On Writing #2

A new fortnightly newsletter of writerly advice I've come across...

Dear friend

Here is your second instalment of writing advice I’ve found from across the internet.

I read a lot of writers talking about writing and I listen to a lot of podcasts about writing and I thought, why not share the love a little with these short links for you. I hope it’s of interest to you. I plan to keep this newsletter free but will be dropping in links to where you can support me and my work, if any of this resonates. Any links to buy books will be through my affiliate link at bookshop.org. Obviously buy your books wherever is easiest for you or get them from the library, but bookshop.org does give a chunk of every sale to independent bookshops and a small commission to affiliates like me.

1) ‘Notes On NW’ by Zadie Smith

In Zadie Smith’s incredible book of essays, ‘Feel Free’, there is short essay about writing her novel, NW (which is one of my favourite pieces). I will link to where this short essay exists online but I really think you should read her books of essays. As a close reader, and thinker on the possibility of fiction, Zadie Smith writes brilliantly about writing.

In this particular essays she writes: ‘But to me, an exercise in style is not a superficial matter – our lives are also an exercise in style. The hidden content of people's lives proves a very hard thing to discern: all we really have to go on are these outward, manifest signs, the way people speak, move, dress, treat each other. And that's what I try to concern myself with in fiction: the way of things in reality, as far as I am able to see and interpret them, which may not be especially far.’

You can read the whole thing here

Buy ‘Feel Free’ for the full experience

2) Ocean Vuong on Literary Fiction Podcast

Literary Friction is a great podcast presented by Octavia Bright and Carrie Plitt. I return to Octavia’s conversation with the novelist and poet Ocean Vuong a lot. He was talking about his beautiful novel ‘On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous’:

On it, he talks about how the idea of timelessness, of classic literature, is the domain of the straight white middle class male writer. Of whiteness itself. He says ‘We want literature to be timeless. But time is the white male gaze. To push for timelessness is to push towards whiteness. Timestamps are moments of power that disrupt the status quo of timelessness’.

He also rails against the pithy writing advice ‘show, don’t tell’. He tells those of us in the margins to be clear who we’re telling and what we’re telling them.

Listen to the full podcast episode here

This is also a great interview with Ocean

Buy ‘On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ here

3) Kurt Vonnegut On The Shape Of A Story

This is a fun short lecture from Kurt Vonnegut on the shapes of stories, from ‘man in a hole’ to ‘boy meets girl’ and so on.

The video is here:

If you want an easy infographic of the different story shapes

And finally, a mini essay from Vonnegut on style

Okay that’s enough from me. I’ll drop into your inbox in a few weeks with another one of these. If you like this newsletter, please share with your writing friends; please buy some of the books mentioned; please subscribe; please support my work, either by buying one of my books https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/my-stuff or by buying me a coffee through this nifty site: https://ko-fi.com/nikeshshukla

Keep going

Nikesh