Writing Hacks

Recently I came across an article listing 44 writing hacks to assist one in their story-telling endeavours. Out of the 44, I grouped a few of them which most resonated with me on account of urgency, reliability and my ability to put them to practical use.

Quantity produces quality – Ray Bradbury

Tactile Memory:

  • Write down passages from favourite books just to know what it feels like to have those words flow through my own fingertips.
  • Writing by hand is preferable to typing. As Raymond Chandler wrote, “when you have to use your energy to put words down, you are more apt to make them count.”

Reading:

  • “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” – Samuel Johnson
  • While you are writing, read things totally unrelated to what you’re writing. You’ll be amazed at the totally unexpected connections you’ll make or strange things you’ll discover.

Editing:

  • As you go along, “Ask yourself if this sentence, paragraph, or chapter truly furthers the narrative. If not, chuck it.” – Elizabeth Gilbert. And as Stephen King famously put it, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
  • “When someone tells you something is wrong with your writing, they’re usually right. When they tell you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong.”

Physical Exercise: Strenuous exercise every day. Novelist Don DeLillo told The Paris Review how after writing for four hours, he goes running to “shake off one world and enter another.” Joyce Carol Oates, in her ode to running, said that “the twin activities of running and writing keep the writer reasonably sane and with the hope, however illusory and temporary, of control.”

Writing Process:

  • Writing is easier when the research is done and the framework has been laid out.
  • Embrace what the strategist and theorist John Boyd called the “draw-down period.” Take a break right before you start. To think, to reflect, to doubt.
  • Ask yourself these four questions from George Orwell: “What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?” Then finish with these final two questions: “Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?”
  • Focus on what you’re saying, worry less about how. As William March wrote in The Bad Seed, ”a great novelist with something to say has no concern with style or oddity of presentation.”

Audience: Envision who you are writing this for. Like really picture them. Don’t go off in a cave and do this solely for yourself. As Kurt Vonnegut put it in his interview with The Paris Review: “…every successful creative person creates with an audience of one in mind. That’s the secret of artistic unity. Anybody can achieve it, if he or she will make something with only one person in mind.”

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