Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bruce Coville's 7 Sins for Writers

Bruce Coville, author of The Unicorn Chronicles and many other fabulous books, set down the 7 sins that plague writers during a speech at the SCBWI of Western Pennsylvania's Annual Fall Conference on November 7, 2009.

(And no, fellow journalism majors, I do not mean that the writers were being plagued DURING the conference. Oh, the delight of somewhat-misplaced modifiers and the art of plugging too much information into one sentence.)

7 Sins for Writers:

1. Dullness. Start at the latest possible moment in your story.

2. Repetition. A theme will naturally appear over and over in your work, but do not repeat yourself, and certainly do not repeat other writers' stories.

3. Cliche. "The thing is, they're just easy as pie to do."

4. Sloth. Not working at your best.

5. Inattention. Not thinking the story through.

6. Perfectionism. This is the worst enemy to the writer--the enemy of completion, of getting that first draft done.

7. Clumsiness (lack of craft). Spelling and punctuation do count at the final stages. If you want to be an artist, "master your craft."

7 Necessities for Writers:

1. Passion. "Great stories come from passion."

2. Sensuousness (but without temperance). Loving the description of the physical world.

3. Wisdom. The hard part is that wisdom is what our readers come to us for, "and we are, at best, [broken] vessels."

4. Guile. Do not fear the "ugly baby" slips, or rejection letters. Ugly baby slips sound like this: "Sir, we've looked at pictures of your baby, and MAN you have an ugly baby!" Actually, though, no rejection would ever be as bad as a publisher driving to your door and slapping you on the face.

"I went to school with writers who were better than me but they'll never be published because they wrote a story and put it in a drawer."

5. Humor. There is a humorlessness of the politically correct and the intellectually impaired. "Laughter may well be the highest point of worship."

6. Courage.

7. Joy. "To act from joy takes more courage than to act from fear."

Further reading: