In response to a reader’s request for tips on revision, Neil Gaiman writes:
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.
To me, Mr. Gaiman is spot on. Sometimes this is the hardest thing to do in the world – it’s almost like I feel guilty when a put a piece down. The reward, though, is always there – in the form of fresh eyes and an improved product.
You fail only if you stop writing.
I’ve written about 2,000 short stories…and I feel I’m still learning.
If you are going to learn from other writers don’t only read the great ones, because if you do that you’ll get so filled with despair and the fear that you’ll never be able to do anywhere near as well as they did that you’ll stop writing. I recommend that you read a lot of bad stuff, too. It’s very encouraging.
This was shared at a great writing workshop last week:
If you are going to learn from other writers don’t only read the great ones, because if you do that you’ll get so filled with despair and fear that you’ll never be able to do anywhere near as well as they did that you’ll stop writing. I recommend that you read a lot of bad stuff, too. It’s very encouraging.
– Edward Albee
I couldn’t agree more. It was, after all, a terrible book that made me think, hey I can do something marginally better than this garbage! I’m still working on it – even trash takes time.
A snippet from a letter to Tacitus from Pliny the Younger:
Happy are they, in my opinion, to whom it is given either to do something worth writing about, or to write something worth reading; most happy, of course, those who do both.
I take this to mean – if I’m going to write well, I sure better live well too.
I love when, in fiction, authors write about authors, or in this case novelists. Check out Philip K. Dick in the “The Man in the High Castle,” brilliant:
“They know a million tricks, those novelists. Take Doctor Goebbels; that’s how he started out, writing fiction. Appeals to the base lusts that hide in everyone no matter how respectable on the surface. Yes, the novelist knows humanity, how worthless they are, ruled by their testicles, swayed by cowardice, selling out every cause because of their greed-all he’s got to do is thump on the drum, and there’s his response. And he laughing, of course, behind his hand at the effect he gets.”
I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career, that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide — Harper Lee.
Pulled this from an article on Writer’s Digest, where Allen Drury also said “set a schedule and stick to it.” In other words, stop searching for “writing advice” on Google and get writing (actually, I love reading writer’s advice on writing – it’s an addiction)!