Wise Words from the Master

Short stories are a great way to exercise your writing muscle and they also show publishers that you are serious about your craft.

Here is a competition for young Queensland writers between the ages of 18 and 25. It closes July 13th.

State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award 2012  

The competition

The judging panel will select the winner of the Young Writers Award 2012, the first runner up and four highly commended entries.

The judging panel consists of The Courier Mail Arts Editor Nathaneal Cooper, Brisbane Writers Festival Director Jane O’Hara, author Sue Gough, and novelist and former Young Writers Award winner Alasdair Duncan.


The Young Writers Award winner, first runner-up and four highly commended entries each receive prize packs.

Prizes include: 

Ray Bradbury is one of my favourite authors. When I was a teenager my mum introduced me to his stories. They made me believe in magic and set me up to becoming a writer. If you haven’t read him you should. His short stories are brilliant and so is his writing advice.

This is part of a Commencement speech he gave at Caltec in 2000.

“Now, I wrote a short story recently, about a young man I met when I was 30 years old. And he was 21. He was a genius. He wrote fantastic short stories. The sort of thing I didn’t write when I was 21. I was in my late 20’s before I began to write really well. And this boy was so talented. I took his short stories; I sent them out to the magazines. I sold them all immediately. And he had a bright future. He had it made already. He was already a genius. But he went in the Navy. He went away, and I didn’t see him for 20 or 30 years. And about 15 years ago, an old man came up to me at a book signing. And he said to me, “Do you know who I am?” I said, “No.” I didn’t recognize him. He told me who he was. That was that young boy of 21-who was a genius. And I said, “You son of a bitch! What have you done with your life? What have you done with your life?”

He stopped. He didn’t listen to the God-given genetics in his blood. He didn’t follow his dream. And here he was now-an old man-with nothing! With nothing . . . I said, “You get the hell out of here this afternoon. And you go write another short story. And get your career started again.”

He left that encounter with me-blasted by my fury. And he went home and wrote a short story, and sent it to me. And I sold it.

So, what I’m saying to you is this-20 years from now, I’ll be 100. But I’m still going to be alive, and I’m going to meet a lot of you. And I hope I’m not going to say to you, “You son of a bitch, what have you done with your life?”

Whatever it is-whatever it is, do it! Sure there are going to be mistakes. Everything’s not going to be perfect. I’ve written thousands of words that no one will ever see. I had to write them in order to get rid of them. But then I ‘ve written a lot of other stuff too. So the good stuff stays, and the old stuff goes.”

 And here are 12 pieces of writing advice condensed from 0ne of Ray Bradbury’s talks. It is taken from Open Culture 

  • Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. “Worth waiting for, huh?”
  • You may love ‘em, but you can’t be ‘em. Bear that in mind when you inevitably attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to imitate your favorite writers, just as he imitated H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and L. Frank Baum.
  • Examine “quality” short stories. He suggests Roald Dahl, Guy de Maupassant, and the lesser-known Nigel Kneale and John Collier. Anything in the New Yorker today doesn’t make his cut, since he finds that their stories have “no metaphor.”
  • Stuff your head. To accumulate the intellectual building blocks of these metaphors, he suggests a course of bedtime reading: one short story, one poem (but Pope, Shakespeare, and Frost, not modern “crap”), and one essay. These essays should come from a diversity of fields, including archaeology, zoology, biology, philosophy, politics, and literature. “At the end of a thousand nights,” so he sums it up, “Jesus God, you’ll be full of stuff!”
  • Get rid of friends who don’t believe in you. Do they make fun of your writerly ambitions? He suggests calling them up to “fire them” without delay.
  • Live in the library. Don’t live in your “goddamn computers.” He may not have gone to college, but his insatiable reading habits allowed him to “graduate from the library” at age 28.
  • Fall in love with movies. Preferably old ones.
  • Write with joy. In his mind, “writing is not a serious business.” If a story starts to feel like work, scrap it and start one that doesn’t. “I want you to envy me my joy,” he tells his audience.
  • Don’t plan on making money. He and his wife, who “took a vow of poverty” to marry him, hit 37 before they could afford a car (and he still never got around to picking up a license).
  • List ten things you love, and ten things you hate. Then write about the former, and “kill” the later — also by writing about them. Do the same with your fears.
  • Just type any old thing that comes into your head. He recommends “word association” to break down any creative blockages, since “you don’t know what’s in you until you test it.”
  • Remember, with writing, what you’re looking for is just one person to come up and tell you, “I love you for what you do.”Or, failing that, you’re looking for someone to come up and tell you, “You’re not nuts like people say.”

I love the one that says ‘get rid of friends who don’t believe in you’. This applies not only to writing but to life in general.

Thank you for visiting!


2 thoughts on “Wise Words from the Master

  1. Such an amazing list! I had to read it twice. Love his suggestion to read quality before bed. I’m inspired to work more on my short stories now.
    Thanks for sharing this Gabrielle.

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