And So It Goes
Vonnegut’s Eight Rules For Writing
Vonnegut says: Now lend me your ears. Here is Creative Writing 101.
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a Sadist. 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.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
(Vonnegut noted that Flannery O’Connor broke all these rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that.)
“I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled ‘science fiction’ ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.” — Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons, 1974
“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” — “Knowing What’s Nice,” In These Times, 2003
“I do feel that evolution is being controlled by some sort of divine engineer. I can’t help thinking that. And this engineer knows exactly what he or she is doing and why, and where evolution is headed. That’s why we’ve got giraffes and hippopotami and the clap.” — interview on the Daily Show, 2005
“I don’t know about you, but I practice a disorganized religion. I belong to an unholy disorder. We call ourselves ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Astonishment.’” — A Man Without a Country, 2005
3. My opinion of the first twenty pages of your novel or novella. (Not that my opinion is worth anything, but it is someone else’s opinion. Something I look for every chance I get. Just thought you might be looking also.)