Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thirteen Tips on Writing from If You Can Talk, You Can Write

If you like to write, if you dread putting words on paper or even if you’re looking for a hearty chuckle, this is a good book for you.

The chapters are short. The advice is good. The statements are witty. The assignments are fun and the tests you can’t get wrong. Also there are writer’s comments and helpful examples. Joel Saltzman wrote If You Can Talk, You Can Write after a five-year writing block, which he describes as agonizing. He promises, “This book is about getting you to write—with optimism, enthusiasm, and only occasionally wanting to kill yourself.”

Thirteen Tips on Writing from If You Can Talk, You Can Write

Here are thirteen tips on writing from his book.

1. “It’s easier to write than not to write.”
2. Stop fighting yourself, just write. “Dead men float because they don’t do anything to prevent themselves from floating. Same goes for writing. If you don’t do anything to prevent yourself from writing (like throwing your arms up and screaming, ‘I can’t do this!’), chances are you’ll do just fine.”
3. “You don’t have to ‘write” at all. You just have to start talking on paper.”
4. Write what you want. Don’t worry about what other people think. “If you write about something that interests you, it will interest others.”
5. No one can produce ideal writing so don’t try. “Remember: No one can make it perfect. You can’t. I can’t. I don’t even want to.” And guess what folks, you don’t have to be perfect.
6. You can let yourself write badly. “Think of your first draft as a map to buried treasure: all the markers are there, but you still have a way to go.”
7. Again, don’t worry about writing, your first draft well. “Even the best writers never get it right the first time.”
8. Rewriting makes writing better. “The more whacks you take at it—the more you’re willing to work and rework your material –the better it gets.”
9. Don’t worry about what to say. “Remember: If you don’t know what to say, start saying it; keep ‘talking’ on paper until it starts talking back to you.”
10. You don’t have to have all the answers when you sit down to write. “If you don’t know what you’re trying to say at first, it’s okay; it’s the only way you get to say: ‘Now I know what I’ve been trying to say all this time!’”
11. You alone can express your unique personality in prose. You are the expert and the best recorder of your experiences and impressions.
12. Generally you don’t have to worry about grammar. “If you write the way you talk, you’ll probably be right.”
13. Nothing can be great all the time. “All you can do is try your best, then try again—with your next project, and the one after that. Along the way, you’ll develop technique, stamina and—if you’re lucky—the ability to make your next effort better than your last.”

Check out this book, especially if you’re hard on yourself and your writing. It might restore your love of writing or help you get through the prose you’re forced to produce. Or it might just be an easy and enjoyable read. But I bet you’ll like it.


  1. Do you suppose if I read these over and over again (or just read the book--over and over again) I'll convince myself? Or maybe just #5, 6, & 7. I read those, I nod sagely, I believe them... but I don't feel it. *rolling my eyes at myself*

  2. Darla,
    It's hard not to want to edit, to want to get things down perfectly, isn't it? Thanks for stopping by.

  3. #s 4 & 6 help me a lot with a post I'm working on...thanks!

  4. Some goodly tips! Too many writers do forget that the art of getting things down is little more than expressing a conversation in letters rather than sounds!

  5. What a great list. I especially like number 6.

    Have a great day Brenda!

  6. I have officially placed this book on hold. Perhaps it will help with the "pushing a huge boulder up a hill" feeling I've got about writing stuff on my current WIP. I mean, I know basically what I want to say...but then I notice I've used passive construction again...

    Yeah. Frustrating.

  7. Less than a month until nanowrimo starts again. Happy writing.

  8. Great list! Thanks for stopping by and commenting at my place!

  9. Thanks for sharing these wonderful writing tips. Number one is soooooo true … and so is #3 … well they’re ALL true aren’t they … that’s why you shared them, right? Right ;--)
    Hugs and blessings,

  10. Great list! Though all easier said than done LOL.

  11. Love your blog.. Thanks for stopping by :)

  12. You've made me want to check out the book. I find it's best if I don't over think it too much. :)

  13. Interesting tips. It doesn't have to be perfect? But...but... oh man. I'm gonna have to get the book!

  14. Yep, you heard it here. First drafts don't have to be perfect. I don't know about you, but I'm relieved. Thanks for stopping by.