A Roundup of the Best Writing Advice

Writing advice doesn't replace practice — but if you want to be good at a thing, it's idiotic not to listen to masters of it as a way of augmenting your education. 

I've read SO much how-to-write advice, most mediocre, some shitty — but all helpful, in their way.  However, you probably want to read the really good ones I imagine, so here are my TOP WRITING ADVICE pieces.  These are the game-changers, the masterpieces, the ones that really blew me away.

1.  For how to make language into art, from basic principles up to detailed analyses of what makes a good vs. a not-good strung together series of words, there is nothing like, or even approaching the quality of, Verlyn Klinkenborg's* Several Short Sentences About Writing.  This one's at the top because it's SO concise and SO correct that it may not be incorrect to refer to this as the Bible of the art.  You will not read a paragraph of this without learning something profound.  And it's so beautifully-written itself that it's kind of breathtaking.  It doesn't need to prove anything it says, because the proof is staring you in the face the whole time…studying this one is a really fun ride, and I come back to it constantly.

2.  For how to write a good story, everything Vonnegut says is gold, but IMO his simple eight-point advice (Brainpickings has it here) is nearly all you need.  It's also fun to look at movies and how they do and don't follow those tips.  Don't let the shortness of this paragraph fool you, though — Vonnegut studied and understood stories, what they are and how they work, in a way few humans have.  Ignore any of his advice at your peril.  :)

3.  For how to write realistic characters — definitely its own distinct skill! — I think it's ironic that the best work I know on the topic was written by kind of a shit human being…because isn't that so very human?  I have to think that maybe being an asshole, a bigot and an irrational zealot is part of what gave Orson Scott Card the ability to portray such human-feeling characters — characters so realistic that even when their actions made no sense, or the story they were in was so full of holes you could strain pasta with it, the stories wound up compelling and emotional.  His advice in Characters and Viewpoint is technical, work-based, and almost painfully detailed…you may find plenty of it ignorable, but it's got it where it counts:  These are tools, a huge spread of 'em, that a master of human nature uses to capture it in words.  It's preachy and less valuable as a commentary on the art (again, see #1 for that), but holy shizballs does it contain some useful tools, and I come back to it pretty regularly in spite of its flaws, and often find something to help me out of a tough spot.

I hope some of that was handy!  Sorry I haven't been posting much lately.  I am working on upping my writing game more now that other aspects of life have settled down to non-perfect-storm status — and if you're still reading my blog in spite of the spotty updates forever, then THANK YOU! 



*You may not have heard of this writer–I hadn't, because they don't write the kind of stuff I like to read–but they're so unbelievably good that the fact that they don't use a pen-name, in spite of their real name being Verlyn freaking Klinkenborg, is utterly justified.  ;)

About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut, and life-partner to polyphasic sleep. Rabid fan of as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the wall).
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