Monday, August 08, 2011

First principles

Any advice for struggling writers?

Read. Don’t be afraid to imitate. Develop your ear for rhythm and voice and tone and register.

Reread what you’re working on again and again and again. Pay attention to every word and every punctuation mark. Print out what you’ve just written and then retype it, slowly. Don’t let anything go out that’s not perfect, and that includes typos–nothing is too small for your attention.

Reread your work through the eyes of a dozen people–a former teacher, a high-school pal, a no-bullshit person of great intelligence but little education, etc.

Be flexible but also mulishly stubborn.

Constantly return to first principles. Try to cut 25% of the words in any manuscript. Be satisfied that 75% of your ideas and (if applicable) 95% of your research won’t appear in the final product.

Always address others–keep them entertained and usefully informed–but remember at the same time that you have no control over how others read your work. You have to satisfy yourself.

But remember: self-doubt is what will keep you young. The minute you are self-satisfied you’ll be ready for the glue factory.

—Luc Sante, interviewed by The Believer's Karolina Waclawiak, at The Days of Yore

Labels: , ,


Blogger Richard P said...

OK, if you keep in mind everything Sante just said ... your mind will explode, because it's impossible.

But I do like the fact that he calls for retyping, May I recommend using a typewriter for the whole process? Some writer (why am I thinking Joyce Carol Oates even though I'm sure it's not her?) has a ritual in which she has to type every last character of her typescript correctly or else she has to start all over.

[Word verification: "galisme." I think this whole quote is a splendid piece of gallism.]

11:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

View My Stats