I preach a lot about reading contemporary books, but the truth of the matter is that I’m steeped in the classics.
In life and in literature, I respect my elders.
I read young adult books now, but when I was a young adult, I was a literary snob. I also, and this goes for now and then, have always read any sort of writing advice I could find, but especially heeded that of Writers with a capital W.
One of my favorite pieces of writing advice comes from Writer Mark Twain:
“Use the right word, not its second cousin.”
This statement is hanging right above my desk. My office has zero pictures on the walls, but plenty of black text printed on white paper pinned around my desk. That way, I don’t spend too much time staring at distractions. All of my distractions lead me back to writing.
JA Konrath publishes a writing blog where he recently advised, “Do not start a story with telling,” and I cursed, because I have very recently done that. I started a story with this sentence: “She felt terrible.”--the exact sentence Konrath uses as an example of what not to do. When revising that story, I questioned the sentence, questioned others about whether my questioning was justified, and then left it. Oh inner voice, why do you mock me so?
Wait a minute. I’m having an epiphany here. Who is that inner voice and where does she get her information?
My inner voice is really a collection of people, only some of whom are Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Annie Dillard, Frank Soos, Derick Burleson, Ray Bradbury, Garrison Keilor, Henry David Thoreau, and Barbara Kingsolver. They blend together in a literary conversation in my head, continuing to teach me long after I’ve completed their classes and read their books.
So, let me ask you: whose voices are filling your head and guiding your writing? Do you block out the writers of the past? Nothing wrong with that approach. Bob Dylan said “your old road is rapidly aging” in one of the best songs ever written. That’s the thing. Sometimes my voices disagree and I have to make the call.
Do you have a quote you write by? A lesson from an old or new Writer?