Letters to Young Writers

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No Rust on Your Sentences Please

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Now that you have rushed back, you should write your work as if you are sending it to your reader one careful sentence at a time. Prose should be as well-written as poetry. Every word matters. You must test for the rhythm and precision. Look for assonance, alliteration, rhyme. Look for internal echoes. Vary your…

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Take a Break

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Every now and then, take a break. Go on holiday. Learn how to like writing again. Miss it for a week. And then rush back to it.  

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Seeking Structure

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Every work of fiction is organised somehow – and the best of them are more profoundly organised than they let on. Chapter, book, verse. There is method in the story-telling madness. Our stories rely on the human instinct for architecture. Structure is, essentially, a container for content.  Think of it as a shape into which your…

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Write Yourself a Credo

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Sit down and write yourself a credo. What is it that you believe in? What is that you want to do with your writing? Who is it that you want to speak to? What is your relationship with language? Try this at different times of your career. Maybe even try for a credo every year,…

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The Habit of Hoping

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Find your life – beyond your writing life – worth living. Be in the habit of hoping. Allow yourself a little joy, even in the face of the world’s available evidence. In fact, create the evidence everywhere and anywhere you can.  

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Creating Characters

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Discovering who your character truly is, is one of the great joys of fiction writing. There is little better than creating someone from the dust of your imagination. But inventing a character from scratch is not simply a matter of ransacking the low shelves of the nearest fiction-supermarket. Your characters must be real. Full. Complicated.…

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Who’s Your Ideal Reader?

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There is often a lot of talk about who is your ideal reader. Ultimately it has to be you. You are the one who has to take responsibility for it in the end. You must be prepared to listen to the deepest, most critical part of yourself. When you write something, try to imagine yourself…

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Blurbs (or The Art of Literary Porn)

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Blurbs are the older writer’s nightmare. Either he does them or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, he’s an asshole. If he does, he’s an asshole too – unless she blurbs yours, whereupon she is an angel, a godsend, a creature divine. But how do you get a blurb in the first place? You beg, you…

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Allow the Reader’s Intelligence

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Never say too much in your story or your poem or anywhere else for that matter. Never dictate. (Alas, he dictates). Avoid pointing out what your stories mean. Trust your reader. One of the great rules of writing classes is “Show, Don’t tell.” What this means is that you must guide a reader through unfamiliar…

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Read, read, read

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You would be amazed by the amount of writers who just do not read. Especially older writers who believe that they are the only ones who deserve to be read. Their reading world shrinks. They believe that they have written enough that they can afford now to come indoors. They close the curtains. They deposit…

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