Tag Archive for James Preller advice for writers

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #334: A Desi Girl Writes . . . .

 

Let’s check the mail!

It’s funny, thinking of this now, I remember the later years of my mother when she lived in her last house in Greenport, Long Island. Checking the mail — putting on a light sweater, struggling into a pair of shoes, walking down the driveway to the road and the mail box — that was an adventure right there. Then she’d sit, have a cup of tea, light a cigarette, and think about having a little coffee cake later on. 

Anyway!

Ananya writes . . . 

 

Hi Mr.Preller,

I hope you are well. My name is Ananya ____. You recently visited my school (Jericho Middle School), on March 27th. You mentioned that if I had any questions in the future I could ask you. My questions for you are; What is your favorite genre? What is the best writing tip you ever received?
Thank you,
Ananya

I replied . . .

Ananya!
Hey, I remember you very well. Please send my regards to the Desi Girls!
I was so impressed with your school — the teachers, staff, principal, and students. Everything. I’ve walked into a lot of school buildings in a lot of different states, and I can tell that you’ve got something special going on there in Jericho. Make the most of it.
My favorite genre? I probably go back to realistic fiction most frequently. That’s the baseline, I believe, for all writing. I tend to like (boring) scenes where people sit around the kitchen table and talk. Plot is the tricky part for me, and I have to work to make things happen (which most readers seem to want). That said, I might be different than other authors because I like to bounce around, writing mysteries and “horror” and thrillers and even fantasy. Someday I hope to write a true work of science fiction. I mean to say, I’d like to publish one. I’ve written one, but had no luck selling it. Rats!
As a reader, I’m the same way. I bounce around. After reading a couple of novels, I’ll hunger for nonfiction. Maybe a biography or a book about birds or essays about politics. Then I’ll read about music, or baseball, or whatever random thing catches my eye. Then it’s back to novels. Round and round it goes.
Best advice? Oh, goodness. I really ought to write up a list one of these days. I sort of love Elmore Leonard’s semi-snarky advice, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
And I love Kurt Vonnegut’s line, which I often share on school visits: “No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”
Otherwise, the cliched answers are usually still true. Read often, read widely, read like a writer (meaning: be hyper aware of the writer behind the words). Try to write as often as you can. Keep a journal. Pay attention to the world. Eyes open, mouth closed. Be filled with wonder. And read aloud what you’ve written.
I try not to overwrite, because that’s probably my biggest private demon. We’re mortal enemies! That’ s the ego, when I might try to get fancy and show off how smart I am (not very, honestly). So I try to keep my sentences simple, my thoughts clear. We almost never want a confused reader. Clarity is king.
Thanks for saying hello!
James Preller