Crime-novelist Carl Hiaasen

Writers on Writing

The New York Times did a series called “Writers on Writing,” and if you enter those words in Google, the link comes up right away. Here you can learn some things about writing from famous novelists. They’re not interviews, they’re essays by the writers themselves.

What you see are dos-and-don’ts, problems, and how they solved them. Crime-novelist Carl Hiaasen starts out “One time I had to kill this guy. It was in a novel, but that didn’t make it easy.” Elmore Leonard, a master of dialogue, advises not starting with a description of the weather. (But what about: “It was a dark and stormy night.”)

This brings to mind tips and tricks from other writers, who don’t have essays in this series (probably because they’re dead). The French novelist, Balzac, ordered his man-servant to chain him to his writing desk from midnight to dawn and not release him no matter what the excuse. He also drank 50 cups of coffee every day (and night), eventually dying of caffeine poisoning.

Raymond Chandler, master of the hard-boiled detective novel, advised writers that whenever things seemed at an impasse, have a man walk into the room with a gun in his hand.

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