Friday, July 3, 2015

Advice on the Art of Writing

Roberto Bolaño offers "12 Tips on the Art of Writing Short Stories," but good writing is just good writing.

Let's take a look at his advice:

(1) Never approach short stories one at a time. If one approaches short stories one at a time, one can quite honestly be writing the same short story until the day one dies.
          This works just as well for college essays. If you write the same essay over and over again, you will get bored and never grow as a thinker (or writer).

(2) It is best to write short stories three or five at a time. If one has the energy, write them nine or fifteen at a time.
          Maybe you won't sit down and write three or five essays at a time, but do write when you feel ENERGIZED, don't write that essay at 3:00 a.m.

(4) One must read Horacio Quiroga, Felisberto Hernández, and Jorge Luis Borges. One must read Juan Rulfo and Augusto Monterroso. Any short-story writer who has some appreciation for these authors will never read Camilo José Cela or Francisco Umbral yet will, indeed, read Julio Cortázar and Adolfo Bioy Casares, but in no way Cela or Umbral.
          Does this really need interpretation? READ, READ, READ

(5) I’ll repeat this once more in case it’s still not clear: don’t consider Cela or Umbral, whatsoever.
          Academic essay readers get the writer/professor Judith Butler.

(6) A short-story writer should be brave. It’s a sad fact to acknowledge, but that’s the way it is.
          An academic writer should be brave. Take chances, especially if you're allowed rewrites.

(9) The honest truth is that with Edgar Allan Poe, we would all have more than enough good material to read.
          Go read some Poe. His short stories are compelling and desperate. Think of your essays in the same way - make your professors desperately want to read ALL of your essay.

(10) Give thought to point number 9. Think and reflect on it. You still have time. Think about number 9. To the extent possible, do so on bended knees.
          “The best things in life make you sweaty" . . . Edgar Allan Poe - writing should make you sweaty.

(12) Read these books and also read Anton Chekhov and Raymond Carver, for one of the two of them is the best writer of the twentieth century.
          Anton Chekov believes that good stories should "Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." 
          This just as easily applies to essays, if you insert some evidence paragraph one, its relevance must be clear by the middle of the essay, otherwise get rid of it.

Think about storytelling. What other techniques can you borrow from a good story and use to write a compelling essay?


  1. A story teller has to grab the listeners attention, when writing a compelling essay the author has to do the same with the reader. The topic has to be something that is good and interesting so that the listener doesn't get bored, same goes for the reader if they get bored or distracted they will stop reading. Telling a good story is the same as writing a good essay, they are just being shared in two different ways, 1. through talking and listening 2. through reading and writing.

  2. This is really interesting, especially the author said don't just keep repeating to writing you essay, otherwise you won't growing as a writer. Another point that I feel like it's very right is the author said writer you essay when it feels you have enough energy, so don't write you essay in the midnight 3am maybe. I strongly agree with this point, I like to write my essay in midnight. That is why I always can not write a good essay. This makes me don't want to work on my essay in midnight anymore. I will write my essay in the morning or after school when I get home. But not midnight anymore.

  3. I agree with a lot of things said here like don't write your paper in the middle of the night. I do that sometimes and end up with a paper that doesn't make sense. It's told that we should write short stories more than five times at-least and that makes sense. To become a good writer, that could be a great strategy because writing the same story several times, enhances our critical thinking capability.
    Being a skilled writer is a great thing because not only it helps you write good papers in college, but also helps us throughout our lives like writing resume, etc.

  4. For story telling it is necessary to make it interesting. A good technique that writers should utilize are attention grabbers to hook on the readers. Story telling doesn’t differ much from essays because they both need to be thought provoking to make the readers want to read further. Essays usually contain factual information and are written to persuade, inform or entertain, while stories on the other hand are narratives. Narratives are more appealing to read because they contain details and visual imagery of the scenes. Essays typically have a particular format that one must follow which makes it difficult to appeal to the audience. So while writing an essay a key factor is to make sure you voice your opinion in a manner that make the audience desperate to read your paper.

  5. "A writer's work is never finished." With this quote in mind, I find many of the points the author makes in this article very valid. I strongly believe that an important aspect of solid writing is the ability to hook and maintain the reader's attention from start to finish. Another good way to improve one's writing is to have others proof-read it for valuable criticism and comments. Often times, one may find themselves writing in their own style, which may not be the best way to write depending on the type of paper (e.g. newspaper article, book review, film analysis, etc.). It is ultimately crucial to be skilled at writing so that one many be able to express not only one's ideas but more importantly one's self with clarity and efficiency.