Reflect on Writing: Ann Patchett’s 10 Tips for Writing

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This past Saturday I took this shot because there wasn’t any sun. There’s something soothing and  yet imposing about reflections.

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When I got home from school today too tired from the excessive heat in our non-air-conditioned school, I couldn’t bring myself to write. Below are great tips from Ann Patchett’s new book:

1) “People like to ask me if writing can be taught, and I say yes. I can teach you how to write a better sentence, how to write dialogue, maybe even how to construct a plot. But I can’t teach you how to have something to say.”

2) “Ideas are everywhere. Lift up a big rock and look under it, stare into a window of a house you drive past and dream about what’s going on inside. Read the newspaper, ask your father about his sister, think of something that happened to you or someone you know and then think about it turning out an entirely different way.”

3) “If you want to write and can’t figure out how to do it, try this: Pick an amount of time to sit at your desk every day. Start with twenty minutes, say, and work up as quickly as possible to as much time as you can spare. Do you really want to write? Sit for two hours a day.”

4) “Based on my own experience, I believe the brain is as soft and malleable as bread dough when we’re young. I am grateful for every class trip to the symphony I went on and curse any night I was allowed to watch The Brady Bunch, because all of it stuck….Think about this before you let your child have a Game Boy.”

5) “If you want to study the master of the well-constructed chapter—and plot and flat-out gorgeous writing—read Raymond Chandler. The Long Goodbye is my favorite.”

6) “Many writers feel that plot is passé; they’re so over plot—who needs plot?—to which I say, learn how to construct one first and then feel free to reject it.”

7) “Even if you’re writing a book that jumps around in time, has ten points of view, and is chest-deep in flashbacks, do your best to write it in the order in which it will be read, because it will make the writing, and the later editing, incalculably easier.”

8) “One method of revision that I find both loathsome and indispensable is reading my work aloud when I’m finished. There are things I can hear—the repetition of words, a particularly flat sentence—that I don’t otherwise catch.”

9) “I got better at closing the gap between my hand and my head by clocking in the hours, stacking up the pages. Somewhere in all my years of practice—I don’t know where exactly—I arrived at the art.”

10) “No one should go into debt to study creative writing. It’s simply not worth it. Do not think of it as an investment in yourself that you’ll be able to recoup later on. This is not medical school.”

©Teresita Abad Doebley All rights reserved 2009-2011.


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