Friday, May 25, 2007

Q & A on Writing. Writers on Writing (1)

Question: What can you learn from writers about writing?


What causes writer's block? William Maxwell: "I don't think writer's block is anything more than a loss of confidence." Plimpton, ed., The Writer's Chapbook.

How much time does it take to write a book? "The writing of this book has consumed much of the last ten years...." Blum, V Was for Victory.

How prepare to write? "His [Loren Eiseley's] outlines usually consisted of nothing more than a short list of words jotted in the left-hand margin, a habit acquired during his student days when timed examinations dictated an economy of style." Christianson. Fox at the Wood's Edge: Loren Eiseley.

How do professional writers write? "...[sometimes] you ask an author how his new book is coming along, and he tells you: 'It's finished--all I have to do now is write it.' " Gross, ed., Editors on Editing.

What are some problems in writing clearly? "Clutter is the disease of American writing...a society strangling on unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon." Zinsser, On Writing Well.

What is the biggest problem with business writing? "Our national tendency is to inflate and thereby sound important." Zinsser, On Writing Well."

What is the most wishy-washy sentence of the decade? Elliot Richardson: " 'And yet, on balance, affirmative action has, I think, been a qualified success.' ...a thirteen-word sentence with five hedging words.... Give it first prize as the most wishy-washy sentence of the decade." Zinsser, On Writing Well.

How can you learn to write? "The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis." Zinsser, On Writing Well.

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