Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Two Wild Writing Tips from Oates

No matter what you’re writing—an autobiographical book, a business proposal, a company newsletter article, an essay for a class, a letter to Mom, whatever—American literary giant Joyce Carol Oates offers for your consideration two seven-word sentences in the preface of The Handbook of Short Story Writing, edited by Frank A. Dickson and Sandra Smythe.

1. There are no rules to help us. Here she is talking about writing short fiction, but you could see this beautiful sentence as a free pass for unlocking your imagination regardless of the writing project. Forget about rules—just write! Rules can come later. Stop asking questions and get to it.

2. Writers write, eventually; but first they feel. This is the penultimate sentence of her essay. (The final one is this: A marvelous life.) Here Oates encourages daydreaming and then transforming that flight of fantasy into a gratifying rush of writing pleasure you’ll find difficult to stop. People who love writing write for that experience.

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