Friday, November 15, 2013

Write Like A Diamond Cutter

The craft and art of writing a first novel

By Lars Trodson

The quality of a diamond is judged on four things: carat, cut, color and clarity. Your first novel will be judged on the same merits: its substance, the precision of its prose, the depth of the ambiance you create and clarity of your vision and purpose. When you are done writing your novel it should sparkle, provide value, endure and be something its owners cherish.

I've been searching for writing advice that's practical because most of the rules that you read from famous writers aren't useful, even when the advice comes from those writers you admire. I got this idea a few years ago when I read an obituary in The New York Times about a famous diamond cutter. After I read the obit, I realized that every aspect of his exacting craft could be applied to writing. It was useful to think of writing in such a tactile way, rather than in the lofty, ephemeral, and sometimes oh-too-cute writing rules that famous writers sometimes offer. (Margaret Atwood's no. 1 rule: "Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils." Cute, but not much help in the age of laptops and voice recognition programs.)
So picture yourself as a diamond cutter sitting in a chair, looking through a powerful loupe, trying to craft the most beautiful thing imaginable.

One last thing: absolutely, fundamentally and unequivocally ignore any writer, critic, pundit or smartass that says the novel is dead.

Now, in order, carat, cut. color and clarity.