By Ashley Lister
Hemingway is reported to have said, “Writing is easy. All you do is sit down in front of a typewriter and bleed.” It’s because of this quote that I’ve called my current project ‘The Bleeding Keyboard’.
As some of you already know: I lecture in creative writing. One of the things I want to give to my students is the full experience of hearing from a range of writers. I believe I can impart a substantial amount of wisdom, but I also know that I’m limited to the writing experience of one person. If I can expose my students to the voices of other writers, they might find familiarity, comfort or confirmation from a voice or style that I was unable to convey.
Which is why I’m currently interviewing a range of writers, from a wide selection of genres, to get their views on certain aspects of fiction – an action which follows on from Tim Smith’s excellent piece last month.
If there are any writers reading this, and you wouldn’t mind chatting with me for half an hour, then please get in touch and we’ll organise an interview. I’m asking a range of questions but one that I think is important to ask of every writer is the following:
What piece of writing advice would you give to anyone just starting out?
I’m looking forward to hearing the answers on this one. I’ve already spoken with writers who advocate perseverance and self-belief, but I’ve also spoken with those who insist a sound knowledge of story, genre and the craft of writing are essential. Admittedly, there was Dorothy Parker’s advice whish said, “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favour you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
My own response to this would be similar to the idea of self-belief, but I think it needs to be shaped into something more specific. It’s not enough to believe in ourselves as writers: we also need to have a firm conviction that the story we’re telling is worthy of being told. Don’t waste time writing fiction that doesn’t excite or interest you. Write stories that inspire, arouse or thrill. Write stories you’re proud to have associated with your name.
But that’s just my response to this question. Asking all the writers who read this blog post, I’d love to know: what piece of writing advice would you give to anyone just starting out?
Answers in the comments box below, please.