Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Basics of Creative Writing

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Basics of Creative Writing

There is no doubt that one of the greatest American writers was Kurt Vonnegut, and at the same time, he is one of the greatest writing teachers. Want to learn how to write like him? Check out his own words listed as Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Basics of Creative Writing.

Find a subject you care about

“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”

Do not ramble, though

“I won’t ramble on about that.”

Keep it simple

“As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long…Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: ‘In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”

Have the guts to cut

“Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.”

Sound like yourself

“The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child…I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.”

Say what you mean to say

“If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood. Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.”

Pity the reader

“They have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately…So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify — whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.”

For really detailed advice

“For a discussion of literary style in a narrower sense, in a more technical sense, I commend to your attention The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White (Macmillan, 1979). E.B. White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced..”

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Writing Tips From Ian McEwan

Writing Tips From Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is undoubtedly one of the best-known contemporary English writers. In 2008, he was featured on The Times list of “The 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945”. Another daily newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, ranked him as number 19 in their list of “100 Most Powerful People in British Culture”. With his bibliography ranging from novels, short story collections, children’s fiction, plays, screenplays and more, you’d most definitely want to take writing tips from Ian McEwan.

Ian McEwan’s View on Writing Tips

Although he’s been an influence to many young authors, he’s not too keen on giving writing tips because he thinks that everyone should find their own way. As McEwan puts it himself:

“I often think that I don’t really have any advice to give at all, and that everyone should find their own way, but that never really satisfies anyone.”

Ian McEwan’s Writing Tips

Although not fond of giving writing tips, McEwan has some tips for aspiring authors that are struggling to stay disciplined and consistent.

Nothing Should Stop You

If you want to be a writer, then nothing should stop you to achieve this goal. McEwan advice is not to go around saying “I want to be a writer”, but to go around saying “I am a writer” instead. All you need for this is a pencil and a block of paper.

Concentrate on the Short Story

“Do not waste the next five years of your life writing an 800-page block of a novel that might well be a failure. Put your toe in the water gently”. According to McEwan, the short is a difficult form to master, but, at the same time, it is a wonderful laboratory because you can play with it. All it takes for a good or a bad short story is anywhere from one to six weeks, and you’ll not have wasted several years of your life.

Write a Novella

You should find the short story that you have written but that feels like there’s something incomplete about it. You should develop it into a 140-page novel. Again, it could take you somewhere between a year or even less. You might even get it all down in one delirious month.

Keep a Journal

His final advice to the aspiring authors is to dedicate themselves to keeping a journal.

“When I look into my own journals, what fascinates me most about what was going on in my life 30 years ago are the things that we would consider the most mundane. What was I reading, who was I talking to, what were the main subjects of conversation.”

It is a good thing to keep track of such banalities because it is after many years that they begin to shine. Rewrite it once a week to about 500 words and you could end up with 25,000 words a year.
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