Tuesday, August 27

Writing Advice From Joyce Carol Oats & Stephen King

Writing Advice From Joyce Carol Oats & Stephen King

I love reading writing advice from authors I admire, authors like Joyce Carol Oates, professionals who have been writing for years and who kindly share their hard won wisdom with the rest of us.

For those of you who are a bit foggy on who Joyce Carol Oates is, here is a brief bio courtesy of Wikipedia:
Joyce Carol Oates (born June 16, 1938) is an American author. Oates published her first book in 1963 and has since published over forty novels, as well as a number of plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. She has won many awards for her writing, including the National Book Award, for her novel them (1969), two O. Henry Awards, and the National Humanities Medal. Her novels Black Water (1992), What I Lived For (1994), and Blonde (2000) were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
The following quotations are from: 10 Tips on Writing from Joyce Carol Oates. Ms. Oates recently tweeted the following writing advice.
"The first sentence can be written only after the last sentence has been written. FIRST DRAFTS ARE HELL. FINAL DRAFTS, PARADISE."
What do you think? Personally I love writing first drafts--well, most of the time--what I loathe with a fiery passion is revising. But I do revise. For me, that's the work part.
"When in doubt how to end a chapter, bring in a man with a gun. (This is Raymond Chandler’s advice, not mine. I would not try this.)"
"Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!"
I would add: But never on the first draft! I think of my first drafts as zero drafts where anything goes.

I can't resist sneaking in a quote from another of my literary heroes, Stephen King:
"Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as ‘good’ and other sorts as ‘bad,’ is fearful behavior. (On Writing)"
The above quotation was taken from The Adverb Is Not Your Friend: Stephen King on Simplicity of Style. A great article. If you are a new writer and haven't read Stephen King's On Writing you're missing out.

These quotations come from Brain Pickings, a gruesome name but a terrific blog. 

Good writing!

Photo credit: "Dream" by seyed mostafa zamani under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. Oh, I danced with joy when I read Joyce Carol Oates' words! For me, first drafts are indeed a bit of a hell, and each subsequent draft is like a new level towards paradise. (I haven't reached my final draft yet, so I can't say for sure what paradise will feel like, but the levels along the way are sure fun!)

    Loved this post!

    1. Thanks Swati!

      The beauty of writing is that there are a multitude of ways to approach it, yet no one way is correct. Each writer has to, through trial and error, figure out what works for him or her.

      All the best as you work toward your final draft! :-)


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