Advice To Writers

Advice To Writers

Today I’ve been struggling to think of something of value to post here. I wanted to give some advice to writers, whether they write romance or some other fiction genre. Or in fact even if they’re not involved in fiction writing. What could I come up with that would be worth another writer’s time as they read my blog? Amidst my doubts that I could offer anything new or revolutionary in an area which probably has more advice offered than many other occupations, I fell upon an idea.

I figure that any advice to writers will have been published before, time and time again. Why pretend that my advice would be any more likely to be read or acted upon? I admit to often struggling with my writing. For example, while this week I have written thousands of words, and have been reasonably happy with the quality of them, today I sat in front of a blank screen for some time before realising the muse was not going to bounce onto my shoulder and help me reel off volumes of amazing prose. I believe all writers have days like this. “When you can’t create, you can work,” said Henry Miller. Hence me turning to another essential part of my writing career, my website.

So what advice is there out there from writers who have gone before? Writers who have turned the literary world on its ear?

It was the first quote I read by Kurt Vonnegut that gave me the idea. “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted” – I don’t want readers looking at my blog and deciding their stopping by is a complete waste of their time. Surely advice from some literary giants will be well worth checking out? I thought so, and I hope you enjoy some of these titbits too.

Although I’ve never been a science fiction reader, I’m now wondering about checking out Kurt Vonnegut. Some of his little snippets are excellent advice and are definitely ringing bells for me. “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.” I think he might be talking to romance writers here.

Have you heard this one before? I hadn’t, but I think its a great analogy. “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way” – EL Doctorow. How true. I know my characters take me in different directions than I expected when I first dreamed up their traits and personalities. But it isn’t necessary to know exactly what’s going to happen to them during their journey. As a romance writer, I know they will end up in a “happy-ever-after” situation, but if I only discover their actions when the headlights catch them, that’s okay, too.

I think every writer and wannabe writer already knows this piece of advice, but its always worth sharing. Nor do I think it needs any further explanation. “Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.” – Ray Branbury.

Perhaps I should have read these quotes this morning, and taken more heed of this one, instead of giving up creating for the day. “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.” – Maya Angelou

For some practical advice on writing, and how to enrich the language you use for your stories, these thoughts by George Orwell are well worth noting.

And finally another wise snippet from Kurt Vonnegut. “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.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed my short venture into the ‘heads’ of some literary greats.


Advice To Writers — 16 Comments

  1. Hi Mairi, thanks so much for your lovely comments. The headlight one was the one that hit me most too because I plug on with no plan at all, too. After reading this, I suddenly thought, okay, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing where the story is going until you arrive there. Someone else out there in writer land figures the same thing, so we’re not alone.
    Of course, now I have to think of something equally interesting to post next week. Oh No! lol

  2. Hi Delia, Wow, nothing could be more inspiring for me than to have someone respond as you have. The idea of being about to inspire someone to get to their keyboard and go, go, go, well, I couldnt ask for more. Even though I used someone elses words to achieve this. Thanks for stopping by Delia, hope you’ve had an excellent day turning out a few great words

  3. Hi Mary, what a good idea, if the muse is on vacation, why shouldnt we be too? Reading always fills me with ideas and enthusiasm for writing, even if I’m reading a book I’m not enjoying so much. Then I keep figuring, I can do so much better than this person. Of course if a book is a page-turner I can’t put down, then I have to aspire to write something almost as good. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Mary

  4. Wonderful post, Anne! Each of the quotes you used is packed with wisdom, and great advice to follow. I gotta admit, though, the Maya Angelou quote hit me closest to home. Thanks for posting these today – now I’m all fired up to get in there and WRITE! 🙂

  5. Anne, there is some great advice here, even if I don’t agree with all of it (eek! I’m not agreeing with something George Orwell said? What’s wrong with me?)
    Anyway, I do love the ‘headlights’ analogy. It resonates with me mostly because I’m a panster.
    You wondered if this blog would be worth the time to read it? I’d say, yes, definitely. Thanks for sharing these tidbits.

  6. Hi Nia, thanks for stopping by. This quote of Ray’s is a pretty obvious truth, one would think, but I thought it was well worth just reminding us all anyway

  7. And we all have to keep up with that much needed research, don’t we? lol amazing what a good book or a few hours of the telly can do for me…I usually like to write from beginning to end, but my muse is playing silly guys right now. In my latest wip, I’ve found myself writing ‘interesting’ scenes completely out of order. I guess one day soon I’m going to have to put them all together. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  8. Hi Monya, I hate to have to admit I’d never heard of him before today, but I ended up reading a couple of biographic posts about him. His quotes just seemed to hit the spot with me.

  9. Kurt Vonnegut certainly said some wise words about the process of writing! The quote I’ve kept from him is: “Talent is amazingly common. What is rare is the willingness the endure the life of a writer.” Or something nearly like that.

  10. Some fabulous advice here Anne. It can be so hard staring at that the blank screen sometimes. I sometimes get over that hump by taking my ms forward in time and writing a scene I can see quite clearly. Often that will then lead me back to where I’d been stumped. I admit there are times when I give up and head for a book or the remote! All research – lol. Thanks for sharing these snitbits from these famous writers.

  11. I love all the quotes. Ray Bradbury was a genius. I met him many times. Wonderful, wonderful man and writer, and he’s right. But I never heard that quote before. You dug up some juicy ones!!

    Kurt Vonnegut… wonderful. Try The Sirens of Titan. I highly recommend it.