“Good narrative writing must defend itself. Every sentence, even every word, must be there for a reason beyond its beauty. It must move the story along, pushing it toward what comes next. Good writing can and should be beautiful, but it must never be only beautiful. Bore-geous is always too much, and never enough.”
"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else." --Gloria Steinhem
Writing Tips and Quotes that Have Inspired Me.
Dear Fellow Writers,
Shakespeare said, “…Brevity is the soul of wit,” and that certainly applies to our flash fiction assignments. When a writer has only one page to tell a story, tough decisions have to be made. We are limited by the number of words we can use so we must balance plot with character development; dialogue with narrative; and we must pick our metaphorical descriptions wisely. With no words to be wasted, we must be clear and concise or our readers will be left wondering why we wrote the story in the first place. The story must stand alone.
The AARP Bulletin has a regular section called Six-Word Memoirs. This month’s contest is a six-word memoir about a trip that changed your life. Here is my entry: “Drove West to California, met Stephanie.” You may want to enter one of their contests.
In 1987, the San Luis Obispo newspaper sponsored a writing contest called “Fifty-Five Fiction.” Short
stories had to be only 55 words or less. The winning entry was by a guy named Jeff Whitmore, whose
story contained suspense, sex, betrayal, revenge and murder in a mere 53 words.
“Careful, honey, it’s loaded,” he said, re-entering the bedroom.
Her back rested against the headboard. “This for your wife?”
“No. Too chancy. I’m hiring a professional.”
“How about me?”
He smirked. “Cute. But who’d be dumb enough to hire a lady hit man?”
She wet her lips, sighting along the barrel.
(This post has 250 words.)
THESE ARE ENTRIES TO A WASHINGTON POST COMPETITION
ASKING FOR A TWO-LINE RHYME WITH THE MOST ROMANTIC FIRST LINE, AND THE LEAST ROMANTIC SECOND LINE: 1. My darling, my lover, my beautiful wife: Marrying you has screwed up my life. 2. My love, you take my breath away. What have you stepped in to smell this way?
3. Kind, intelligent, loving and hot; This describes everything you are not.
4. Love may be beautiful, love may be bliss, But I only slept with you 'cause I was pissed. 5. I thought that I could love no other -- that is until I met your brother.
6. Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you. But the roses are wilting, the violets are dead, the sugar bowl's empty and so is your head.
7. I want to feel your sweet embrace; But don't take that paper bag off your face.
8. I love your smile, your face, and your eyes Damn, I'm good at telling lies! 9. I see your face when I am dreaming. That's why I always wake up screaming. 10. My feelings for you no words can tell, Except for maybe 'Go to hell.'
11. What inspired this amorous rhyme? Two parts vodka, one part lime.
WHO SAID POETRY IS BORING?
Jackie Collins has written 27 novels and sold 400 million of them. So how does she stay inspired?
According to "Walter Scott's Personality Parade" in the January 17, 2010, Parade Magazine:
"I just love creating characters...I think one of the reasons my books are so successful is because I write about people of all colors, ages, sexual orientations--and I love doing it.
Sex doesn't sell books;interesting characters do."
Stephen King on How to Write.
(Excerpted from the Bottom Line Personal-June 1, 2002)
"He believes writing is a skill like any other. The only way to get better is to write regularly and a lot...
King writes 10 pages per day... What's important is setting a goal and sticking with it....
*Use the first words that come to mind... Simple words are better.
*Use short sentences. Not all sentences must be short--but it is a handy technique for keeping thoughts orderly and the pace marching forward....
*Choose the active voice. Active verbs give sentences clarity and strength....
*Avoid adverbs. Writing is often stronger without adverbs--descriptive words for verbs that usually end in -ly, such as firmly, quickly, totally, etc..
*Experiment with sentence fragments. They streamline narration... create clear images...and build tension.
James M. McPherson Professor of American History at Princeton University in the Preface to the "Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant," makes the point that General Grant used the same principle for writing his memoirs that he used for writing the terms of surrender to Robert E. Lee.
"When I put my pen to the paper I did not know the first word that I should make use of in writing the terms. I only knew what was in my mind, and I wished to express it clearly, so that there could be no mistaking it."
"Here was the secret of Grant's remarkable success as a writer. No better advice could be given to any aspiring author."
--James M. McPherson
"Ernest Hemmingway was once challenged to tell a story in only six words. Papa came back swinging with 'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.'"
--AARP July/August 2009
Taylor Swift's advice to
aspiring song writers:
your songs not for a demographic or for getting on the radio. Write your songs
for the person you’re writing that song about. When I sit down, I say to
myself, ‘Okay, who is this about? What would I say to him right now if he were
My favorite quotes from Ernest Hemingway on writing:
books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really
got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."
learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there
was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at
night from the springs that fed it."
writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he
knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it
being above water."
is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes
it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges."
is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
From an article in the Wall Street Journal by Allen Barra, Wednesday, March 5, 2008:
"In 1946, Damon Runyon was dying of throat cancer and could scarcely speak. A magazine editor asked him who, in his opinion was the best young writer in New York. Runyon scrawled the name W.C. Heinz on a cocktail napkin and passed it to him. He had underlined Heinz's name three times....William Charles Heinz died last Thursday at age 93...."
From Jeff MacGregor in SI in March 2008:
"...he was a stern advocate for simplicity and understatement....His 1949 column from the New York Sun, "Death of a Racehorse," is the Gettysburg Address of sportswriting. A run of words so slender and moving that nothing can be added or taken from it:
'There was a short, sharp sound and the colt toppled onto his left side, his eyes staring, his legs straight out, the free legs quivering.
'Aw-----." someone said.
That was all they said.'
"Non-fiction is too much work. I'm too lazy to do all the research. I actually never thought about (writing non-fiction) but when I saw the story, ("The Innocent Man"), I knew I had to write it."
On putting Christian sentiments in his books:
"I'm a Christian, and those beliefs occasionally come out in the books. One thing you really have to watch as a writer is getting on a soapbox or pulpit about anything. You don't want to alienate readers."
(From Time, February 4, 2008)
On writing memoirs from author Bill Novak:
Tell the truth. Be as honest as you can.
It is better to write as much as possible about a few things than to write a few things about too much.
Decide who you are writing for, your family or for the general public.
Write it so the reader can learn life lessons from your experiences.