[Writing] Advice from Paul Cornell

From an interview in SFX magainze. Here’s my favorite part (and not cause I’m a sucker for punishment, but rather because I need to absorb this particular bit of advice):

SFX: What one tip would you give to a new writer, inspired to put pen to paper for the first time?
Paul Cornell: “I’ve got one sentence that sums it up: ‘it is your job to seek out harsh criticism of your work and change it as a result’. That, frankly, is hideously painful. But boxers don’t get good by avoiding being hit. If an editor, or someone else, starts offering you criticism, listen, make notes, and change the work as a result. If you start arguing, saying, ‘No, you see, what I meant by that was…’ you’re not a writer yet. You’re trying to dodge instead of learning what the blows mean.

I know I have to get into the feedback loop somehow. Being as I’m 17,000 words into Hear the Grass Grow, you think I’d feel like it’s time to get some critique. And I am getting to that point. But right now, even though I have most of the major pieces of the story in place, there is still no ending, and not enough to really fill the gaps between many of the scenes. They kind of look like the new bricks around the garden in our backyard: a definite line, but one where the pieces could get knocked around pretty easily by the lawnmower. I want it to feel more like the line in the front where the bricks are a clear line of demarcation, sunken in like they’ve been there and belong there. When I get to that point, then I’ll be ready to have other people tell me which bricks are crooked. It’ll take more work to adjust them, of course, but at least I’ll know that those people won’t secrelty be thinking “he just kind of slapped this pile together, didn’t he?”

And I’m done with that metaphor now.


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