Jump Run Freeze

While going through my old notebooks last night, I came across the following.

List Of Writing Tips — 5/5/03

1) Write every day.
2) Observe and listen.
3) Employ all senses.
4) Use strong verbs.
5) Detail!
6) A specific always beats an abstraction.
7) Describe in motion.
8) Anglo-Saxon words are usually more effective than romance-based words.
9) Fiction is dramatization; dramatization is point of view, sense, impressions, detail, action and dialogue.
10) In dialogue, keep speeches short.
11) Look for likenesses, parallels, contracts, antithesis and reversals.
12) Beware the use of the habitual case (would), the passive voice and the word there.
13) Plotting is compulsion versus obstacles.
14) In the second draft, start deleting adverbs (gently, soon).
15) Borrow widely, steal wisely.

There’s no reference to any book. What I do remember from that time is that I was reading all sorts of books then on how to write. I must have made a summary of the main points from the different books that I had read. The list pretty much sums up all you need to know to be able to write effectively. However, if I were to make a list again I would add two more tips that I consider to be as important not only to beginning writers but to all writers.

16) Read!

Stephen King writes:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  

The best way to learn to write is by reading and writing. If you want to be a writer you have to read. Read poetry, essays, articles, plays, short stories, books, novels; good books as well as bad ones. Read those writers who think and write the way you think and hope to write. But also read those who don’t write the way you want to write. Read the old classics as well as the contemporaries. Read everything you can lay your hands on. Here’s what James Michener has to say on the subject:

“When I do decide on the book, I spend about two years reading almost casually, feeling the area out. I read very widely and I seldom take notes.”

17) Always tell the truth. Be true to yourself.

To me the most important and perhaps the most difficult thing to do. In the words of Stephen King:

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it.”

Over the years we collect impressions and experiences which are different from all that of others in the world. Each person is unique and original in his or her own special way. No two people see and experience the same events in the same order. Their reaction differs. When a person tells you about his dreams, his likes and dislikes, his love and hatred of things and of people, he is being true to himself. He talks from the heart, that’s his moment of truth and he is simply telling the truth.

When we sit down to write we must try to uncover all those hidden dreams, desires, lusts and secrets. We must not seek to lie in order to create fiction but try to reveal our secret fears and pains without shame. We must try to bare the core of our weakness and our strength, find out our true self. We must try to simply tell the truth about ourselves and the nature of our relationships with places, things and people. Baring it all is the only style worth risking everything for. As Ray Bradbury explains:

“Run fast, stand still. This, the lesson from lizards. For all writers. Observe almost any survival creature, you see the same. Jump, run, freeze. See the hummingbird, there, not there. And where it was-a whisper. What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort or a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth dead-falling or tiger-trapping.”


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4 Responses to Jump Run Freeze

  1. Samir says:

    Excellent list. It does cover most of what is needed for effective writing. It would be helpful to also expand number 16) by adding, delete all unnecessary adjectives, too.

    Great post!

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