James Salter’s 12 rules for writing, from his personal notebook
“To copy truth may be a good thing, but to invent truth is much better.” – Verdi
- Don’t feel obliged to write sentences.
- No life is interesting that isn’t serious.
- Write for readers like yourself.
- Like Turgenev – that simplicity of telling that one trusts + loves.
- Describe – digress – MAKE LEAPS (Forster!!!) Open chapter beautifully
- Don’t write something they will recognise & accept. Write something that will astonish, that is completely different from their ideas + world + will alter them
- NO FINE WRITING
- Do not insist. Do not over-adorn.
- Brief, lucid, mercilessly clear.
- Do not endorse narrowness, lack of intelligence. Instead, concentrate on what they do know, their grace, valour, the glint of true light.
- No “INTELLECTUAL” conversation/digressions, either from them or you.
“What distinguishes a classic from an ordinary book is authority and to write with this degree of authority you have to have a great deal to say and no hesitation about how it is to be said.” – William Maxwell