Seven Useful Tips for Writers

Salman Rushdie

Lesson time 09:04 min

Take away seven practical tips for becoming a stronger writer.

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Topics include: Figure Out if You’re a Minimalist or a Maximalist · Figure Out if You’re a Planner · Write What Feels Deeply Necessary to You · Work Close to the Bull · Commit the Seat of Your Pants to the Chair · Discard What Is Not Working · Writers Are People Who Finish Books


- The only commitment a writer needs is the commitment of the seat of his pants to the seat of his chair. In other words, just sit down and do your work. I one or two writers who write standing up. But actually sitting down is really important. Sit down and don't get up until you've written something. So now that we're coming towards the end of this conversation we've been having, I thought I'd try and sum it up by offering you some of the best bits of advice I can think of giving you. And I think basically I want to offer you seven tips that you might use as you think about your own work. The first thing I would say is that I believe that there are two ways of writing really, really well. One you would call maximalist. And the other you would call minimalist. Minimalism would mean that you have a very tight focus on one beautiful strand of story, like one hair from the goddess of literature. And you turn it in the light. And you see how it catches the light. Very, very simple and pure piece of storytelling. That can be extraordinary. At the other end of the spectrum, the maximalist spirit is one which tries to scoop up enormous armfuls of the world and try and put as much of the world as you can fit in there. Henry James used to call books like that, he used to call them loose, baggy monsters. In my view, they don't have to be loose or baggy. And they're not necessarily monsters. But it gives you a sense of what they're like. They're encyclopedic books, books which try to be everything books. It seems to me that you can either write an everything book, or you can write a very pure simple something book. And the middle ground, to my mind, is less interesting. But you have to find your own ground. I'm just saying, think about those two extremes. Think about, which is your temperament? Is it your temperament to tell a single pure story? Or to go with a wheelbarrow and try and scoop up the whole world and put it in your book? I mean, myself I have been more often on the maximalist than on the minimalist side. But some of the writers I most admire, like, for example, W. G. Sebald, are on the minimalist side. So try and think which side you're on. That's the first tip. The second question you should ask yourself is whether you are better served by planning something out very carefully or by allowing yourself space to improvise. And again, there isn't a right answer. The only right answer is, which is right for you? There are writers who benefit enormously from the comfort of a carefully worked out scheme. And there are writers who benefit from being allowed to kind of wing it, to make it up as they go along. And again, think about which, temperamentally, is closest to your nature. And then try and stick to that path. The third thing I would say is, whatever you write, it should feel deeply necessary to you to write it. I mean, really, don't write it just to make money. Don't write it to be famous. Those are, in my v...

About the Instructor

To the delight of readers across the globe, Salman Rushdie’s genre-defying novels have brought surreal and magical realms to life for decades. Now the Booker Prize–winning author teaches you the art and craft of storytelling. Learn how to draw from your own experiences to build vivid worlds, authentic characters, and complex plots. There are extraordinary stories that only you can write—start sharing them.

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Salman Rushdie

Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie teaches you his techniques for crafting believable characters, vivid worlds, and spellbinding stories.

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