I continue to try to encapsulate my observations about the craft of writing in epgrammatic form. I dole these out in coffeespoons, mostly on Twitter and Facebook. Below are those from September, 2012.
O N N A R R A T I V E
- If you're a memoirist, yet you cannot be honest with yourself, why should anyone believe you?
- Find your lede. If you pose a question at the top, answer it by the end. If you find yourself pursuing other questions as you write, perhaps your lede is wrong.
- Your characters shouldn't act as if they know what's going to happen. The writer is the only one who knows the future.
O N S Y N T A X
- Essayists of the short form should read carefully the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town." Each essay is different, all are expertly crafted, all are instructive.
- Formal language has mostly gone out of style; good manners haven't. If you can be gracious using vernacular language, it'll feel more real.
- Dear web producer: you don't need to publish the ### or -30- at the end of the story. Those bits are for your eyes only.
- Buses carry people. Busses carry people's warm feelings. Don't mix them up.
- Irrespective is a word. Regardless is a word. Irregardless is not a word. Relatedly, supposedly is a word. Probably is a word. Supposably is not a word.
O N E D I T I N G
- The end will change the beginning. This is why you cannot write a story in only one pass.
- Write today, but publish tomorrow. Editing requires you to fall out of love with your story—and with the person who wrote it.
O N W R I T I N G
- Controversial positions will earn you notice, plus a reputation as a crank. Relatedly, your nonfiction writing will attract more attention if it's wrong than if it's right. This is not the kind of attention you want.
- If you're a writer, you can't just tweet and post status updates to Facebook. You have to write stuff, too.
- Writing is, you know, hard.