Successful writers often suggest writing daily, whether you feel like it or not. Daily writing practices differ but all seem to serve the same purpose: warming up the writing “muscle” before working it out. I think William Stafford’s practice is a particularly adaptable example. Check it out on PowellsBooks.Blog – Four Elements of a Daily Writing Page in William Stafford’s Practice – Powell’s Books.
If you’ve been following this year’s Tournament of Books, you may have noticed a mild controversy flare up there. Not only did underdog Hill William beat out Booker Prize winner The Luminaries, but its author, Scott McClanahan, apparently tried to pull out of the Tournament via Facebook post with a derogatory comment aimed at soccer moms. I’m not sure of the reasoning there, but McClanahan becomes yet another in a long line of writers who would have been better off keeping his mouth shut.
My father, who was a great reader, often said that you shouldn’t try to find out too much about what your favorite authors or musicians are like as people, because while it’s possible to enjoy someone’s art if you know nothing about them, it may be impossible to enjoy it once you do know something about them. Reminds me of a quote I read recently by Daphne Du Maurier:
“Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”
It seems like many of us avid readers have a fascination with what, and how much, some of our favorite authors could drink. There have been some wonderful love letters written to alcohol by some of our greatest literary talents.
Kingsley Amis was a prodigious drinker. We might almost call him a professional. His words on drinking have been gathered up in a little book: Everyday Drinking.
This is not a book for reading straight through as much as tippling from at odd times. But if you are at all fond of alcohol, it is a must-read.
There are actually three short books in this volume. The first, and best, section is Amis’s treatise on drink. It is quite funny, and some practical tips are scattered here and there. The second section reprints Amis’s newspaper columns on the subject of drink, and there is some repetition here. The final section contains several alcohol-related quizzes, which might be fun after having a few.
Keep this book by your bar, and remember to nip from it every now and then. It’s probably the only book on the subject you’ll need.
I guess these days we’re too health-conscious to drink like the masters did. Too many calories! The jury is out on whether this is a good thing for literature. But it sure doesn’t seem like being a writer is as much fun.
A writer’s notebook is the best way in the world to immortalize bad ideas. My idea about a good idea is one that sticks around and sticks around and sticks around. — Stephen King
Stephen King doesn’t think writers should keep notebooks. I find that when something is niggling at my brain, and I write it down in a notebook, I immediately forget all about it and sleep soundly. Maybe this is why I am not a best-selling mega-writer like Mr. King?
I love this idea of making a list to spark your creativity. I also love making lists, but who doesn’t. And Ray Bradbury was a genius. Even his lists convey a sense of melancholy creepiness:
THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE CRICKETS. THE RAVINE. THE ATTIC. THE BASEMENT. THE TRAPDOOR. THE BABY. THE CROWD. THE NIGHT TRAIN. THE FOG HORN. THE SCYTHE. THE CARNIVAL. THE CAROUSEL. THE DWARF. THE MIRROR MAZE. THE SKELETON.
This is such a moving essay: Stephen King: An Unlikely Lifeline In Turbulent Waters | Tor.com. Even if you are predisposed not to like Stephen King, he is undeniably an author who tells the truth. And an author who tells the truth is an author who can make a difference, especially in the lives of young readers.
I also discovered Stephen King when I was a pre-teen reader, and I have always strongly connected with his books. It’s not the horror and gore that draw me, but the characters, who always seem like very real people, and how they react when the uncontrollable and unfathomable occur in their lives. King shows his readers the horrors of the world and the horrors that live deep in the souls of our fellow humans, but he also shows us what humanity can strive to be.
Currently reading Doctor Sleep.
Stephen King shares his thoughts on why opening lines are so important and why he spends so much time crafting them in Why Stephen King Spends ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences – Atlantic Mobile. As a reader, an opening line is a greeting from the author. Do I feel welcomed? Do I want to venture in further? Or do I want to run away?
I’m sure we all have our favorite first lines. One of mine comes from King: “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” It’s a simple line, but it immediately sets the scene as well as the tone of the book, and it introduces instant tension. The Atlantic asked several authors what their favorite first lines were after running the piece with Stephen King. All interesting choices. In fact, sometimes it’s more fun to read the first line and imagine the book, rather than reading the book itself.
You are probably already familiar with the Bulwer-Lytton contest that challenges writers to come up with the worst first lines. It’s named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the writer who came up with the opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night,” later made famous by an authorial Snoopy. Every year, I get a chuckle out of reading the contest winners.
I leave you with some more favorite first lines. Don’t they make you want to read these books?
“When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake—not a very big one.” – Lonesome Dove
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – Nineteen Eighty-Four
“If you had told me we’d end up in a world with kids with green hair and bones in their noses I would have laughed in your face. But here it is.”–No Country for Old Men
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.” – The Haunting of Hill House
Want to be a writer? No, a real writer. You know, a person who writes, everyday. Well, this little piece will tell you the simple secret to becoming a real writer: How To Push Past The Bullshit And Write That Goddamn Novel: A Very Simple No-Fuckery Writing Plan To Get Shit Done « terribleminds: chuck wendig. Great advice!
Oh, and here’s a handy infographic if you’re one of those writers who doesn’t like to read.
Here is an argument for why e-books should not be cheap. Is this argument too simplistic, too reaching? Is publishing just refusing to innovate and is mired in its old, inefficient ways of working? Read: The true price of publishing on guardian.co.uk.