“I hate writing. I love having written.” – Dorothy Parker
In a very good and very readable recent essay – titled “Ruin Your Life” – James Altucher chronicles his journey as a writer. His advice to wannabe writers: “There are no tips other than to write write write. And read read read.” Then, in typical Altucher fashion, he proceeds to provide 21 very specific tips. You can read the entire essay here.
Meanwhile, here are some of those tips…
Writing Tips From James Altucher
* Read “Old Man and the Sea” – Read it once a year. Read how he strips out every word. It’s the most boring story in the world. It’s written at a fourth-grade level. But every time I read it I become (I think, I hope) a better writer.
* Read “Factotum” by Charles Bukowski (the art of the short chapter. The art of the memoir novel. The art of being bad but being lovable. The art of being depressed and scared and hopeless but sharing it).
* Read “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey (the sentences!) and “Spectacle” by Susan Steinberg (you will be one writer before you read it and a different one after you read it). And, most importantly, I’ve read “Jesus’ Son” by Denis Johnson at least 300 times and I will read it 300 more times.
* No matter what you write in the first draft, cut out 30% by the final draft.
* No matter what you write, before you are done, take out the first and last paragraph. Even if you know this rule, it still works.
* Avoid adjectives and adverbs. The story should reveal how quick he ran. Not the word “quick.”
* Try for a cliffhanger every paragraph. Fiction or nonfiction.
* Bleed in the first line, even if you have to start in the middle of a story.
* Idea Sex: Take one idea, combine it with another idea. BOOM! Thrillers + Legal = John Grisham selling 200 million books.
* Write down ten ideas a day. Get the juices flowing.
* Write Read Steal Repeat. Steven Pressfield stole “The Bhagavad Gita” and put the exact structure in a novel about golf in the 1930s. “The Legend of Bagger Vance” is now a modern classic.
* Process is all that matters. Outcomes will take care of themselves.