Writing Advice from Charles Dickens

The Writers Write website has a series of pages where famous (and not so famous) authors give advice about writing. In this case, Alex J Coyne, a writer, proofreader and card player, has found relevant passages from Dickens’ works and has interpreted them for authors.

7 Bits Of Writing Advice From The Works Of Charles Dickens

1. Nothing Is Impossible (When You’re A Writer) 

‘Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities.’ – From David Copperfield 

If you believe it’s unlikely or impossible that your pitches and stories will be successful, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

But if you consider nothing impossible, you’ll wake up every day believing something good is about to happen. Keep working at it.

2. Write With Everlasting Curiosity

‘We lawyers are always curious, always inquisitive, always picking up odds and ends for our patchwork minds, since there is no knowing when and where they may fit into some corner.’ – From Little Dorrit 

Charles had a keen interest in law, and this sentence also applies to the average writer. Writers draw heavily on their experiences and research to be good writers who portray these experiences well to readers.

Do you have enough bits and pieces of life experiences, trivia, and research about odd topics to make sure your writing is rich, interesting, and accurate in its details?

3. There’s A Lot Of Bad Writing Out There

‘There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.’ – From Oliver Twist 

The Oliver Twist quote reveals that there was just as much grammatically incorrect (and nonsensically plotted) writing in the 1800s as we have today with the internet.

4. Choose Words With Great Responsibility

‘A word in earnest is as good as a speech.’ – From Bleak House

Another way to say the above would be, ‘One correctly chosen word is worth a thousand.’

Writing should never be lengthier or clumsier than it needs to be. Good writing says stuff, but remarkable writing says stuff with less (and usually more carefully chosen) words.

5. Have a Unique Selling Point

‘It is a hopeless endeavour to attract people to a theatre unless they can be first brought to believe that they will never get in.’ – From Nicholas Nickleby 

Every writing piece that’s worth reading has a unique selling point.

6. Give Characters Depth (& Life!)

Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss.’ – From The Old Curiosity Shop

Fictional characters should have depth, personality, likeability (or the opposite for antagonists!), and history the reader might never get to see.

When readers encounter a character in your story, they should always feel something. Love, hate, disgust, curiosity, interest, wonder, lust, something. Otherwise, you are just not doing your job as a writer.

7. You Should Be Writing

‘Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.’ – From David Copperfield

Writers write, but many writers also procrastinate.

Every writer has at least one or two excuses to hush their conscience when they should be writing now, but aren’t.

Writing right now is always better than not writing right now. Now go write something!

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