Thursday, January 11, 2018

Writers on writing

I used to write a weekly column. Very early on I learned that people give you much more credit for your supposed knowledge than you deserve. I wrote about rhododendrons once, and had people ringing up for advice on how to look after them. I had no more idea than they did. So it was intriguing to come across the following quote from Kingsley Amis, in which he (rather tongue-in-cheek) discusses his writing techniques. This item first appeared in The Listener UK, though I found it in a Readers Digest April 1990. 

There are one or two little tricks of the trade you learn by writing a lot of novels: how to handle transitions more smoothly, get your characters without fuss from one scene to the next. And you get better at what might be called the tip-of-the-iceberg con. You imply that you know everything about a subject – for example, eisteddfods – just by quoting two or three little bits. The implication being, ‘I could tell you all about it if I had room, but I’m just letting these little bits out. That’s the tip, but there’s a huge iceberg.’ Of course, there really isn’t iceberg. 

This second quote was also in that Reader's Digest. It originally appeared in the Esquire magazine, and it has Columnist Bob Greene discussing his profession:

Bob Greene
I do not lift heavy objects; I do not manufacture things. What I do is to go out and see things and meet people, and then I put it all on paper for strangers. That may not sound like work – sometimes I can’t believe I get a pay cheque for it. I have been writing a column for over 18 years, and I have become virtually incapable of experiencing things and keeping them inside myself. 
I talk to people and notice things, and then I turn those things into a column for the most wonderful gift a storyteller can be given: an audience on the other end. The way I see it, everyone of us in the writing business starts off with precisely the same tools: the 26 letters of the alphabet. All we can do is try to arrange those 26 letters in a different way than anyone else has before. 
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