"To Write Well"
Excerpted from a syllabus for a course in
The Writing of Fiction
To write well, one must write and write
.To write well, one must
well: reading often and readingclosely. Storytelling is contagious -- reading will spark the fuel of your imagination. But storytelling has also been going on for aslong as mankind has existed. You should know what's been saidand how it has been said to do it well yourself.To write well, one must treat writing both seriously andplayfully, balancing the discipline of hard work with the pleasures of creativity. Readers only respect writers who care enough to do bothwith vigor. And they can spot lazy writing from a mile away.To write well, one must first be willing to make a lot of mistakes in the name of experimentation and practice. Otherwise,one goes stale or repeats the same errors indefinitely. Or worse:one might become fatally boring...to readers and to oneself.To write well, one must be willing to share writing with others,to get a sense of how readers respond to one's efforts. Neverforget that writing is foremost an act of communication. And if writing is an experiment, then workshopping is a way of testing theresults of it.Again: To write well, one must really care what readers think.Often a reader's needs are more important than the writer's goals intelling a story. Sometimes you have to be willing to "kill yourdarlings." Yet to write well, one must not think of writing as a slavish actof catering to one's audience -- or as mandatory homework assignedby a teacher. Writing is something magical that originates fromwithin: storytelling is one of the many ways we all have of expressing ourselves and discovering ourselves. Even in fantasy, we