Tag Archives: Writing Tips

The Best of the Best Writing Tips: #3. Burn Pendants in Pale Fire.

One of my favorite quotes from any writer, ever, is this one by Vladimir Nabokov:

“Burn pendants in pale fire. Accept no fashions. Be your own fashion. Do not rely on earlier triumphs. Be new at each appearance.”

I don’t even know where to start.

Of course, this is darn-tooting good advice for writers. Come to think of it, it’s perfect for anything.

But let’s stick to writing for now. In my daily job, it’s easy for me to get sucked into a routine in the style of my writing. Recently, I was writing a press release, about an annual event. I took a look at the previous year’s event to see what I had said. Maybe that was a mistake. I was tempted to simply update the language. Instead of using the word “iconic” to describe the hotel where this event would take place, I wanted to use “historic.” Instead of writing, “honor” the recipient of an award, “I wanted to write, “pay homage” for this year’s recipient.

Had Nabokov been in the room, he would have slapped my hands off of the keyboard and pushed me out of my chair. Actually, he may have asked me what was that contraption of a typewriter, but let’s save that for a story about time travel.

Think about the last time you read something that took your breath away with its power and beauty. It doesn’t happen often. As a writer, it’s damn hard to achieve.

Still. . . we have to try. We can’t fall into traps of go-to words and phrases, or updating last year’s press release, or speech, or whatever it might be. Actors who are doing remakes of  a movie will often say they did not watch the original version. They want to be fresh.

Look at your work. Notice the similarities, notice your habits. Now kill them.

Then there are these two gems from Nabokov’s quote: Accept your own fashions. Be your own fashion.

This is a mistake young writer’s make; well, it’s a mistake I made as a young writer. I would read Eudora Welty and sit down and try to write in a way that made me feel like her writing had made me feel. Too often, I ended up being a bad copy of the great writer.

Writing isn’t easy, whether you are writing fiction, or an article, or a business letter. If it were easy, the world would be full of Nabokovs. Like a fingerprint,  a writer’s voice is unique from any  one else. Find your style, then be your own fashion, and be new at each appearance.

If we can somehow manage all the good advice found in Nabokov’s quote, then we’re doing okay.


The Best of the Best Writing Tips: #2

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Elmore Leonard.

imagesThat pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? If you have ever been in a writers group, you know this syndrome. The writer who is in love with polysyllables for the sake of sounding smart, or the one who never met a metaphor she didn’t like–or worse, a writer in love with both unnecessary polysyllables and provides overdoses of metaphors.

KISS was created for a reason.

Mr. Leonard meant more than just keeping it simple, though. He doesn’t merely want his writing to sound truthful and authentic, he wants it to be truthful and authentic.

His tip is closely tied to another piece of advice: Write from the heart. But that’s  another post for another day.

Re-read what you write. Marcel Proust read his words aloud. It’s a tried and true tip. Another take on this comes from Oscar Wilde: Kill your darlings.

In case there is any doubt, he was referring to words.

The Best of the Best Writing Tips: # 1

Audacious Ink wants every one to be a more audacious writer. That’s a BHAG goal, so in the very least, AI would like for every one to be a better writer with a few tried and true tips from the Greats, like Mark Twain, William Faulkner and Eudora Welty, among others. With that, Writing Tip #1:

Write tight and eliminate unnecessary words. The previous sentence could have been even stronger had I just written, “Write tight,” but I have a hard time with writing tip #1, so I had to add that last part. Writer, heal thyself.

Think about your readers. Avoid content that is dull and isn’t useful . Or take this audacious tip from Mark Twain:

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.