Charles Daly

Writer

Category: Blog (page 13 of 15)

Roald Dahl’s 7 Qualities of a Fiction Writer

In his collection, the Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Roald Dahl lays down the seven qualities “you should posses or try to acquire if you wish to become a fiction writer.” They are as follows:
  1. You should have a lively imagination. 
  2. You should be able to write well. By that I mean you should be able to make a scene come alive in the reader’s mind. Not everybody has this ability. It is a gift, and you either have it or you don’t.
  3. You must have Stamina. In other words, you must be able to stick to what you are doing and never give up, for hour after hour, day after day, week after week and month after month. 
  4. You must be a perfectionist. That means you must never be satisfied with what you have written until you have rewritten it again and again, making it as good as you possibly can. 
  5. You must have strong self-discipline. you are working alone. No one is employing you. No one is around to give you the sack if you don’t turn up for work, or to tick  you off if you start slacking. 
  6. It helps a lot if you have a keen sense of humour. This is not essential when writing for grown-ups, but for children it’s vital. 
  7. You must have a degree of humility. The writer who thinks that his work is marvellous is heading for trouble. 
Dahl also recommends keeping a day job, emphasizing that most great writing through the centuries has been the work of amateurs and hobbyists. He sites Dickens as a rare exception. 
Not one to suffer fools, he shared some tough love in response to a fan who sent him a short story “expecting to be introduced to his publisher.” 



Hear the fantastic Mr. Dahl paraphrase these tips, and add a few more, in recordings from the Roald Dahl museum.

You Are Not a Storyteller

Unless, of course, you actually tell stories.

Comma Story

We interrupt our regular programing to bring you a public service announcement from TED. 

“Put your A** where your Heart Wants to be.”

In an interview with Oprah, Steven Pressfield reminds artists to remain seated

put your ass where your heart wants to be. And by that I simply mean: if you want to paint, put your body in front of an easel, if you want to write, sit in front of a keyboard. And then just plunge in. 

           

What You’re Doing Right

Knowing what you’re doing right can be just as valuable as knowing what you’re doing wrong. But your inner-bully doesn’t see it that way. 

Who Else Would be Thinking in Your Journal?

You don’t need to write “I think…” in your journal. Ever.

Take a Break from Punctuation

Do like Cormac McCarthy and work with only comas and periods for a while. Maybe take something you’ve already written and rewrite it without all those “weird little marks,” as he calls them. 
 
Watch your sentences become cleaner and tighter. It’s easier to listen to your drafts doing it this way, to make music with your words rather than just figuring how to make them play by a set of rules you learned in school. 
 
If you’re hardcore, cut out quotation marks too. You could be inviting a mess. But done carefully, writing without quotes will force you to work on tone. Let the reader know who’s speaking by developing your characters’ unique voices, not just putting tick marks around their words.
 

Story Sunday

It’s easy for the heavy lifting of plot to make you sore and put you on the bench for a few days. The trouble of “what next?” or how to make your set ups pay off can easily become a series of blocks and lost days coinciding with the beats in your story. This is the danger of making it up as you go along.  

Try scheduling all your story and outlining work on one day of the week. Take this time to figure out what comes next and work on the plot as a whole, revisit your twists and turning points, explore alternative scenes. Spend the other six days writing the thing and defer all plot concerns to story Sunday. 

Rejection Slips

Every ‘no’ gets you closer to a ‘yes.’ 

Don’t Scream at Your Film

“When you’re in the editing room you need to listen to your film and not scream at your film.” 


–Nick Willing, writer and director 
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