Advice from Kurt Vonnegut

8 years ago | S. D. Youngren (Member)

Wondering what everyone will make of this--Kurt Vonnegut's advice on writing. This is officially for short stories, but most of it of course works as well for novels. It is NOT genre-specific (no big surprise, considering how he felt about being labeled "science fiction").

Plus it's a nice video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyQ1wEBx1V0

--Shelley

Rowena's Page: http://sdy.org/rowena/ — "This is my life, Mom. Not a Jane Austen novel."

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Responses

  1. noodles (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    That's a nifty vid, and some great advice. I especially like #5 (start as close to the end as possible), and already adhere to it, since I hate writing long opening set-ups. I want to get into the heat of things right off the bat (both as a reader and a writer).

  2. Robert Rodgers (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Strangely, this video leaves out the final piece of advice, which was always my favorite. Something to the effect of 'All of these rules--with the exception of the first--can, will, and should be broken by brilliant writers.'

  3. S. D. Youngren (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    noodles wrote: I especially like #5 (start as close to the end as possible)`
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    That's the one I would point to as being more obviously true for short stories than for novels. The other thing I would say is that you do need sufficient setup first--throw me right into an "exciting bit" when I don't know the characters well enough to care what happens to them and, well . . . I won't care what happens to them. I would say that "as close as possible" takes this into account.

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    Robert Rodgers wrote: Strangely, this video leaves out the final piece of advice, which was always my favorite. Something to the effect of 'All of these rules--with the exception of the first--can, will, and should be broken by brilliant writers.'
    ___

    Although this is really a very nice video graphically, it probably was put together to serve as advice. Truly brilliant writers do not need much advice; they already know the rules and have a good idea of when and why and how to break them. Picasso learned how to draw conventionally before he started breaking rules and developing the style for which he became famous. Same thing with writing; same with any art.

    I admit that there is a problem with some writers struggling to follow slavishly every single bit of advice that comes down the pike, including bits that are diametrically opposed to each other. MY advice would be to take it easy and try not to get too wrapped up in such things. Learn the basic rules at first, try a few things out, get some opinions on your work and not just generalities about writing in general.

    And I'd look askance at any rule that seems too sweeping or absolute. Are short sentences better than long ones? It depends on what the particular sentence has to do.

    The rules in this video--things like making sure your characters have things they want--these are good rules, the kind I like to pass along.

    --Shelley

    Rowena's Page: http://sdy.org/rowena/ — "This is my life, Mom. Not a Jane Austen novel."
  4. Robert Rodgers (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Actually, the bit I like about that last piece of advice is his swiftness to point out that the first rule is the one rule you should *never* break--that a reader should never walk away from your story feeling as if their time has been wasted. It's the most important rule, and there's no valid excuse or reason to break it. Wasting a reader's time is the cardinal sin of all good writing.

  5. S. D. Youngren (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Yes, very true. Though they get away with it all the time in television. :)

    I suspect I'm dating myself, not in making that joke but in making it about television. Never mind; it doesn't matter. Do not waste the reader's time.

    --Shelley

    Rowena's Page: http://sdy.org/rowena/ — "This is my life, Mom. Not a Jane Austen novel."

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