tips

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     TACT    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

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

  1. TACT
  2. Don’t feel obliged to write sentences.
  3. No life is interesting that isn’t serious.
  4. Write for readers like yourself.
  5. Like Turgenev – that simplicity of telling that one trusts + loves.
  6. Describe – digress – MAKE LEAPS (Forster!!!)                                    Open chapter beautifully
  7. Don’t write something they will recognise & accept. Write something that will astonish, that is completely different from their ideas + world + will alter them
  8. NO FINE WRITING
  9. Do not insist.                                                                                             Do not over-adorn.
  10. Brief, lucid, mercilessly clear.
  11. Do not endorse narrowness, lack of intelligence. Instead, concentrate on what they do know, their grace, valour, the glint of true light.
  12. 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

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On writing: 5 Literary voices we lost this year

The Guardian has a great article collecting quotes about life from writers we lost this year, but here’s what each had to say about writing:

Doris Lessing: “You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn’t care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing can’t be a way of life - the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it.”

Chinua Achebe: "Imaginative literature does not enslave; it liberates the mind of man. Its truth is not like the canons of orthodoxy or the irrationality of prejudice and superstition. It begins as an adventure in self-discovery and ends in wisdom and humane conscience.“

Seamus Heaney: “The gift of writing is to be self-forgetful … to get a surge of inner life or inner supply or unexpected sense of empowerment, to be afloat, to be out of yourself.”

Elmore Leonard: "So many people say, ‘I’m dying to write.’ Well, if you’re dying to write, why aren’t you writing? If you’re not writing, you’re not dying to do it enough.“

Iain Banks: “Writing is like everything else: the more you do it the better you get. Don’t try to perfect as you go along, just get to the end of the damn thing. Accept imperfections. Get it finished and then you can go back.