So I finally managed to get through David Gerrold’s short but excellent guide to writing science fiction and fantasy: Worlds of Wonders (Writers Digest Books, 2001) / Amazon. The whole book is bookmark-worthy. Here are three excerpts:
Focus on clarity. Concentrate on precision.
The single most important lesson of effective communication is this: Focus on clarity. Concentrate on precision. Don’t worry about constructing beautiful sentences. Beauty comes from meaning, not language. Accuracy is the most effective style of all. Of course, you won’t really understand this until after you’ve written your first million words—until after you’ve discovered this for yourself. You have to make a lot of mistakes, so you can recognize them when you make them the second, third, fourth, and twentieth time. […]
Learn your tools well and you can create the voices you need. The ultimate skill of the effective stylist is to remember that style is only voice, not content. Style is the pretense you put on for each and every story—and who you pretend to be is who you become.
Discipline not only serves success—it deserves success.
Discipline works. Of course, it helps if you live in New York. Why? Because then you can open your window in the morning and listen to the city growl at you: “If you don’t write today, I will kill you. I will crush you, I will grind your bones, I will drink your blood and destroy you. Oh, maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow—but if you don’t write today, in a month you’ll be broke . . . and then I’ll get you!” There are few better incentives than the threat of starvation. (Fear is almost as good as rage to fuel your writing engine.) Today, more than ever, I remain a firm believer in a strict writing discipline. Instead of counting pages, though, I count words. I set myself a target of 1,000-3,000 words a day, depending on the type of project I’m writing. […] You train by doing. And you have to enjoy the doing. […] Discipline not only serves success—it deserves success.
What kind of difference do you want to make?
As a human being, you make a difference. Simply by existing, simply by being in the room, you make a difference. The question that I had to ask myself was this—what kind of difference do I want to make? That was the most important lesson. And now I pass it on to you. Before you sit down at your keyboard, ask yourself: What kind of difference do you want to make? What you write has an effect on the people who read it. Words have meaning. Ideas have consequences. Your book, your story, your script—whatever you write—that’s your way of challenging the world. What do you want to say to the rest of your species?
You can find the book here on Amazon.