Writing Tips

W.G. Sebald’s Writing Tips Are Great

Most writing tips are redundant or repetitious, some are amusing; W.G. Sebald‘s rise above because they take into account literature’s historical progression and include quotable lines like, “be experimental, but let the reader be part of the experiment.”  The list came via a friend of a friend, and it’s quite extensive. For brevity’s sake, I’ll re-post the only his advice on ‘Style’ and ‘Revision’:

On Style

  • Every sentence taken by itself should mean something.
  • Writing should not create the impression that the writer is trying to be ‘poetic’.
  • It’s easy to write rhythmical prose. It carries you along. After a while it gets tedious.
  • Long sentences prevent you from having continually to name the subject (‘Gertie did this, Gertie felt that’ etc.).
  • Avoid sentences that serve only to set up later sentences.
  • Use the word ‘and’ as little as possible. Try for variety in conjunctions.

On Revision 

  • Don’t revise too much or it turns into patchwork.
  • Lots of things resolve themselves just by being in the drawer a while.
  • Don’t listen to anyone. Not us, either. It’s fatal.

And for even more inspiration on editing, check this post from Flavorwire of “20 Great Writers on the Art of Revision.” To summarize: Rewrite it, murder your darlings, get the words right, and good luck.


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