A Seminar on Writing Prose


James Alan Gardner


I originally wrote this seminar for a workshop I gave at a science fiction convention in Toronto. It therefore has a few sections that are specific to the venue (for example, many of the examples are obviously science fiction or fantasy). For the most part, however, the advice I give applies to all types of fiction—not just science fiction, but fiction in general.

Before starting, I want to make an important point: the value of advice doesn't lie in the advice itself but in your own response to the advice. As you read this seminar, think about what I say, look for examples in the fiction you read, and try things out in your own writing. Even if you ultimately decide that I'm full of crap, you'll still have learned something useful—you'll have a clearer idea of where you want to go because you'll know where you don't want to go. On the other hand, if you smile and say, "Oh, that's great advice," but you never do anything with it, then nobody's better off.

One more point: some people may think I'm saying, "Everybody ought to write like me." Wrong. As a writer, your goal is to find voices within yourself. Those voices will, of course, be colored by many outside influences including the books you read, the people you know, and perhaps even the advice from this seminar...but all those influences should pass through the filter of your own psyche and come out imbued with your own unique touch.

If that sounds daunting, don't worry; it happens automatically. You can't write like anyone else—you can only write like yourself. So relax, loosen your collar, and do it. The writing shall make you free.

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Copyright © 2001, James Alan Gardner