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Martin Amis’s advice to Writers

Mark Medley interviews Martin Amis in the National Post. Here’s the advice:

  • Write in long-hand: when you scratch out a word, it still exists there on the page. On the computer, when you delete a word it disappears forever. This is important because usually your first instinct is the right one.
  • Minimum number of words to write every day: no “quota”: Sometimes it will be no words. Sometimes it will be 1500.
  • Use any anxiety you have about your writing — or your life — as fuel: “Ambition and anxiety: that’s the writer’s life
  • Never say ‘sci-fi.’ You’ll enrage purists. Call it SF.
  • Don’t dumb down: always write for your top five percent of readers.
  • Never pun your title,  simpler is usually better: “Lolita turns out to be a great title; couldn’t be simpler.
  • At Manchester (University, where he teaches creative writing) my rule is I don’t look at their work. We read great books, and we talk about them … We look at Conrad, Dostoyevsky.
  • When is an idea is worth pursuing in novel-form? “It’s got to give you a kind of glimmer,
  • Watch out for words that repeat too often.
  • Don’t start a paragraph with the same word as previous one. That goes doubly for sentences.
  • Stay in the tense.
  •  Inspect your ‘hads’ and see if you really need them.
  • Never use ‘amongst.’ ‘Among.’ Never use ‘whilst.’ Anyone who uses ‘whilst’ is subliterate.
  • Try not to write sentences that absolutely anyone could write.
  • You write the book you want to read. That’s my rule.
  • You have to have a huge appetite for solitude.


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