Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Author’s Advice

#WritingAdvice


There are 66 posts about writing advice on this blog and they include this one since I tag my posts with keywords; so, if you take that last link, you might see this post again at the top of the list, unless I’ve written another post about writing advice before you take that link—ah, the ins and outs of the Internet :-)

Today’s post features another blog’s articles about writing advice

The blog is Brain Pickings and the blogger is Maria Popova and I wrote about her in my post, A Blog for All Seasons.

However, she has a particular post, Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers, that may have a somewhat flamboyant title but does pack a severe punch

It’s essentially a link-post—as she says:

“By popular demand, I’ve put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented here over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and more.”

Maria has 109 links to various authors’ advice; and, here’s just a bit of advice from this author (especially, if you’re relatively new to the craft of writing)—it’s much better to read the books of other authors that have no writing advice than it is to read writing advice and not apply you’re own judgement to it.

Naturally, that would mean I’m actually sharing two pieces of advice:

  • Read a lot.
  • Write a lot

If you don’t do the second one, you can’t generate your own judgement to apply to the advice of other writers.

I know, that may sound quite convoluted; but, we’re talking about writing, not about baking bread—though, there may be a few tricks that can be transferred from baking to writing
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An Author’s Advice To His Child . . .


We’ve had 28 posts on this blog covering various aspects of “Writing Advice”

Of course, you can use the links in the Top Tags widget in the left side-bar to find all kinds of categories of posts or you can put search terms in the Search widget in the upper right corner :-)

As far as an author’s advice to his child, I have Maria Popova at Brain Pickings to thank for an article that features two letters from Sherwood Anderson to his son: Sherwood Anderson on Art and Life: A Letter of Advice to His Teenage Son, 1927.

I’ll be sharing one of those letters here and encouraging you to visit that last link to read the other letter :-)

Maria begins her article with these words:

“The quest to find one’s purpose and live the creative life boldly is neither simple nor easy, especially for a young person trying to make sense of the world and his place in it.”

And, even though Anderson’s letters to his son are addressed to a young man pursuing painting, I feel any young aspiring writer would benefit from reading them

And, the meaning of “young” writer could be expanded to include a writer of any age who is just beginning their writing journey.

Maria also links to the book these letters came from:

Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children

The first letter from Anderson to his son:

    The best thing, I dare say, is first to learn something well so you can always make a living. Bob seems to be catching on at the newspaper business and has had another raise. He is getting a good training by working in a smaller city. As for the scientific fields, any of them require a long schooling and intense application. If you are made for it nothing could be better. In the long run you will have to come to your own conclusion.

    The arts, which probably offer a man more satisfaction, are uncertain. It is difficult to make a living.

    If I had my own life to lead over I presume I would still be a writer but I am sure I would give my first attention to learning how to do things directly with my hands. Nothing gives quite the satisfaction that doing things brings.

    Above all avoid taking the advice of men who have no brains and do not know what they are talking about. Most small businessmen say simply — ‘Look at me.’ They fancy that if they have accumulated a little money and have got a position in a small circle they are competent to give advice to anyone.

    Next to occupation is the building up of good taste. That is difficult, slow work. Few achieve it. It means all the difference in the world in the end.

    I am constantly amazed at how little painters know about painting, writers about writing, merchants about business, manufacturers about manufacturing. Most men just drift.

    There is a kind of shrewdness many men have that enables them to get money. It is the shrewdness of the fox after the chicken. A low order of mentality often goes with it.

    Above all I would like you to see many kinds of men at first hand. That would help you more than anything. Just how it is to be accomplished I do not know. Perhaps a way may be found. Anyway, I’ll see you this summer. We begin to pack for the country this week.

    With love,

    Dad.

The part of this letter that stands out to me is:

“Above all avoid taking the advice of men who have no brains and do not know what they are talking about. Most small businessmen say simply — ‘Look at me.’ They fancy that if they have accumulated a little money and have got a position in a small circle they are competent to give advice to anyone.”

Just change “small businessmen” to “authors” and you’ve got what I would say to any aspiring writer :-)
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Writing Advice, Even from Well-Known Authors, Can Be “Dangerous” . . .


The word “dangerous” has the root meaning “power to harm”, based on the Latin dominus, “lord”.

How could advice from established authors “harm” a writer?

Primarily, I feel, by being accepted as hard and fast “rules” or “laws”.

For every “rule” in the books, some book of creative writing has successfully “broken” it :-)

Plus, I’ve weighed in a number of times here on the value and danger of writing advice

Maria Popova has been featured here a number of times and, due to her blog Brain Pickings, I’ll now give you links to a number of authors’ (and, one TV character’s) advice:

Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story

10 Tips on Writing from David Ogilvy

Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing & Daily Creative Routine

Jack Kerouac’s List of 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life

Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck

Susan Sontag on Writing

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

What are your thoughts and feelings on “writing advice”?

What’s some of your own writing advice??
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