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[process] The best writing advice I ever got

This past Monday, I posted on the worst writing advice I ever received: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. A lot of folks had something to say about it.

The most consistent critique of my remarks arose from a rejection of the framing I’d placed. I made some broad statements about what does and does not constitute good fiction.

Now, as it happens, my recent rhetoric notwithstanding I am pretty firmly in the camp that says there is virtually no canonical writing advice. The only universal I can in good conscience determine is “Write more.” Meaning, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it, and maybe do a bit more.

Everything else falls into the trap of individualized process, divergent experience and changing expectations. What one writer (perhaps me) passionately believes about the role of auctorial emotion in the story on the page could be nonsensical or even destructive to another writer.

Yet at the same time, even in that context there are a number of pieces advice that have a fairly wide applicability. “Finish everything you start.” “Don’t self-edit while drafting.” “Keep stories in the mail.” Surely there are exceptions to each of those examples, but for most writers, most of the time, they are at least useful if not canonical.

In that spirit, I offer the best writing advice I ever received. It was from Ray Vukcevich, a brilliant writer whose genre could perhaps be characterized as magic realism, or perhaps not. He once told me, “Cut out all the parts that aren’t interesting.”

That was such a gnomic utterance that I’m still not sure I understand it, but it’s also a damned fine piece of advice. I even wrote an entire article about it a few years ago. Like most profound advice, the trick is in sorting out how to apply it. Ray’s comment has been a mantra to me for many years.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?

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