Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guest Post-- James Boyle

Notes to a Newbie

For those just beginning their writing career, or contemplating embarking on one, please accept a few humble words of advice.

First, if you want to be a writer, write. Hemingway said it best when someone asked him how they could be a writer: “Go somewhere and write.” So, go somewhere and write. Write every day. Set yourself a goal, say 1000 words, and write those 1000 words. Every day. The object is to write enough, often enough, that the mechanics of building sentences and paragraphs become second nature. You write your 1000 words a day for the same reason a musician plays scales, or an artist sketches. Practice.

Second, write what you know. This has almost become cliché, but it is often misinterpreted. This does not mean that if you're a high school student in Peoria, you can't write about commercial fishermen in Denmark, though that might be difficult. What it means is if you're a big fan of western fiction and have read every Louis Lamour and Zane Grey novel ever written, don't try to write an Agatha Christie style cozy mystery. You know the conventions, the rules, of western fiction. You know what works and what doesn't. Write a western. Write what you know.

Third, read. Read, read, read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read fiction in your genre and out; read poetry; read history and philosophy; read the back of cereal boxes. Read like a writer. Watch how other writers put their sentences and paragraphs together. See how they handle dialogue and description. Notice what works well and why. Notice what doesn't and why. Every published writer is a teacher. Learn from them.

But mostly write and don't let anybody tell you you're wasting your time. You aren't.
Thanks so much for dropping by!!  (I especially love that last line!)

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