Advice on Writing

Ron Pihlgren passes along this advice on writing from ” How to Write – Advice and Reflections” by Richard Rhodes:

He [Richard Rhodes] encourages people not to get sidetracked by fear “If you’re afraid of what other people will think or your efforts, don’t show them until you write way beyond your fear.”), quantity (“If writing a book is impossible, write a chapter. If writing a chapter is impossible, write a page. If writing a page is impossible, write a paragraph. If writing a paragraph is impossible, write a sentence. If writing a sentence is impossible, write a word and teach yourself everything there is to know about that word and then write another, connected word and see where their connection leads.”), or correctness (“Forget spelling”, “Forget punctuation”). “The less baggage, the better,”

This rings true for me. I work with a lot of writers, and particularly new writers get stuck because they can’t get the first sentence perfect… they edit themselves before they have anything written on the page.

Years ago, I did free writing as a writing practices. I’d open a book to a random page, pick a sentence and write on that topic for 20 minutes. No matter what, I kept the pen moving on paper for 20 minutes. No correction, no attention to spelling, grammar, coherence… just keep the pen moving. When the pen keeps moving eventually, you get beyond what ever is blocking.

I often didn’t keep much of what came out of freewriting, but there were snippets that allowed me to start on something else.

Which points to another trap for writers, falling in love with certain words or phrases (sentences, paragraphs, sections…) and holding on to them when they don’t fit or move the story forward.

So here are three more guidelines for writers:

1) Put something on the page before you edit. Keep your hand moving.

2) When you have fallen in love with a passage, remember the delete key. If deleting is too hard — or the section will fit in another piece — cut and paste it into a different file.

3) Seek feedback early. And choose some one who knows how to give help rather just criticise.

(I am Morpheus, by the way)