“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
In this video, narrated by the author himself, Kurt Vonnegut shares eight insightful tips for writing a great short story.
This advice was published in the introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box, a collection of Vonnegut stories written during the fifties and sixties for popular magazines including Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post.
Curtis Sittenfeld is the bestselling author of four novels: Prep, The Man of My Dreams, American Wife and Sisterland. In an article in The Guardian last week, published in the wake of the controversy caused by Hanif Kureishi’s assertion that creative writing courses are ‘a waste of time’, Sittenfeld (herself an experienced creative writing teacher) shared the following very practical advice for writers.
1. Establish a writing schedule ahead of time for the coming week or month.
This is more important the less time you have. If you work full-time, you might plan to write for an hour at 6am on Tuesday and Thursday, or at 4pm on Wednesday and Saturday. Write this commitment down in your diary or calendar, don’t schedule anything that conflicts with it, and sit alone somewhere you can focus when the time comes. It’s OK if you don’t produce sentences during that time, but don’t do anything else – don’t check email, don’t text, don’t go online (and for heaven’s sake, if you’re using a computer, shut all files and windows except for the one you’re working on). If some nagging errand you need to do occurs to you, write it down, but don’t start doing it.
2. Create an outline.
P.D. James is one of Britain’s most popular crime writers. Born in 1920, she has published over 20 novels, many of which have been adapted for television. P.D. James was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991 and was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame in 2008 alongside Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. In November 2013 she shared her top tips for writing novels with the BBC.
In July this year Joyce Carol Oates, one of the most prominent writers of her generation, posted on Twitter her top 10 writing tips. For new and experienced writers alike, this is some very valuable advice.
Related post: Joyce Carol Oates on Developing Realistic Characters
You cannot sell your next book by underrating your book that was just published. Be proud of what you have.
Trust your reader, don’t try to describe things. Give a hint and they will fulfill this hint with their own imagination.