“If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”
Other writing tips from my favorite authors:
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. (Vonnegut)
- Start as close to the end as possible. (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. (Vonnegut)
- Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material. (John Steinbeck)
- If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech. John Steinbeck
- Don’t over define your characters. Let the reader imagine them. (Hollinghurst)
- Read. Read. Read. (Hollinghurst)
- Know where you’re going before you start. (Hollinghurst)
- Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it. (Zadie Smith)
- Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand—but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied. (Zadie Smith)
- Brainpickings.org for Vonnegut: Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story and for Steinbeck: Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck.
- Amandaonwriting for Alan Hollinghurst’s Top Writing Tips.
- Carnet Imaginaire for 10 Writing Rules From Zadie Smith