Those wonderful words of wisdom! Ann Evans

My writing class
I've been running a writing class every Monday for the last few years, so constantly giving out tips and advice to my students – or friends, as I tend to think of them these days, as they've been coming to classes for so long.

Each week, I like to share a writing tip thought up by other writers, including some given by our own team here on Authors Electric. Some of you knowledgeable people kindly provided some 'words of wisdom' for my 'Become a Writer' guide – which I'm currently bringing up to date – so I'll be after you again, no doubt!

But for this blog, I thought I'd share a few writing tips and quotes, that I've discovered or been given over the years. Hope you enjoy them.

The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing. Ken MacLeod (Scottish science-fiction writer).

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. Nathaniel Hawthorne (19th century American novelist and short story writer.

What shouldn't you do if you're a young playwright? Don't bore the audience! I mean, even if you have to resort to totally arbitrary killing on stage, or pointless gunfire, at least it'll catch their attention and keep them awake. Just keep the thing going any way you can.
Tennessee Williams, The Paris Review, 1981.

Tennessee Williams

When you write, you’re putting yourself on the page. Your manipulation of ideas, your choice of words, the fluidity of your text – all these things reflect your intellectual abilities. In other words, they demonstrate the quality of your thinking. Think of writing as performing two main functions: giving shape to your thoughts, and communicating those thoughts to others. Bill Kirton (British novelist and one of our Authors Electric team).

When you think you’ve finished, put it to one side for a minimum of three weeks. Don’t look at it, try not to even think of it. Then reread it. Then tell yourself you have been told by a publisher to cut an infeasibly large proportion – say ten per cent. And do it. Then read it to yourself OUT LOUD. Always remember that the only person who knows that something has been cut out is YOU. However much you love a particular bit, it will not be missed.” Jan Needle (English novelist and part of Authors Electric team).

Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot. Leigh Brackett, WD (American novelist and screenwriter).

Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream. Mark Twain.

Mark Twain

Get into the scene late, get out of the scene early. David Mamet, American playwright, screenwriter and film director.

Don't settle for the first idea you get, use it as a springboard for your story and tweak it, stretch it, play with it until you get something really strong and original. Karen King (Author of childrens and YA books, and romance).

Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either. Meg Cabot (American best selling author).

Always be a poet, even in prose. Charles Baudelaire (19th century French poet and essayist).

And finally, I love this famous quote by W. Somerset Maugham:
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.


The best bit of advice I remember being given was: “It won't write itself.”

What's the best bit of writing advice you've ever heard?


Anonymous said…
Oh wonderful, all these tips! Jan Needle's advice is spot on. When I first started writing, the idea of putting my draft aside for a few weeks filled me with dismay. I just wanted to get on with it. Now I look forward to doing just that because my goodness, what good advice it is. A few weeks later you come back to it with a fresh eye and holes in plot structure, unevenness of characterisation and embarrassingly clunky phrases jump out at you. And reading it out loud - yes! Only that way can you tell if the writing flows smoothly.

What can I pass on... all the obvious ones really. Eliminate adverbs (or use sparingly - gaaah there's one). Show not Tell (though sometimes you just have to Tell Some Things). And feed your characters! Particularly if they are children. If you are going to send them on terrifying, fast-paced adventures doing battle with monsters etc they need Sustenance at some point in the story. Enid Blyton knew this (lashings of ginger beer, anyone?) as did C S Lewis.

JO said…
Best advice - in all circumstances - whenever you don't know what to do, make a cup of tea. That five minutes it takes to boil the kettle and let it brew is often times for feelings or thoughts to disentangle. It doesn't work for trauma, of course, but wonderful for the daily struggles. (I drink a lot of tea!)
Bill Kirton said…
Flattered to be on the list, Ann, thank you. I also like the idea of a writing group that meets regularly and builds friendships as a result.
As for more advice - the 4 tips I always offer would-be writers (and students in academic writing workshops) have already been covered by Jan:

• Trust your own voice
• Read your work aloud
• Leave as long a time as possible between the various drafts
• Cut, cut, cut.
Umberto Tosi said…
Thank you, Anne. This list is a real keeper
Unknown said…
Loved reading these quotes and inspirations, Anne, thank you. The piece of advice I was once given, and has always stuck with me, is: Don't get it right, get it written - you can't edit a blank page.
Ann Evans said…
Thank you for all your comments - and for the additional tips.

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