Some New Trend


List Wednesdays :: Writing Advice From Flannery by Kevin Wilder

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Today’s list comes from none other than our good friend Flannery O’Connor. In case she needs any introduction, O’Connor is a profoundly important Southern writer whose life ended too soon after a painful battle with lupus. Lucky for us, she left behind two supreme novels and a mass of short stories—exhibiting matters of morality and faith, of darkness and light. She makes us laugh while compelling us to think. We love her the way a girl from Milledgeville, Georgia loves her peafowl.

Here are 5 of Flannery’s writing tips, taken* from her collected letters, The Habit of Being:

  • “Try arranging (your novel) backwards and see what you see. I thought this stunt up from my art classes, where we always turn the picture upside down, on its two sides, to see what lines need to be added. A lot of excess stuff will drop off this way.”
  • “I suppose I am not very severe criticizing other people’s manuscripts for several reasons, but first being that I don’t concern myself overly with meaning. This may be odd as I certainly believe a story has to have meaning, but the meaning in a story can’t be paraphrased and if it’s there it’s there, almost more as a physical than an intellectual fact.”
  • “I’m a full-time believer in writing habits… You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away… Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.”
  • “That is interesting about your reading some Shakespeare to limber up your language before you start… I think that anything that makes you overly conscious of the language is bad for the story usually.”
  • “I know that the writer does call up the general and maybe the essential through the particular, but this general and essential is still deeply embedded in mystery. It is not answerable to any of our formulas.”

*Note: We owe a great deal to Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project (and author of Forty Ways to Look at JFK) who discovered and compiled these tips.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

So, once we reach the end of Some New Trend, we should arrange it backward, rewrite, edit, and reblog?

Comment by Carrie

Hmm. We might have to hire a ghostwriter in my place. A good man is hard to find.

Comment by Kevin Wilder




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