‘Life is too short to be writing on China if that’s not what gets you going’

16 Apr

John McDermott is a beautiful writer, a voracious reader and an active tweeter.

He’s also the executive comment editor at the Financial Times, a longtime friend of Galavant Media and an early supporter of the Galavant Times.

Below, he offers some advice to aspiring writers.

1. Write about what you care about. To some extent, any writing is good practice, but you should write on your passions. Life is too short to be writing on China if that’s not what gets you going.

2. Know who you’re writing for. Reading this piece, I wasn’t clear. It’s nicely turned in places but what is it trying to do? Entertain? Great, then entertain who?

3. Avoid rococo writing. Foreign words, adjectives, adverbs and cute metaphors should be used sparingly. Cliches never at all. It’s hard to be breezy and persuasive at the same time.

4. You should be able to summarise your argument in one sentence. If not, there’s something wrong.

5. Start small. Practice writing “perfect” sentences. Sentences should comprise a complete thought; no more, no less. Then move on to paragraphs, and so on. This is not meant to patronising: it’s where most creative writing classes start.

Finally: Read Orwell on Politics and the English language, Strunk & White on style, and everything by Waugh and Fitzgerald. And write. A lot. Don’t give up.

Relevant:
Oh dear, my dad is following me – John McDermott, FT
Step inside the mind of Willem Buiter — but tread carefully – John McDermott, FT Alphaville

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