Don’t ever use the word ‘soul,’ if possible. Never quote dialogue you can summarize. Avoid describing crowd scenes but especially party scenes.
If you’re doing your job, the reader feels what you felt. You don’t have to tell the reader how to feel. No one likes to be told how to feel about something. And if you doubt that, just go ahead. Try and tell someone how to feel.
You want vivid writing. How do we get vivid writing? Verbs, first. Precise verbs. All of the action on the page, everything that happens, happens in the verbs. The passive voice needs gerunds to make anything happen. But too many gerunds together on the page makes for tinnitus: Running, sitting, speaking, laughing, inginginginging. No. Don’t do it. The verbs tell a reader whether something happened once or continually, what is in motion, what is at rest. Gerunds are lazy, you don’t have to make a decision and soon, everything is happening at the same time, pell-mell, chaos. Don’t do that. Also, bad verb choices mean adverbs. More often than not, you don’t need them. Did he run quickly or did he sprint? Did he walk slowly or did he stroll or saunter?
Alexander Cheereminisces about studying with Annie Dillard and shares her best writing advice. For the horse’s mouth, see Dillard herself on writing – a fine addition to our ongoing archive of notable wisdom on the craft. (via explore-blog)
a thank you note from amanda:
i haven’t been shy about saying that my college years were dark. one of my biggest retrospective regrets is that I didn’t get to take a class with the famous Annie Dillard. she was there teaching writing – people whispered in reverent tones about her class.
I knew nothing back then
now, 17 years later, i sit down in a melbourne cafe to get back to writing my first book after a weekend of beautiful debauchery. I feel like a total fucking fraud. I can’t write and I don’t know what business I have pretending I can. so, like a good, disciplined writer, begin the days work by checking my tumblr.
i started following maria’s blog just a year (or so) ago – but sometimes her uncanny timing just rips my heart in two: is she stalking me and posting in-jokes?
alexander’s description of annie’s class is like a little salve on my seemingly un-healable college-regret wound. a stitch or two. I didn’t get a chair at the royal table, but he brought me some dessert in a doggie bag. delivered by maria.
the world today is therefore, as neil would say, a good place.
click on the link and read Alexander’s whole piece. it’s fucking brilliant.
thank you maria
thank you Alexander chee
thank you annie Dillard
today I will write with fervor, verbs and abandon
one strong flat white please thank you