Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Advice on Writing from Sinclair Lewis

I've mentioned I wasn't a reader-for-fun when I was a kid. I must have been a young teen when Dad handed me an old paperback of a Sinclair Lewis novel. For a long time, Elmer Gantry was my favorite book. I still love the opening sentence: "Elmer Gantry was drunk."

In college, in an awful course of nineteenth-century British novels, the professor asked what authors we liked. I said Lewis. He brushed that aside because he "only" tells the story.

Seemed like a good idea to me then. And now.

I'm sure he influenced my own novel writing. (Two ways that come to mind are his use of dialogue to tell the reader something about the speaker and the way he made up a Midwest state for his books. I have a made-up Central American country in the novel I'm working on now.)

Today when I did a Web search of Sinclair Lewis and writing tips I was startled to find a blog post about his advice and amazed that he advocated writing one hour a day six days a week. Lewis' piece is titled "How I Wrote a Novel on Trains and Beside the Kitchen Sink."

That formula sounds very familiar. At that rate, using a word count instead of daily time requirement, one could write a novel in nine weeks.

This is the blog post from Jason Hayward.

I'd be delighted to find out where Lewis' essay is available online. Please let me know if you come across it. And . . .

Just keep writing.

1 comment:

  1. Bill:

    Great blog. I've sometimes wondered if Sinclair Lewis was considered by many academia as not important because of his books were popular with the general public (At least the books published in the 1920s - "Main Street" through "Dodsworth").

    I found the essay online through Google Books. They have "American Magazine" scanned.

    Link here:

    Best way to access & read it is:
    View all and select the Table of Contents (Page 5). Scroll down to Page 16. After reading page 16, View all and select page 113 & read rest of essay.

    Peace to you.