Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Ian McEwan

A Psychologist Gets Questioned by A Novelist…

I feel good writers are, in a way, psychologists…

Pinker McEwan Good Writing

Image from Intelligence Squared

They deal in human motivation—cyphering-out character and persona.

And, an understanding of psychology could help any writer portray the complexities of character interactions.

But what of the psychology of writing itself; and, the psychology of the reader?

Enter, stage right, Steven Pinker, “…a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.”

Enter, stage left, Ian McEwan, “a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children’s novel…”

I’ve written here before about Mr. Pinker—Can Experimental Psychology Help A Writer?—and, that post had a short video.

Today’s post has a longer video—more detailed, more entertaining, more valuable for serious writers.

Pinker begins by talking about the bad writing of many scientists, bureaucrats, and academics; then, reveals that his wife is a novelist…

He disagrees with much about the “rules” of grammar and syntax…

He gives an outline of the topics of his book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, and lays out certain basic styles of writing…

Then, at about 26 minutes in, he sits down with McEwan and the serious fun begins…

I need to mention that Pinker had asked many writers if they consulted usage guides and found that most used none.

Near the end of the discussion, Pinker asks McEwan if he references a usage guide and the novelist admits to employing the Burchfield edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage.

There’s also a fascinating exchange with some audience members…

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More Writers On Writing

Six days ago, I published a post called Writers On Writing.

It had four videos—various perspectives on the writing process

And, in a post from last year, The “Right” Way To Write ~ Writing Advice for The Brave . . ., I had these two quotes:

“For every ‘rule’ in the books, some book of creative writing has successfully ‘broken’ it.”


“For every complex problem there is a simple solution, and it’s wrong.”

Then, there was the post, Writing Advice, Even from Well-Known Authors, Can Be “Dangerous” . . ., that had links to a number of authors “rules” for writing.

In this post, I think my best advice for writers is:

If you’re going to go looking for writing advise, first, write a bunch of stuff, revise it, write some more, revise that, then, maybe, seek out other writers’ advice

One other tip (besides reading a lot) is to avail yourself of the Top Tags widget in the left side-bar—four tags (which will pull up over 240 posts) that you may want to visit are “Writers Resources”, “Writing”, “Writing Advice”, and “Writing Tips”.

So, here are four videos of authors giving their advice:

Anne Rice

Ian McEwan

Neil Gaiman

Elmore Leonard

And, if you think there are too many men in that short list, go here

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