Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Kurt Vonnegut

#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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Can You Talk Back To A Famous Author?


“You can’t teach people to write well.”

I barely scratched the surface on this topic back in September in the post, The “Self”-Education of Writers . . .

That quote about not being able to teach someone to write well is from an article by Kurt Vonnegut back in 1967—Teaching the Unteachable

I thought of putting a few more snippets from the article here but then saw a thread on Google Plus about it.

So to get you in the mood to either agree with Kurt or argue with him, I’ll put a few of the comments from that thread here:

Brian Meeks 19:33
I loved that article! Thanks so much for posting it. I live near, and work (occasionally) in Iowa City. That may be part of why I liked the article, but mostly I just enjoyed…what else…the writing.
I especially enjoyed the bit about poetry writers v. prose writers.
Great find!

William Morton 19:49
KV’s essay is flawed from the first line forward. I would reference the work of Betty Edwards. KV was a cranky old fart. People can be learnt to write better.

Amy Knepper 20:15
to Monika Ullian — Considering I married a preacher and I’m approaching middle life, there were several points I thought were jaded and condescending. I got a chuckle out of it though. At least I can recognize it (and my local writers guild is full of the same combination of people).

Renee Bennett 21:23
I’m minded of a comment from somewhere (sorry, don’t remember who at the moment) that very cynically divided writing groups into two classes of people: those who wanted to write, and those who wanted to have written.

Torah Cottrill 21:39
Best quote: The idea of a conference for prose writes is an absurdity. They don’t confer, can’t confer. It’s all they can do to drag themselves past one another like great, wounded bears.

Check out the thread on G+ for more… [Edit: since I first wrote this the thread responses have grown :-) ]

So what’s your take—Can creative writing be taught??
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The Shape of A Story


Readers know the “shape” of a story from reading it. Writers must “craft” that shape.

Like most aspects of writing, there are varied avenues leading to the destination–each story could  be seen as shaping itself.

In a very broad artistic sense, the shape could be called the Dramatic Structure–how the story moves from one point to another.

Many authors speak of their “Story Arc” and, if you try a Google search for that, good luck with interpreting how all the conflicting views can be correlated

As I’ve indicated before, I’m using Google Plus a lot these days. Recently, I noticed that Michael Kelly had shared a link that Paul Carroll saw in his Stream and shared with me.

The link lead to a video of Kurt Vonnegut talking about the shape of stories.

While quite humorous, I, as a writer, found the demonstration rooted in an often over-complexified Truth:


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