V.S. Naipaul’s 7 Rules For Beginning Writers
Make no mistake—no matter what you think about V.S. Naipaul as a person, the man is an incredible writer.
With that, his advice on writing goes a long way. Here are his 7 tips for beginning writers (via Boing Boing), but I believe these rules are applicable for writers of any experience level.
- Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words.
- Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements.
- Do not use big words. If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong. The use of small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.
- Never use words whose meaning you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work.
- The beginner should avoid using adjectives, except those of colour, size and number. Use as few adverbs as possible.
- Avoid the abstract. Always go for the concrete.
- Every day, for six months at least, practice writing in this way. Small words; short, clear, concrete sentences. It may be awkward, but it’s training you in the use of language. It may even be getting rid of the bad language habits you picked up at the university. You may go beyond these rules after you have thoroughly understood and mastered them.
Those 7 tips could’ve come straight from Hemingway. It seems Naipaul has a very similar approach to his writing as Papa Hemingway.
Point 5, in regards to adverbs, is reminscient of a Stephen King quote from On Writing: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
If you’re interested in writing tips from other famous authors, I’ve got you covered. Check out: