The Chronicles of Narnia; The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity: C.S. Lewis is recognized as one of the most influential writers and Christian apologists of the twentieth century.
His insight into writing is impeccable and real, which one American girl learned in 1959 when she asked the revered, British author advice on how to write. What he sent were eight rules he probably utilized himself while creating his literary masterpieces.
In the spirit of C.S. Lewis, we have included those tips he provide and our personal commentary on how we can use this nearly sixty-year-old advice for today’s generation of authors.
1) Turn off the radio
Embrace quiet time as you reflect on what you want to write and how to stylize your story. Outside distractions such as a television, radio or even a person near you could disturb your flow of thought, so look for a quiet place free of distraction and start jotting down what comes to mind.
2) Read good books and avoid most magazines
Although magazines can have quality writing and topics, the style of magazine writing is different from books and is more concise in detail compared to literature. It is better to read books that can prompt your creative juices and flush out your story, books that are what you would read as a reader yourself.
3) Write with the ear, not the eye. Make every sentence sound good.
If in doubt, read it out loud. What you might hear as wrong in a sentence may go unnoticed by someone else, so it is important for a writer to work through the sentences and even read out loud those that don’t look correct by eyesight. You also know how you write, so you will recognize what doesn’t sound like your writing and what does.
4) Write only about things that interest you. If you have no interests, you won’t ever be a writer.
Some authors will feel they have to write on a topic that will guarantee them readers and success. However, you don’t want your passion, time, sweat and tears to be devoted toward a topic that doesn’t drive you to write. Jot down some interests that you would put the time toward to write and be pleased with yourself to complete.
5) Be clear. Remember that readers can’t know your mind. Don’t forget to tell them exactly what they need to know to understand you.
There are readers who are more visual, more audio and more interactive with their learning, but what brings these three learning styles together most is being descriptive in your writing. You want readers to see settings emerge through your words, while also comprehending why you are telling them this story. Don’t give away too many details right away to where their imaginations are hampered by your thoughts, but enough content to where they can align their visuals with your visuals of the story.
6) Save odds and ends of writing attempts, because you may be able to use them later.
Don’t throw any writing away, even if you think it’s the worse you ever written: who knows what could come from those characters you create, the storyline you were stuck on or the plot twist you can’t get out of your mind? As you write, look over past writing attempts and see if you can gleam something new to add to your current prompt.
7) You need a well-trained sense of word-rhythm, and the noise of a typewriter will interfere.
Although many may not write with a typewriter anymore (thumbs up to those who still do), the sentiment is still there: writing down on paper what you will write can work wonders on your manuscript. By writing, you are formulating the words of the manuscript more clearly and seeing the issues that arise. It may be an old-fashioned approach, but you will marvel at what emerges while jotting down thoughts for your book.
8) Know the meaning of every word you use.
We come across this regularly as editors, where words are used that’s meaning doesn’t match up to the message of the sentence or where the same word is used in countless sentences. It is easier than ever to look up words in the dictionary, so become familiar with what words mean and keep a thesaurus handy to see what synonyms and antonyms can be used in place of certain words as well.
*C.S. Lewis’ tips courtesy of www.christianwritingtoday.com