bruce coville & neil gaiman on writing.

| Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Today's Tune: Movies

We all have our particular writing heroes. When those heroes give out free writing advice, we tend to listen.

One of my favorite pieces of advice came from Bruce Coville, author of Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, My Teacher is an Alien, and dozens and dozens of short stories I adored as a preteen. A while back, I came upon this blog post in which someone from Upstart Crow Literary got some advice from Bruce Coville.

This bit of advice was something even Bruce himself had found elsewhere, but it resonated with me a great deal. It's called "The Rule of Twenty." The basic concept is that it's only when we reach the twentieth idea that we're reaching truly original territory. When we're thinking up character names, or plotting, or trying to plan twists, our brains will naturally go to the easy and familiar. This is the stuff that's been done a million times, that's cliched and boring. We have to reach past the first five or ten ideas into the deeper stuff; the stuff that the audience won't see coming. I love that.

Another writer who I feel gives amazing advice is Neil Gaiman. He's just... something else, man. From where writers get their ideas to how to write a book, he's got a quippy-yet-poignant answer for anything.

One of my favorites from him: "Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong." 

What's your favorite-ever piece of writing advice? Who gave it to you?


{ Matthew MacNish } at: April 13, 2011 at 6:56 AM said...

Oh man, I don't know. These are both great tidbits, but the only thing I can think of is when I heard an author whose name I can't even remember being interviewed on NPR. She was asked what her advice would be to someone who wanted to write.

She said "just write." And I did, I started up again not long after that.

{ Margo Lerwill } at: April 13, 2011 at 8:32 AM said...

I agree 110% with Bruce's advice. And Gaiman... He's Gaiman. I get giddy at the sight of his name. I wish I were joking.

The best advice I got for my writing was actually two pieces of advice, both from writer/agent Donald Maass. 1) The protagonist MUST be proactive, not reactive, and 2) no, your characters can't have happy downtime in the story, ever.

{ Andrew Leon } at: April 13, 2011 at 12:33 PM said...

Gaiman is the master; no one can argue with that. I can't wait to see his Who episodes. And I just read that same bit of advice from someone else said in a slightly different way.

{ Shelby } at: April 14, 2011 at 1:25 AM said...

I've heard this from multiple people but have only recently come to appreciate how true it is--"In your first draft, you're telling yourself the story. In subsequent drafts, you're telling the story to everyone else. Don't confuse the two."

{ Andrew Leon } at: April 14, 2011 at 1:21 PM said...

I'm throwing a blogger award at you. :P Yeah, yeah, I know...
Oh, and I can't make the meeting on Saturday. We're going to be doing the last of the cleaning out of my mother-in-law's house.

{ aliya seen } at: July 18, 2016 at 1:47 PM said...

Performing a correct my sentences is imperative for making sure that a sentence reads well and that the reader forms a good impression of the writer.

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