Welcome to the first instalment in my new series on writing where I’ll pick a writer, research their tips and advice, and then bring my findings to you here. I thought to myself where better to begin than with one of my favourite authors, so today the spotlight falls on Roald Dahl.
The bulk of my research came from The Official Roald Dahl Website which I really recommend having a look at if you haven’t already, it has lots of really interesting articles.
All images sourced from Google.
Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was a British writer. Perhaps best known for his children’s books he was also an adult literature writer, screen writer and a fighter pilot in the Second World War.
“You should have a lively imagination”
This was the first tip that I came across and I love it because it’s so important yet so easily forgotten. Whilst there are many important aspects of writing the crux of it is imagination because it is from there that a story is born.
“You should be able to write well. By that I mean you should be able to make a scene come alive in the reader’s mind”
Another important point; I have read many books with a wonderful plot but which I have not enjoyed because they simply haven’t been written well.
I know from many projects that I have started that stamina is key. It’s an area that I unfortunately lack in. I start off strong but then I struggle to maintain the stamina to see a project through to completion.
“be a perfectionist”
In this sense I think being a perfectionist is a great thing. Whilst editing and rewriting over and over can be disheartening at times, the end result will be a piece that brings such a sense of pride and achievement.
“have strong self-discipline”
How easy is it to make excuses of being too busy or too tired?! A good writer will find the time to write without needing somebody else to make them do it.
“a keen sense of humour”
Dahl stated this is “not essential for writing for grown-ups, but for children, it’s vital.” I would say it helps in general for any writer to have a good sense of humour whether their audience is an adult or a child.
This is so important. A writer will always be judged, or rather their work will be, and so a sense of modesty is vital in order to be able to accept the inevitable criticism.
The above points were the seven writing tips that Roald Dahl put forward when he was asked specifically about this topic. He did however, share so much more advice and wisdom with how to approach writing, his own routines and habits, and what generated success for him in various conversations and interviews.
Roald Dahl described writing a book as “a very long slow process”. He likened it to walking in nature and “getting different views of the same landscape” until eventually the view will be a completed book. Of course this can be attributed to any writing, not just a book. I have found this fits with many, if not all of my blog posts. I write, edit, write, delete parts etc until I eventually have a post that I am happy to publish.
For Dahl a book begins with a “tiny little seed of an idea” which must immediately be written down because it “disappears otherwise rather like a dream”. However, he didn’t write up every idea that he had because committing to a writing project is a big decision. Instead he would “walk around it and look at it and sniff it” before deciding whether it was a viable idea after all.
Dahl stuck to the same straightforward routine when it came to writing. He only wrote in two hour stretches because “after about two hours you are not at your highest peak of concentration”. Whether he was writing well or not he stuck to this time frame. His opinion was that “you have to keep your bottom on the chair and stick it out” either way. It’s far too easy for walking away to become a frequent habit.
He also thought it important to stop writing before the end of a chapter because “if you stop when you’re stuck you’re in trouble”. For him it was vital to return to writing with the flow already established so he was excited and aware of where the story was going.
All quotations taken from audio clips on The Official Roald Dahl Website (link to website can be found above).
Some relevant quotes
I could spend hours reading Roald Dahl quotes, I just find them so lovely and relatable! Whilst reading through many I found four that I believe to be the most relevant to this post and I wanted to share them with you.
“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.”
“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”
“A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not.”
“Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained.”
I really enjoyed researching and writing this post so I hope that you have found it both helpful and enjoyable, and that you will stick around for further instalments in this series.
What are your thoughts on Roald Dahl’s tips and advice? Any points that you strongly agree/disagree with? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed!
Until the next time…Jess x