The blogger on writing...


No, nobody asked me to share my thoughts on writing, but I'm about to do it anyway. If you've been following this blog, there might be some interest in it for you. If not, there are plenty of posts here on other subjects for you to read.

I started late as a writer. I was pushing seventy by the time my first novel was published. I had been working for fifty years as a sculptor and painter. I thought I'd done my best work as a visual artist, and wanted to spend my last chapter doing something I could get better at.

I chose writing fiction because I wanted to tell the truth and there are things you can get away with telling in a story that would get you run out of town or shot at if you put them in a newspaper or a sermon.

I've never been inclined to let plot get in the way of a good story. Stephen King holds that plot is the last resort of a bad writer and I tend to agree with him. People don't read a novel for the plot, anyway, in spite of what publishers tell you. Readers read a story like they listen to a song, for the music. Read your stuff aloud before you show it to anybody. If the words don't flow like a mountain creek, you haven't got it right yet.

Outlines are alright for research papers and articles on economics and politics, but have no place in fiction. You want your story to breathe. How many of you have lived your life according to an outline? Stuff happens and you deal with it. If you survive enough stuff, you have a story.

I never know how a story is going to end when I start writing it. Sometimes I don't know until the last page. If it surprises me, it will surprise the reader. Once the surprise wears off, they stop reading. A writer wants to delay that moment, if possible, to the end of the tale.

You should learn the basic rules of writing right at the start, so you can break them all on purpose. There is an advantage to beginning late as a writer, as I did. By then, you've out-lasted enough mistakes so you're not afraid to make a few more. A glorious mistake beats a boring success any day.

Henry's books.

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