Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

A Miscellany of Writerly Advice

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A Miscellany of Writerly Advice

Recently, while submerged in what could be described as a web-browsing coma, I stumbled across a goldmine of writerly advice in the form of lists on The Guardian's website, with tips from writers such as Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Richard Ford, Hilary Mantel, and Zadie Smith, to name just a few. (You can find the collection HERE.)

Two of my favourite pieces of advice are Roddy Doyle's belief that "good ideas are often murdered by better ones," and Anne Enright's helpful reminder that "only bad writers think their work is really good."

No two writers' lists could ever be the same, though there are bound to be some overlapping themes and notions. Below, I offer my own humble contribution, based on my obsessive and sometimes troubled relationship with the writing life.

*Disclaimer* -- These kinds of lists are subject to change. Ask me for a list tomorrow, and you'll get ten completely different answers.

And now, to the list.

1. Try to see art in everything.

2. Poverty and Misery are a writer's two natural states, and Isolation is a writer's natural habitat. Accept these things, or do something else.

3. Leisure is a writer's second most important job.

4. When in doubt, throw in a sex scene.

5. The best response you can get from a reader is criticism. The second and third best responses are laughter and discomfort.

6. There are three cures for writer's block: walking, reading, and drinking.

7. Realism isn't everything, even in so-called realist fiction. Most people read to escape real life, and there's nothing more engaging than what is strange or unexpected.

8. Life is too short to bother reading books you don't enjoy.

9. Be prepared to lose friends and alienate people. That is simply what happens when you observe widely, think deeply, and attempt to put the truth down on paper.

10. Try not to worry too much about your mental health. Almost every writer I know is a little bit insane.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Stacey Madden

Stacey Madden holds a BA from the University of Toronto and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. He lives in Toronto. Poison Shy (ECW Press) is his first novel.

Go to Stacey Madden’s Author Page