Friday, March 11, 2011

Writing Advice from Norman Mailer

Famously Norman Mailer spent his life attempting to the write the great American novel. In truth, he came closer than most, publishing over 30 books and winning the Pulitzer prize twice. Here are some writing tips from him.
"Most young writers say the same things different ways. You have to choose the best."

Make a firm commitment to your work: "Over the years, I've found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write." (Mailer writing in The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing, Random House, 2003)

Treat facts like an art form: "For me there is very little difference between fiction and non-fiction. I can't bear non-fiction unless it reads like fiction. By which I mean there's a sense of presence, you create a atmosphere, the people are as real in their characters as they are novels…and the story is given to you, which is one of the great benefit of non fiction." (Speaking to Charlie Rose, 2007)

Be controversial: "Look, most writers who are timid are afraid of pissing people off, because they feel they'll lose part of their audience. My feeling has always been that one mustn't be afraid of that. It's much better to write with the notion that if you're good enough, you can change people's lives. That's one of the powerful motives of writing, to feel that you've enlarged other people's consciousness. And the way you do that is you open their minds. Now that can be painful and irritating and annoying or worse for people, but you can't look back." (From Entertainment Weekly, promoting The Castle in the Forest in 2007)

Don't be confined by one particular style: "One of my basic notions for a long, long time is that there is this mysterious mountain out there called reality. We novelists are always trying to climb it. We are mountaineers, and the question is, Which face do you attack? Different  faces call for different approaches, and some demand a knotty and convoluted  interior style. Others demand great simplicity. The point is that style is an attack on the nature of reality. " (From an interview with  Andrew O'Hagan in The Paris Review, 2007)
Know when your work is done: "When I read it, I don't wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write." (Mailer reflecting on Tough Guys Don't Dance in the New York Times in 1984)

More tips here

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