Nicholas Boileau's Advice to Writers (via Florence King)

For advice on writing, nothing beats Nicolas Boileau, founder of the Académie Française, who wrote a creative-writing course in verse called L'Art Poetique. It dates to the mid-l7th century but it's still the best around. The translation is by John Dryden. Some samples:

 

On cutting:

Polish, repolish, every color lay,

Sometimes add, but oftener take away.

 

On not messing up your murder mystery with a love story, and avoiding comic relief:

Remember always never to bring

A tame in union with a savage thing.

 

On avoiding too many subplots, unnecessary characters, and the urge to put all you know in one book:

Make not your tale of accidents too full;

Too much variety will make it dull.

Achilles' rage alone., when wrought with skill,

Abundantly does a whole Iliad fill.

 

FLORENCE KING