"Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them."
These bits and bobs of wisdom are from various sources--enjoy and glean what you may. Some advice you'll reject, some you'll embrace, but there's truth in it all. I've added a few photos from yesterday's Glacier Park visit--just for fun.
Write One Inch at a Time
The best advice I've ever come across for any kind of writing is from Anne Lamott's book, Bird by Bird. She says to write just one inch at a time. I love that! It's so easy to be overwhelmed by a big project, but if I only have to concentrate on one inch, well, that I can handle. Eventually those inches will be feet and yards and whatever it takes to make a book. This is true for research, too, which can be overwhelming.
(Editor and children's book author Maureen Boyd Biro, quoted in The ABC's of Writing for Children, by Elizabeth Koehler Pentacoff. Quill Driver Books, 2002)
Finish Your First Draft
The best advice on writing was given to me by my first editor, Michael Korda, of Simon and Schuster, while writing my first book. "Finish your first draft and then we'll talk," he said. It took me a long time to realize how good the advice was. Even if you write it wrong, write and finish your first draft. Only then, when you have a flawed whole, do you know what you have to fix.
(American journalist Dominick Dunne, quoted in Advice to Writers, by Jon Winokur. Pantheon, 1999)
"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time - or the tools - to write. Simple as that." -Stephen King
Lead With Your Best
The most useful advice on writing I've ever received comes from Gil Rogin, who told me that he always uses his best thing in his lead, and his second best thing in his last paragraph; and from Dwight McDonald, who wrote that the best advice he ever received was to put everything on the same subject in the same place. To these dictums I would add the advice to ask yourself repeatedly: what is this about?
(Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Powers, quoted in Advice to Writers, by Jon Winokur. Pantheon, 1999)
Remember to Play
The best piece of advice I was ever given was by Thornton Wilder, who read my work for a good ten years and was utterly invaluable as a mentor. The advice he gave me was, "In writing there should always be an element of play." . . . Even though you are writing something dead serious, there must be an element of play in the work, your approach to the work, and even your doing of the work.
(Novelist John Knowles, quoted by Jimm Roberts in Southernmost Art and Literary Portraits. Mercer Univ. Press, 2005)
"You can take for granted that people know more or less what a street, a shop, a beach, a sky, an oak tree look like. Tell them what makes this one different. -Neil Gaiman
Show Up for Work
There's a phrase, "sitzfleisch," which means just plain sitting on your ass and getting it done. Just showing up for work. My uncle Raphael was a painter, and he used to say, "If the muse is late for work, start without her." You have to be there. You have to be there, and do it, and grind it out, even when it is grinding and you know you're probably going to rewrite all this tomorrow.
(Novelist and short story writer Peter S. Beagle, quoted in Novelish: A Writing Blog, Dec. 15, 2008)
"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon." -E.L. Doctorow
The best advice I can give on this is, once it's done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you're ready, pick it up and read it, as if you've never read it before. If there are things you aren't satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that's revision.
The best short advice I can give is to find the courage to start, the toughness to abandon any idea that isn't working, and the commitment and stamina to keep going once the story starts to gel.
"I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite." -G. K. Chesterton