I recently came across some advice from Martin Amis and thought I’d write about what it meant to me. Some resonated, some, well, not so much. But then not everyone sees everything the same way. And I certainly appreciate advice from such a seasoned and intelligent writer.
Write in long-hand: when you scratch out a word, it still exists there on the page. On the computer, when you delete a word it disappears forever. This is important because usually your first instinct is the right one.
Sorry – not going to happen. There is so much I love about being able to type into a word processor. It is so easy to move ideas around, adapt and expand. And deleting words on the computer is not always the end – keep drafts (very easy to do) and use the backspace key if its a recent change…
Use any anxiety you have about your writing — or your life — as fuel: “Ambition and anxiety: that’s the writer’s life.”
Probably depends on what I am writing about…
Never say “sci-fi.” You’ll enrage purists. Call it SF.
Who cares? Surely that’s pretentious crap… Having said that, I don’t read or write sci-fi (although I used to when I was a kid, and always called it sci-fi)
Don’t dumb down: always write for your top five percent of readers.
Fair point – I try not to dumb down. I use long words when they seem appropriate and try to treat my readers as though they have some intelligence. (Which sadly does not always happen with romance).
Never pun your title, simpler is usually better: Lolita turns out to be a great title; couldn’t be simpler.
Not sure what he means? Anyone got any insights into this one?
Watch out for words that repeat too often.
Great tip – something I check for carefully and my editor usually picks up. Adding ‘favourite’ words into ‘find’ and ‘replace’ in word will also help.
Don’t start a paragraph with the same word as previous one. That goes doubly for sentences.
Yes – another excellent tip. This one is fairly easy to scan for. I have picked it up a few times lately.
Stay in the tense.
Very important. Fortunately this is something I m pretty strong on.
Inspect your “hads” to see if you really need them.
Tricky if you are writing in past tense. Definitely a good one to check out!
Never use “amongst.” “Among.” Never use “whilst.” Anyone who uses “whilst” is subliterate.
Yep – I try to avoid these, although I do see them from time to time. Subliterate is pretty strong though – I wouldn’t say that. Some people just aren’t taught these things..
Try not to write sentences that absolutely anyone could write.
Fine line between avoiding ‘sentences anyone could write’ and being fussy and pretentious… Just saying.
You write the book you want to read. That’s my rule.
That’s definitely my rule too. I like reading my books, even though I have to read them quite a few times… (Although sometimes it can get a bit wearying when on the sixth read-through!)
You have to have a huge appetite for solitude.
Indeed you do. Fortunately I like being alone and quiet for a few hours a day.
Thanks for the advice Martin 🙂