grasp all that at once, and art must be grasped at once, instantaneously.
You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices. They may like Henry James, but what if you don’t want to write like Henry James? They may like John Irving, for instance, who’s the bore of all time. A lot of the people whose work they’ve taught in the schools for the last thirty years, I can’t understand why people read them and why they are taught.