Friday, 27 June 2014

Kurt Vonnegut's advice for writers

Kurt Vonnegut is one of my literary heroes. His masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-5, is one of my favourite books, one I return to again and again and it continues to surprise me each time. This slim volume contains his pain, humour, bewilderment and humanity. It was a text he worked on for years and years to get right.

Here are 8 bullet points of his writing advice that I can't possibly improve on.
  • Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  • Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  •  Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  • Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  • Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  • Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Great writers, great advice: 10 great one-liners

1. ERNEST HEMINGWAY
"All good books have one thing in common—they are truer than if they had really happened."

2. F SCOTT FIZGERALD
"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath."

3. D H LAWRENCE
"Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot."

4. JACK LONDON
"The most beautiful stories always start with wreckage."

5. WILLIAM FAULKNER
"A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction."

6. HENRY JAMES
"In art, economy is always beauty."

7. MARK TWAIN
"Don't say the old lady screamed; bring her on and let her scream."

8. GERTRUDE STEIN
"Begin over again, and concentrate."

9. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
"The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean."

10. JAMES JOYCE
"Why say 'very beautiful'? 'Beautiful' is enough."

These are just a few of the hundreds of quotes I have on my Writers and writing web page. Read and be inspired.

Stay tuned . . .