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Kurt Vonnegut's Advice for Writers


Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules for writing with style / Boing Boing

I thought there was some really great advice in there. It's not just over simplified, grossly generalized "rules". (Only the article title says "rules" because clickbait.) He gives some really good, logical reasons for what he says and I think almost everyone could get something out of it.

This was my favorite part:

Readers have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don’t really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school – twelve long years.

So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify, whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.

That is the bad news. The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.
Ken Follet said somewhere (paraphrasing) - if the reader has to read a sentence twice, you're doing something wrong.

I can't speak for all readers ... but I thought it was an interesting way to approach writing. Lately (after a quick edit) I have been giving my writing to one of my sisters. If there's something that doesn't make sense to her then I KNOW there's an issue. (Another round of edits or two, then post for critiques).

I like the advice "Sound like Yourself". Many of these kinds of advice articles / excerpts are too broad and say things like "don't use words your reader won't know". And we (writers) thinking ourselves to be so much more clever and well read than our readers, decide to simplify and dumb ourselves down "for them". (more so in other genres) Sound like Yourself - as a "rule" hits the nail on the head. It's not confusing when people use "big" words (pragmatic, fortuitous, emphatically, etc.) but when writers use them incorrectly or try to force poetry into the text. As long as you sound like yourself - that isn't an issue.

Great advice. Not too vague and delivered succinctly.

Thanks for sharing it :)