Show No Mercy

Author:
Publish date:

Robert's Rules of Writing

Writers don't write, I was repeatedly told at my first magazine job in New York, they rewrite.

Every time I heard it I wanted to weep.

And I didn't believe it. Every time I did have to rewrite something, I took it as a sign that I wasn't really very good at this, and that I should start looking for a more suitable line of work at my earliest opportunity.

Truth be told, I still think that what flows from my keyboard should be so pristine that it allows for no further improvement. To this day I can't understand why it's not…but at least, in a small sign of progress, I do understand that it's not.

Writing is a process—of discovery, of refinement, of invention.

The notion that you can just bang it out in immaculate condition is worse than arrogant, it's positively self-destructive. First of all, you'll give yourself a complex thinking that all the other writers out there are turning out perfect prose while you're not. And second, you'll fail to do what needs to be done to make your work as good as it could, and should, be.

William Faulkner, in an oft-quoted remark, said, "You've got to kill all your darlings," and while I think that may be a bit of an overstatement—surely some of your darlings can be spared—I take his general point. You have to be ruthless in the service of the work. Many times the very thing that sparked your imagination, that got you writing this particular piece in the first place, will turn out to be, by the time you're done, irrelevant of beside the point. There's even a chance that it will have been superseded by something better, more apposite, which only occurred to you while writing. Most good things occur to you not while you're thinking about writing but while you're actually doing it. This is something that legions of would-be writers never grasp; they claim that they've composed entire stories, novels, and clever essays but that so far, tapping their foreheads with one finger, the pages are all still "up here." It's just a matter of finding the time, they say, to put everything down on paper. (Only they never get around to doing it, do they?)

Great writing is seldom written; it's rewritten, and yes, the ink is usually diluted with blood, sweat, tears, and way too much Diet Coke.

writing_mistakes_writers_make_relying_on_perfect_conditions_to_write_cassandra_lipp

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Relying on Perfect Conditions to Write

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is relying on perfect conditions to write.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Contest Deadline Announcement and a Flash Fiction Challenge

This week, we’re excited to announce the deadline for our Self-Published Book Awards, the guidelines for the upcoming Flash Fiction Challenge, and more!

for_the_travel_and_nature_writer_keeping_your_mimnd_sharp_and_your_words_insightful_caitlin_oconnell

For the Travel and Nature Writer: Keeping Your Mind Sharp and Words Insightful

Dr. Caitlin O'Connell shares some insight for travel and nature writers, including how travel helps keep your mind sharp and words insightful, whether you're writing fiction, nonfiction, sports, politics, or something else entirely.

Grushin_1:23

Olga Grushin: The No Man's Land Between Genres

Award-winning author Olga Grushin discusses what it meant to wade into a new genre and how she put her spin on the fairy tale retelling.

Poetic Forms

Rannaigecht Mor Gairit: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the rannaigecht mor gairit, a variant form of the rannaigecht.

Weinstein_1:21

The Writer, The Inner Critic, & The Slacker

Author and writing professor Alexander Weinstein explains the three parts of a writer's psyche, how they can work against the writer, and how to utilize them for success.

Stottlemyre_1:21

Todd Stottlemyre: On Mixing and Bending Genres

Author Todd Stottlemyre explains how he combined fiction and nonfiction in his latest book and what it meant as a writer to share his personal experiences.

plot_twist_story_prompts_take_a_trip_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Take a Trip

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character take a trip somewhere.

Probst_1:20

Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction

In this article, author Jennifer Probst explains the differences between romance and women's fiction, the importance of both, and how you can make the genre switch.