Eight tips on writing from The Invisible College
Inspired to write? Discover more about the art of creative writing with tips from these great novelists, poets and playwrights…
1. Kurt Vonnegut
"Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of."
Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box.
2. C. S. Lewis
"Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was 'terrible', describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was 'delightful'; make us say 'delightful' when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words - horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite - are only like saying to your readers, 'Please will you do my job for me.'"
The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950-1963. Edited by Walter Hooper.
3. Elmore Leonard
"Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."
Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.
4. Eudora Welty
"The hardest thing for me is getting people in and out of rooms – the mechanics of a story.
A simple act of putting on clothes is almost impossible for me to describe without many false starts.
You have to be quick and specific in conveying that sort of action or fact, and also as neat and quiet about it as possible so that it doesn’t obtrude."
Eudora Welty, The Paris Review Interviews, The Art of Fiction No. 47.
5. Henry Miller
"Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it."
Henry Miller on Writing.
6. Ernest Hemingway
"When people talk listen completely. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe.
You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling.
Try that for practice. When you’re in town stand outside the theatre and see how the people differ in the way they get out of taxis of motor cars. There are a thousand ways to practice. And always think of other people."
Ernest Hemingway on Writing. Edited by Larry W.Phillips.
(Ernest Hemingway is third from the left in the photo.)
7. Ted Hughes
"Your genuine interests are the clue to your genuine feelings, like floats over sunken lobster-pots, and it is those feelings you are after, because it is those living feelings that we other people, your readers, are interested in.
Whatever else you may be told, the fact remains that writing is made out of feelings. Unless something interests or excites you or belongs to your life in a deep way, then you just cannot think of anything to say about it. The words will not come."
Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making.
8. Ray Bradbury
"If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself.
You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it’d be better for his health."
Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing.