Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sage Writing Advice from C.S.Lewis

photo credit, marbledmusings.com

In a 1956 letter to a young fan, C.S. Lewis bestowed some advice to the elementary student about writing. And over fifty years later, his common sense approach to the craft is still inspiring.

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

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Cheers!

6 comments:

Laila N Mysis said...

I like :) Although sometimes I really do like keeping things ambiguous - I donno, personal pleasure - I'd understand when it comes to just telling a story straight out. Makes sense. And I adore C.S. Lewis ♥

Thanks for sharing ^^

Jeff Hargett said...

Such wonderful advice from such a wonderful storyteller.

Linda Jackson said...

Great advice. Thanks.

Diane Fordham said...

Hi Bethany - I really enjoyed this post, thank you. I look forward to following your blog :-)

Bethany Myers said...

Thanks, Diane and Linda. Good luck with your writing.

Jennee Thompson said...

wise words indeed! listening and following them is another trick itself!

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