For this weekend’s selections, Storyboard recommends reading about writing; we’re highlighting some recent articles that feature advice from authors whose worlds range from horror to science to journalism.
Harvard cognitive scientist, psychologist and dictionary boss Steven Pinker — he’s the chairman of the usage panel of the American Heritage dictionary — has a new book out about writing, “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century,” and he seems to be talking and writing about it everywhere. You can check out these pieces in The Wall Street Journal and Scientific American. We like this Q-and-A with the New Republic. In it, he describes his theory of the “classic style” of writing, telling interviewer Jesse Singal:
“Classic style makes writing, which is necessarily artificial, as artificially natural as possible, if you’d pardon the oxymoron. That is, you’re not physically with someone when you write. You’re not literally having a conversation with them, but classic style simulates those experiences and so it takes an inherently artificial situation, namely writing, and it simulates a more natural interaction, the more natural interaction being (a) conversation (b) seeing the world.”
On The Atlantic website, contributor Jessica Lahey interviewed author Stephen King about how he teaches writing. Sentence diagramming? Yes. Essay assignments? No. The Oxford comma? It depends. Plus, this piece of advice that’s useful for anyone who wants to improve their work:
“You need to take out the stuff that’s just sitting there and doing nothing. No slackers allowed! All meat, no filler!”
“Thou shalt not bore.
Do not start stories with the time, season, or weather conditions.
Do not start with “It was” or “It’s” or “When.”
Do not ever use time sub heads (12:15) to break up a feature story. Write in scenes.
Get an imagination. If it’s been done before, find a different way to do it. If it’s been said before, find a different way to say it.”
Other personal favorites include Nos. 19, 22 and 40.
Happy reading — and writing.