Gardner’s Writing Advice

“The good writer sees things sharply, vividly, accurately, and selectively (that is, he chooses what’s important), not necessarily because his power of observation is by nature more acute than that of other people (though by practice it becomes so), but because he cares about seeing things clearly and getting them down effectively.”

That’s just one of the wise sentences in John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist. I’ve long thought that keen observation is a key to good writing and here, Gardner makes the point that this talent can be acquired. Gardner was a writing teacher who published novels including the award-winning October Light, children’s books, poetry and short stories. His two books on the craft of writing, On Becoming a Novelist and The Art of Fiction, are considered classics. Student Raymond Carver wrote that he was lucky to have had Gardner’s “criticism and his generous encouragement.”

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