Writing tips from C.S. Lewisby Kevin Butler
An e-mail from St. Paul Press pointed to this article by Donald L. Hughes at ChristianWritingToday.com. This goes out to our big Lewis fans. (Hi Jim! Hi Nick!)
In 1959 an American schoolgirl wrote to C.S. Lewis asking him for advice on the craft of writing. He sent her a list of eight rules, and I add my own editorial comments to each of them.
1. Turn off the radio.
Today, writers also need to turn off the TV, the iPod or the music streaming over the Internet. I know that some writers claim that background sounds enhances their creativity, but I don’t believe it for a minute, and apparently Lewis didn’t either. Writing is a solitary activity, where words are formed in a special space of the brain, and anything that competes for that space will result in a decrease in writing quality. Good writers are able to be alone with their thoughts and don’t need filler or distractions.
[I’ll give you the other seven tips below without the commentary. To read Hughes’ insights, click here.)
2. Read good books and avoid most magazines.
3. Write with the ear, not the eye. Make every sentence sound good.
4. Write only about things that interest you. If you have no interests, you won’t ever be a writer.
5. Be clear. Remember that readers can’t know your mind. Don’t forget to tell them exactly what they need to know to understand you.
6. Save odds and ends of writing attempts, because you may be able to use them later.
7. You need a well-trained sense of word-rhythm, and the noise of a typewriter will interfere.
8. Know the meaning of every word you use.
And Hughes concludes:
Writing is a craft. You start as a novice before you become an apprentice and then develop into a master like C.S. Lewis. Since writing is a craft, not a gift, virtually anyone can acquire the skill and become a master over time. Remember, however, that the time must be invested in actually writing (not thinking about writing) and in reading the work of those who have mastered the craft.