Sunday, November 21, 2010

Advice from Ron Carlson

The English department at Brigham Young University does a reading series every Friday and this weekend we were lucky enough to have the one and only Ron Carlson come and read to us. If you don't know who he is, you should. In person he is hilarious, witty, intelligent, and gives wonderful writing advice. I bought a book that he signed and then went to a Q&A where he gave even more wonderful advice. He is such a great talker. I think we were all sitting there with our mouths open trying to make sure we took in everything he was saying. Basically this post is a transcription of my notes. I hope you find it useful.

-Writing is about tolerating being in the dark.
-Pay attention to your life. Don't let yourself get off track and distracted by things like the internet and cell phones.
-Once you know where your story is going, take your time. Slow down.
-Get to the point where you want to leave the room (when you've got everything set up/built up and its time for the payoff) then STAY and SLOW DOWN.
-When you're writing, remember that you're in the room alone. No one else is there. Not your editor, publisher, mother, grandmother, sister, mother-in-law, grocer, dentist, no one. While the piece is in the room don't worry about anyone else's opinion.
-Book/Author recommendations: Cheever, Anne Beady, Graham Greene, Katherine Mansfield, Faulkner, James Joyce, Richard Brodigan, Deliverance by James Dicky.
-Read to write. Airport books won't really help.
-Write from the evidence up. Put the story and the detail down, see where it takes you and then look for meaning.
-Put down at least 600 words of a scene, then you may have something to go on.
-Let your hands guide you. They are often smarter then your head.
-Good writing requires attention.
-If you get what you expect its probably not good enough.
-In the morning reduce the steps between you and the keyboard. Don't let email, facebook, other stuff like that get in the way first.
-Keep your own counsel.
-If you're afraid of doubt your not going to be able to write. Doubt makes what you're certain about more valuable.
-Whenever you're challenging your comfort something good is happening to you.
-Dialogue is a good way to slow down.
-Recognize and avoid "small clue syndrome". Subtlety is overrated.
-Trust the outer story. If the outer story isn't strong enough the inner story won't be either.
-Survive the draft. Be ok in the dark.

There you have it. Take the advice for what its worth. I personally found everything he said to be very beneficial and helpful to me.

Happy writing!
Sarah Allen


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