Last weekend I caught a program on Book TV that got me excited about writing.
Yep. That's the word that describes how I felt watching Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd talk about their new book: Good Prose: the Art of Nonfiction - Stories and Advice from a Lifetime of Writing and Editing.
I'm always looking for new ways to think about writing, and what could be better than to listen to advice from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder and former executive editor of The Atlantic Richard Todd.
Although it was late at night and I was sleepy, I pulled out my handy-dandy black-and-white 2013 writing notebook and started writing. Here are some notes I jotted down:
Three forms of nonfiction:
- Factual narrative
- Imagine the reader is intelligent and has knowledge not available to you.
- "There's a lot to be said for the quiet beginning." (e.g. "Call me Ishmael.")
- Invite the reader into a conversation
- Don't tell it all at once
- Trust yourself as a writer
- Trust the reader
- Broader way of thinking
- Reveal the dramatic truth
Narrative of revelation:
- Problem unfolds
- Something is important or at stake
- Someone is learning something that transforms
- Most important conflict comes from within the character
- Without revelation, leaves one asking: "Is that all?"
Finding the story:
- Have an idea
- Let it blossom
- "Luck of the conception"
- "Grace descending"
- Chance encounter
- A story is not a subject
- Begins with character
Forget the cocktail party rule for summarizing your story: "It isn't always a bad sign when a potential story does not talk well."
Writing (after research):
- Don't commit too soon
- Seek to understand
- Don't delay too long
- Find a method that works
- Write in blocks to find connections
- Make mistakes early
- Fall out of love with your words
- Let go of words that don't fit
- Leave something unsaid
- Help the reader to think
- Don't make it harder than necessary
- Read out loud
- Something that is good must go for the good of the whole
- Learn in revising
"A writer cannot hide from the sound of his voice."
"The best thing an editor can do is to help a writer to think."
That sums up most of what I wrote down.
Yesterday I visited our local library to check out Good Prose until I buy my own copy. Alas, the copy at the branch I visited had already been checked out. Until my copy arrives, I'll rely on my notes.
So, any comments on Good Prose?