I just read Stephen King’s memoir On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I highly recommend it. He doesn’t give any quick fixes or secret tricks to writing, just good solid advice (that I think applies to life too):
- If you want to be a better writer then write more. Goes without saying, right? Well apparently it does not go without saying. There are plenty of things I have wanted to be better at that I haven’t actually practiced. Malcom Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to be good at something. I did the math. If I write for two hours a day every day of the year I will get to 10,000 hours in 13.69 years. I’ll be 61.
- It also helps to read as much as you can. It’s probably better if it’s good writing, but it doesn’t have to be. You can learn from people who are terrible too.
- With practice a good writer can become a great writer. A good writer will probably never become an iconic, once in a generation writer. Those are born not made. Not everyone who wants to write is a good writer. We are not created equal.
- Less is more. The real trick to editing is taking out everything that isn’t necessary. “Kill your darlings.” Take out the phrases, paragraphs, plot lines that don’t move the story forward.
- Avoid adverbs.
- It’s okay to not have a plot outline. You can start with a general idea and just see what happens. You don’t need to know where you’re going when you start.
- Use failure as a way to learn but not as an excuse to stop.
- Use your own words. If you use big words use them. Don’t invent a vocabulary to impress others.
- Be honest. Don’t let the decency police get in the way of what you want to say.