Since The Prisoner of Zenda is being considered for best new play in Philadelphia, we figured we would cook up some tips for writing; however, upon further investigation we found that other authors had beat us to the punch. Most of these are from authors, we’ll cover playwrights and writers of dialogue at a later date. In the meantime, here are 7 tips for writing your story from “Real Good” authors:
1) Don’t Explain
From John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday
“I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t liek to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure ouw what he looks like from the way he talks…figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says.”
2) Don’t Waste the Reader’s (or Viewer’s) Time
Also from John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday
“Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle…Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”
3) Never Use a Verb other than “Said” to Carry Dialogue
From Leonard Elmore
“The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in.”
3b) Never Use an Adverb to Modify the Word Said
Also from Leonard Elmore
“…he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange.
4) Don’t Wait for Inspiration
from jack london
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
5) Is It Your First Draft? It’s bad.
from ernest hemmingway
“The first draft of everything is shit.”
6) Keep Descriptions to a Minimum
From Ernest Hemmingway’s “Hills Like WHite Elephants”
“She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.”
That’s it. That’s all you get as a description of the characters, and yet, you learn everything about them through their dialogue.
7) If it Sounds Like Writing, re-Write it.
From Leonard Elmore’s 10 Rules of Writing
“…[we] can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”