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May 24, 2013

33 Unusual Tips To Being A Better Writer

“Portrait of the Writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky,” Vasily Perov

“Portrait of the Writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky,” Vasily Perov

By James Altucher

Back in college, my friend Sanket and I would hang out in bars and try to talk to women but I was horrible at it. Nobody would talk to me for more than thirty seconds, and every woman would laugh at all his jokes for what seemed like hours. Even decades later I think they are still laughing at his jokes. One time he turned to me and said, “The girls are getting bored when you talk. Your stories go on too long. From now on, you need to leave out every other sentence when you tell a story.” We were both undergrads in Computer Science. I haven’t seen him since, but that’s the most important writing (and communicating) advice I ever got.

33 other tips for being a better writer

Write whatever you want. Then take out the first paragraph and last paragraph. Here’s the funny thing about this rule. It’s sort of like knowing the future. You still can’t change it. In other words, even if you know this rule and write the article, the article will still be better if you take out the first paragraph and the last paragraph.

Take a huge bowel movement every day. And you won’t see that on any other list on how to be a better writer. If your body doesn’t flow then your brain won’t flow. Eat more fruit if you have to.

Bleed in the first line. We’re all human. A computer can win Jeopardy but can’t write a novel. If you want people to relate to you, then you have to be human. Penelope Trunk started a post a few weeks ago: “I smashed a lamp over my head. There was blood everywhere. And glass. And I took a picture.” That’s real bleeding. My wife recently put up a post where the first line was so painful she had to take it down. Too many people were crying.

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September 14, 2012

John Gardner, Raymond Carver

John Gardner

On this day in 1982 the novelist and scholar John Gardner died at the age of forty-nine in a motorcycle accident. Gardner’s novels range from the award-winning October Light, in which a crochety New Englander takes a shotgun to his television, to Grendel, a retelling of the Beowulf story by the troubled monster himself: “I observe myself observing what I observe. It startles me…. No thread, no frailest hair between myself and the universal clutter!”

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May 25, 2012

The Births of Raymond Carver

Filed under: Today in Literature — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:06 am

Raymond Carver (1938 – 1988)

On this day in 1938 Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, Oregon, the family moving three years later to Yakima, Washington. Carver’s biographical essay, “My Father’s Life,” tells about his upbringing what his highly-acclaimed stories tell about others: the grind of poverty, the ruin of alcohol, the endless threat of breakdown and break-up, the resolve of those who keep going when their only sure direction is down.

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December 20, 2011

Two Hats For Today’s Writers (and 10 Awful Truths)

By Christopher Meeks

I just saw a documentary, To Write and Keep Kind, a PBS documentary on the life and writing of Raymond Carver. It’s part of the two-disc Criterion Collection version of Robert Altman’s movie Short Cuts, based on Raymond Carver’s short stories. I couldn’t help but think at the end of the documentary, If Carver had to start out today, would he be tweeting and blogging and posting on Goodreads?

Thinking that made me realize today’s writer needs to wear two hats: those of the artist and of the marketer — Carver and K-tel.

Carver broke new ground in that he wasn’t part of the East Coast writing and publishing establishment. His stories of the Pacific Northwest found many fans for their honest portrayal of working — and drinking — men and women eking through a hardscrabble life. His short stories “Cathedral” and “A Small Good Thing,” are two of my favorites.

What Carver did was extraordinary — no writer then or now has had an easy path — but the rules were clearer when Carver was writing and publishing in the sixties through the eighties. He published short stories and poetry in small journals and moved up to magazines such as Esquire and the New Yorker. His first collection of short fiction, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, came out in 1977. He never wrote a novel. These days, with the publishing industry in turmoil and essentially looking only to publish big hits by writers with “platforms,” writers have more on their shoulders.

One truth hasn’t changed. Writing well takes a lot of work, often years to hone. It’s the first hat you wear. It also means finding books and stories you love and learning from them. For some people, it also means going to school and studying the subject. For me, it’s also meant being brave — of being honest enough to tell the truths of my life, small moments that speak volumes. These include doubts, desires, dire realizations as well as the hopes, humor, and the absurdity I see around me.

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