by Shirley Drew
A couple of weeks ago I attended my second Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference in Fort Collins. I attended some amazing sessions, including one on building platforms, one on writing for magazines and one session where an editor critiqued the first page of one of my nonfiction pieces. I got some great ideas and some great advice. One of my favorites (spoiler alert—it’s from our keynote speaker Chuck Sambuchino) was to “put down the remote.” Television is a time suck—it takes time away from our writing. He had several pieces of good advice, and it started me thinking about advice I’d read from other writers. Some of whom are my favorites. In fact one recommendation from Stephen King is reminiscent of what Chuck told our group. King said: “If you're just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television's electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea.” A little more violent than Chuck’s suggestion, but you get the picture.
Anyway, the following quotes are little gems of good advice for writers:
”Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”
“Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
“You only fail if you stop writing.”
“I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. I never in my wildest dreams expected this popularity.”
“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.”
“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Why these particular quotes? Because I have learned much from remarks like these and I frequently go back to them. In fact, I have them posted above my desk at home. In addition, there is one more quote that contains an implicit piece of advice I don’t often follow:
“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” From On Writing, by Stephen King.