Before you write anything, ask yourself these questions

Says George Orwell:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

More here.

See also: George Orwell at Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

Want to improve your writing? Read a lot. And slowly.

Learning to write sound, interesting, sometimes elegant prose is the work of a lifetime. The only way I know to do it is to read a vast deal of the best writing available, prose and poetry, with keen attention, and find a way to make use of this reading in one’s own writing.

The first step is to become a slow reader. No good writer is a fast reader, at least not of work with the standing of literature.

Writers perforce read differently from everyone else. Most people ask three questions of what they read: (1) What is being said? (2) Does it interest me? (3) Is it well constructed?

Writers also ask these questions, but two others along with them: (4) How did the author achieve the effects he has? And (5) What can I steal, properly camouflaged of course, from the best of what I am reading for my own writing? This can slow things down a good bit.

More here.

Ernest Hemingway’s suggested readings

These are readings Hemingway recommended to a young person aspiring to be a writer. The whole story here.

Links for the book will take you to Project Gutenberg.

Résoudre en soi et pour soi les plus grandes questions

Je lis chez Desbiens (Ainsi donc):

L’abondance des notes, en effet, et la dimension de la bibliographie ne m’impressionnent plus. (…) En outre, je suis gouverné depuis longtemps par l’idée qu’il faut résoudre en soi et pour soi les plus grandes questions.

Cette pensée rejoint celle d’Ortega y Gasset: lire moins et penser davantage (leer menos, pensar más).

Au lecteur qui se demande comment reconnaître si cette résolution est faite et est sienne, je propose ceci: demande-toi si tu peux donner raison de tes plus profondes convictions.

the IKEA catalog at the cutting edge of technology: the bookbook

Information and parody. Well done!

Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day

 

Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons.

How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate—and how much is too much? How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent? When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible? How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in my abilities, and when should I start doubting myself?

I know that if I hadn’t become a long-distance runner when I became a novelist, my work would have been vastly different. How different? Hard to say. But something would definitely have been different.

 

More on the importance of talent, focus and endurance in writing from the author of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running at 99U.

 

On writing – from one of the best

Q: What is the best training for writing? Courses in writing? Or what?

William Faulkner: Read, read, read! Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad; see how they do it. When a carpenter learns his trade, he does so by observing. Read! You’ll absorb it. Write. If it is good you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.

via This Recording.